Vicar Zachary Marklevitz


Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.” Today, these words bring us great comfort. We even teach our children to sing, “I am Jesus’ little lamb.” Yet, when Jesus first spoke these words many listeners were offended. With these words Jesus was claiming to be more than a good teacher; He was claiming to be the good shepherd. Only God was proclaimed to be the good shepherd. God said in Ezekiel 34, “Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.” Jesus’ words meant more than Him being a good teacher, it meant He was God.


In Old Testament passages the Jewish people had been warned of shepherds who destroyed and scattered God’s sheep. Jesus spoke of them as false prophets. They came in sheep’s clothing but inwardly were ravenous wolves recognized by the fruit of their works. Jesus’ works included healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, giving speech to the mute, giving step to the paralyzed, casting out demons of the possessed, and raising the dead. His works were the good fruit of God. “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” Still, his words cost him his life.

 

Jesus knew what it meant to be a good shepherd, “The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” He does not leave his sheep or flee in time of danger. He cares for his sheep that they might come first. A few verses before today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says, “I am the door of the sheep.” He is both the door and the Shepherd. He is the door that keeps out the thieves and the wolves. He alone is the door that keeps us safe. It isn’t our finances, our academic degrees, or career achievements that keep us safe. It is Christ alone.

 

We are sheep. Sheep are known to stray. Even in a perfect environment sheep will wander away from all that they need. We witness this in the first man. Adam was in perfect union with God. He was given the perfect environment and lacked nothing. After Eve was deceived by the serpent, they wandered from God’s words. They desired to see if perfection could be more perfect.

SERMON FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER, APRIL 19, 2015
Vicar Zachary Marklevitz


Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.” Today, these words bring us great comfort. We even teach our children to sing, “I am Jesus’ little lamb.” Yet, when Jesus first spoke these words many listeners were offended. With these words Jesus was claiming to be more than a good teacher; He was claiming to be the good shepherd. Only God was proclaimed to be the good shepherd. God said in Ezekiel 34, “Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.” Jesus’ words meant more than Him being a good teacher, it meant He was God.


In Old Testament passages the Jewish people had been warned of shepherds who destroyed and scattered God’s sheep. Jesus spoke of them as false prophets. They came in sheep’s clothing but inwardly were ravenous wolves recognized by the fruit of their works. Jesus’ works included healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, giving speech to the mute, giving step to the paralyzed, casting out demons of the possessed, and raising the dead. His works were the good fruit of God. “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” Still, his words cost him his life.


Jesus knew what it meant to be a good shepherd, “The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” He does not leave his sheep or flee in time of danger. He cares for his sheep that they might come first. A few verses before today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says, “I am the door of the sheep.” He is both the door and the Shepherd. He is the door that keeps out the thieves and the wolves. He alone is the door that keeps us safe. It isn’t our finances, our academic degrees, or career achievements that keep us safe. It is Christ alone.

 

We are sheep. Sheep are known to stray. Even in a perfect environment sheep will wander away from all that they need. We witness this in the first man. Adam was in perfect union with God. He was given the perfect environment and lacked nothing. After Eve was deceived by the serpent, they wandered from God’s words. They desired to see if perfection could be more perfect.


Sheep are dumb. 1500 sheep once walked off a cliff in Turkey because the sheep leading them did. Many sheep died and others were greatly injured. Scripture reveals nothing new is under the sun. Like those sheep in Turkey, we go on sinning as those before us, but we hope for different results. We live in a world where the hired hands ignore the words of the Good Shepherd. We live in a culture filled with misleading voices. Bumper stickers that state “coexist” with different religious symbols tell us to be spiritual without being religious. In the mind of society, spirituality leaves room for mystery and the unknown. But being religious is viewed as exclusive and hateful.


When danger arrives, the voices of the hired hand do not care for us. They turn us over to the thieves and the wolves. Sin troubles our conscience and we are given empty clichés without any regard to our eternal salvation. We are fed to the wolves and picked clean by the thieves. The promises of the world leave us empty and we become burnt, cynical, and angry. Our questions are not directed to a crucified Savior that overcame temptation and death for us, but our questions are answered by more questions. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why have things not gone how I planned? Without the good shepherd we are cast aside by the world’s selfish ways.    


Sheep are defenseless. They need a shepherd. Left alone they will die. If danger appears, sheep become frightened and panicked. We are defenseless when we fight against sin. On our own we cannot defeat sin. We should be frightened and panicked.

 

We are sheep. Jesus is our Good Shepherd. When the time came for the Good Shepherd to lay down His life, His sheep had scattered. He was alone. The Shepherd was delivered to the wolves with a kiss. The sheep became frightened. They panicked and fled. But Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” Jesus knew the Father’s will. He knew that He was the Good Shepherd and was called to protect and save His sheep. He knew the cost of being our Good Shepherd.


The Good Shepherd put down His wooden staff and was raised up on a wooden cross. The teeth of the wolves pierced His hands and feet. Thieves took His clothes and left Him naked and bloody before His flock. He paid the ultimate price for His sheep. He laid down His life.


“For if he is to be and remain [the Good] Shepherd of his sheep, he must not remain in death.” Alleluia! Christ is risen! He has risen indeed, Alleluia!


“For to this we have been called because Christ also suffered for us … When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For we were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.”


A perfect Man died a criminal’s death. Why do bad things happen to good people? Our God died in order to bring good things to bad people. We deserve nothing but eternal punishment and death. But we have a God who is the Good Shepherd.


Jesus gathers His scattered sheep by His voice in His resurrection. He brings us into His flock in the waters of our baptism. It is not the voice of the pastor who serves us but the voice of the Good shepherd Himself that prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. The enemy is our sinful condition, the devil, and the world's misleading voices.  It is His voice that today speaks peace to us and invites us to take and eat, and drink. Here He provides us green, life-giving pastures. The voice of our Good Shepherd also intercedes for us before our heavenly Father. As He calls us into His flock, He pleads for us in perfect keeping with the Father's will!  We are kept in the loving watch of our Good Shepherd.


He calls us into His green pastures. He makes Himself known to us by the proclamation of His Word. He forgives us in His Word. He has saved us and now protects our salvation. We know His voice. He cares for us and no wolf can snatch us and scatter us. As His sheep, we gather together at the altar. We are under His care and receive His righteousness. Through His suffering we die to sin and live to righteousness. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.” Today this brings us great comfort.

 

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He has risen indeed, Alleluia!

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a