Good Shepherd Sunday (4th Sunday of Easter) April 21, 2024


Sheep of the Good Shepherd

1 Peter 2:21-25

Scripture Readings

Revelation 7:9-17
John 10:22-30


201, 431, WS 783 (TLH 352), 51

Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) (TLH) unless otherwise noted

WS - Hymns from the Worship Supplement 2000

Sermon Audio:

Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, merciful Father, since You have wakened from death the Shepherd of Your sheep, grant us Your Holy Spirit that when we hear the voice of our Shepherd we may know Him who calls us each by name and follow where He leads; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (NKJV)

Dearly Beloved Fellow Believers,

They were like sheep without a shepherd. That’s how the five thousand looked to Jesus on the day that He fed them with five loaves of bread and two fish. And it wasn’t because they had come out there without bringing along anything to eat. It was because the people were spiritually misguided. They had come out to Jesus, but why had they come? Was it because they understood that here was the Christ who had come to save them from their sins? No. Some of them came because they had heard that here was a prophet who could heal the sick. Others came because they hoped that here was a man who would restore Israel to its former glory as a nation. They were a group of people who thought they knew what they were doing, yet to Jesus they were like a flock of wandering sheep.

Now think of groups that gather today: a college lecture hall filled with students; a crowd watching a baseball game; people at a tourist attraction on any day during the summer. To us they look like people who have come together for a common purpose: for education or entertainment. To Jesus they must surely be like the five thousand, flocks of wandering sheep. He sees people who are trying to achieve success, happiness, and satisfaction, but mostly without Him. He sees people whose vision extends no farther than this world and this life.

Yet among the crowds of wandering, straying sheep there are those who are part of Jesus’ flock; there are those whom Jesus has called. By God’s grace we are among them. By His gentle Gospel voice Jesus has brought us into His flock, where we now live under His loving guidance, protection, and providence. On this Good Shepherd Sunday, we want to remember what a privilege and blessing it is to be His sheep and live under His care, so that knowing this we may willingly and joyfully follow Him.


Once straying but now restored to Him

When we think of the masses of spiritually straying and wandering people in this world, let it never be with a feeling of superiority or self-righteousness. Let it rather be with a feeling of humility, for if it were not for the grace of God, we, too, would be wandering aimlessly through this world and this life as sheep without a shepherd. Almost daily we get reminders of where we might be if the Lord hadn’t brought us into His fold. A while back, a survey was taken among journalists in some of the TV networks and major newspapers. In the line of the survey where they were asked their religious affiliation a full 50% wrote “none.” And some of those who gave this answer underlined it or wrote it in uppercase letters; apparently they wanted to make it known that they weren’t merely indifferent to religion but were steadfastly opposed to it.

All who do not believe in Christ are like straying sheep. They should be following Christ, for He is their Savior too. But instead of following Him they are going their own way. We marvel at the unbelief that manifests itself in our world. But that’s where you and I would be, if the Good Shepherd had not brought us into His fold by the power of the Holy Spirit poured out in our hearts by the Gospel. Peter reminds us of this very thing when he says, You were like sheep going astray. That’s what all of us were; we came into this world as sheep going astray.

But, Peter adds, (you) have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. We have returned to our Lord and Savior. We are where it is good and right for us to be; instead of sheep going astray we are sheep in the fold of the Good Shepherd. Peter describes Him here as the Shepherd of our souls. An ordinary shepherd is concerned only with the physical welfare of the sheep under his care. He sees to it that they have food and water. He protects them from predators and other threats to their wellbeing. But Jesus does more than that. He is concerned not only about our physical health and safety; He is concerned about our souls, that is, our relationship to God. Jesus wants us to be and remain in fellowship with God, which is to have forgiveness of sins, to be God’s children and heirs, to have eternal life.

Peter doesn’t just allude to this here by calling Jesus the Shepherd of our souls. He also speaks of the lengths to which Jesus went to bring us into fellowship with God, to secure the forgiveness of our sins and our standing as God’s children and heirs. He says, (He) Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree. When Peter says that Jesus “bore” our sins he uses a ritual term, one that was used of the offering of a sacrifice. Jesus carried our sins in His body and offered His body as a sacrifice. The place where He offered them was Calvary and the altar on which He made His offering for us was the cross. Peter also assures us that Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf was accepted as full payment for our sins. He quotes from Isaiah 53, By whose stripes you were healed. By the passion and death of Christ on our behalf we have been cleansed of all our sin and guilt; we have been made righteous before God.

Following in His steps

Jesus’ love for us and His sacrifice for us are what now move us to follow Him as our Good Shepherd. Peter teaches this when he called calls Jesus the “Overseer” of our souls. He is more than a Shepherd to us just as we are more than sheep to Him. He is in charge of us; He oversees our whole life, is concerned with every part of it. His oversight of us is a gracious and loving oversight having to do with the welfare of our souls. So, just as we should gladly follow Him as our Shepherd, we should also gladly obey Him as our Overseer.

Our text is part of Peter’s instruction to slaves who had become believers. As believers these slaves now enjoyed the freedom that all believers enjoy: they were free from guilt and from the fear of death and hell. They were God’s children, equal in standing to the most highborn Christians. But of course, the slaves’ faith in Christ did not change their standing in society. They were still slaves, still in bondage to masters who were most often still pagans. Some of those masters were good and gentle, easy to work for. But others were harsh, difficult to work for. Peter tells them all to submit to their masters, to be diligent and conscientious in their service and to treat their masters with proper respect. Even if they were unjustly punished, they should take it patiently.

Now that sounds like some very hard advice. Wasn’t it asking too much? Peter explains why he counsels slaves as he does. They should remember that they were disciples of Jesus; they were following Him. As His disciples they ought to follow His example and walk in His footsteps. And Jesus’ example is one of patient suffering. He was abused and mistreated even though He was innocent of all wrongdoing. (He) committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth. He was reviled by leaders of His people, by soldiers and others. Yet Jesus didn’t throw it back at them but took it all in humble silence. He suffered terrible abuse and pain but never threatened those who were tormenting Him; He didn’t threaten to condemn and punish them for their sins against Him. He did the very opposite: He prayed for them that they would be forgiven. Instead of reviling and threatening, Jesus committed Himself to God. That, Peter says, is what the believing slaves should do when they were unjustly mistreated. By so doing they would be expressing their faith in the resurrection. They were serving the risen and living Savior. They knew that their current situation was only temporary. The day would come when they would be exalted.

This social situation that Peter addresses here is one that is foreign to us. And for this we are thankful. We would not want to be bound to a master, especially one that was cruel to us. Yet it is not so difficult for us to apply Peter’s counsel to ourselves and our situations. Though we are not slaves, we are servants. We are servants of the Lord Jesus Christ first of all. We are also servants of many different people, for we follow in Christ’s footsteps. To be a disciple of Christ is to live a life of humble service. The people we serve are our parents, our children, our employers and co-workers, our neighbors, our friends, our fellow believers. And these people aren’t always so easy to serve. They may not thank us for our service to them. Instead, they may criticize us or oppose us when we haven’t done anything to deserve such treatment. When we take it patiently, we are following the example of Christ; we are showing by our conduct that we are disciples of a patient, loving, forgiving Savior. We are sheep following the voice of the Good Shepherd. We are trusting disciples of Him who is the Overseer of our souls.

If we ever begin to think that following Christ is too hard, too demanding, then let us consider the alternative, which is to be a wandering, straying sheep, going its own foolish way and finally perishing. How blest we are to be sheep of the Good Shepherd, living under His guidance and protection and heading for eternal life. Amen.

—Rev. John Klatt

Watertown, SD

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