Fourth Sunday of Easter 2021
April 25, 2021 | Bryan Simmons
Passage: John 10:11-18
I was reflecting on the passage and Shepherd Sunday is one of those things that, you know, pastors have to deal with every year, it comes up. And, you know, there's only so much you can really talk about with shepherds and sheep. So. We're going to talk about it some more! Because it is I think so central to our understanding of who God is in our lives, and our relationship to God. And I think it's representative of the constant struggle that we have with our own humanity in the face of a divine being that is in control. Because I don't think we necessarily -- we like the concept, right? We like that picture of Jesus carrying the lamb on the top of his shoulders. Right? This idea of a caring, loving God that is for us. And that is good, because it's true. But we don't like it in the sense that we're the sheep, we want to be cared for, we want to be loved and we want God to be there for us. But we want to be the shepherd too -- right? We want to be in control of our own destiny. And so we often wrestle with this and we fight with this. Because we are always looking for another shepherd. Often that shepherd is ourselves, sometimes it's some external thing. And this shepherd - sheep mentality really goes a long way to explain the concept of sin.
Because sin isn't this just doing something wrong. Sin is placing your trust in something other than God. And when you place your trust in something other than God, you're placing your trust in a created thing, a temporal, passing thing. And we all have heroes, right? We all have these ... Yeah, honestly, I get a little nervous when I start liking somebody out there anymore, celebrity or otherwise, because I know there's going to be a story that comes out that just knocks them off their pedestal. I think about -- you know, I don't -- growing up, you know, with baseball, with Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and then, you know, the juicing controversy and the cork bats and all of that, Bill Cosby, great comedian that turned out not so well. Politicians I mean, we can just name any politician, right? Don't get political Pastor -- well, we can name ANY politician. We try to follow a shepherd. But in this concept of us still staying in control, still being the the leader, still the full manifestor of our destiny. And we all do it, I, I love God, I love Jesus to death, right? I am a pastor. I proclaim this good news. I love being in control. And it's hard to give it up. It's hard to give it up.
And I think one of those reasons we don't want to give it up is because there's just a fear there. We are afraid. What does that mean? To NOT be the manifestors of our own destiny. What does that mean to NOT be in control? And I'm not saying, Jesus, take the wheel type of thing, there is a comedian that that brought that up one time, I thought it was hilarious. He said, "you know, I don't know why everyone says, Jesus, take the wheel, there is no scriptural evidence that Jesus knew how to operate a motor vehicle." But it is placing Christ in the center and having that modify how you think about things, how you think about other people, how you think about your own life. Jesus says, I am the Good Shepherd. And we could argue that Jesus is the only good shepherd. Because everything else is going to fail us. Everyone else is going to fail us. And before we get too self-centered about it, we're going to fail others. So we need this good shepherd to guide. To control. But in order for that Good Shepherd to truly be trustworthy, we're going to need that good shepherd to do more than these other things that we try to place our trust in. We are. Because otherwise, it's Jesus would be no more than anything else on this Earth. Fallible to the same things that we are fallible to.
But here, Jesus says, "I am the Good Shepherd. I lay down my life for the sheep." Which is actually something no good shepherd in first century Palestine would do. They might, they might get in the fold with the wolves and chase them off, but, man, if they sense the wolves are going to win, they're going to sacrifice some sheep. So Jesus is going so far beyond what anyone would expect of a good shepherd. It goes so far beyond anything we can do.
First John, the reading starts out, we know love by this -- that Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. The big difference is Jesus the Good Shepherd laid down his life, and was able to take it up again. Rose on the third day for you and me, that's why this story always shows up in Easter, because this is a resurrection narrative. It's not just, oh, Jesus is the Good Shepherd. That's neat. Like he's just some neat teacher or something. Jesus is the son of God that rose from the dead for you and for me. To prove that our God is a god of love and forgiveness and grace and mercy. It calls us to want to do the same.
But we are afraid. We are afraid of what that might look like to lay down our lives for one another. And, really, we're in the same boat that we were before Jesus came and died and rose again. We're almost at square one with that, because really that was the concept in the beginning. If everyone was willing to do that for one another, no one would really have to because we're all able to care for each other on a higher level. But since we're all, we're all not willing to do that. We become the wolves that we fear. So Jesus becomes the shepherd for us. And it's already happened. It's already done. Jesus has laid down his life and taken it up again for you and for me. Jesus has proven himself to be the Good Shepherd, that cares utterly for every one of us by NAME -- name one politician that cares for you by name (they can't be in your family). By name. Jesus knows us and loves us. And Jesus calls us forward in the name of love.
We're about to embark on a six-week study on immigration and refugees and what our relationship is to them and how, as Christians, we may want to feel about these things. And there's two ways we can go about that. We can say this is what scripture says, therefore, you should do it. Or we can say, look to the Good Shepherd. Now, it's a six-week study, so I hope you do come to see what scripture says about it.
But look to the Good Shepherd. The one that laid down his life for us all. The one that motivates John the right that we ought to lay down our lives for one another. Yeah, how ought we as Christians ought to think about these things for one another? And when we look to the Good Shepherd, and we get out of our comfort zone, and we display acts of love and kindness that go beyond what we even understand means for others. We are manifesting the kingdom on earth, that God has declared is here. So Jesus IS the Good Shepherd. We Christians, we listen to His voice. For some of us, it is easy to do for some of us, we listen to His voice because it is so oddly compelling. And whether it's difficult to trust that Jesus actually did this for you and for me -- the voice of the shepherd continues to speak, the word of love for you and for me. For who we are together as one people in Christ. For how we show those signs of love to others. In the changed lives that we live for the sake of the world. Amen. Amen.