Easter 4: Good Shepherd Sunday, May 11, 2014
Text: John 10:1–10
Door. Door. Door. Door. It almost doesn’t sound like Good Shepherd Sunday! It sounds more like “Doors Sunday.” Now “Doors Sunday” isn’t as catchy and it doesn’t look as artistic on bulletin covers and websites as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” But if you just went by what Jesus says in the Gospel today, you might actually think it was Door Sunday. Four times in only ten verses, Jesus uses the word “Door.”
Today is usually called Good Shepherd Sunday but we also have to note that this is Mother’s Day. Mother’s know all about shepherding. Although rounding up the kids sometimes is like herding cats. But we thank God for the gifts of mom-shepherds today.
Jesus contrasts for us today the shepherd from the guy who is not the shepherd. The guy who doesn’t use the door and gets into the sheep pen a different way is a thief or robber. The thief sneaks over or slithers under the fence. He doesn’t use the door. How could he use the door? He’s not the shepherd. The One who uses the door is the Shepherd of the sheep. He loves and cares about the sheep. He’s the one given to protect the sheep. He’ll even give up his life for the sheep. And when the Pharisees didn’t get it, when they didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about, He doubled down, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. . . . I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (vv 7, 9).
Jesus is the Door. Through the door of His holy life, His bloody sacrifice, His rising again, we have eternal life. Through Him and Him alone, we have heaven.
Outside of Him is the way the thieves and robbers play. That’s how the devil and the other false teachers of this world tempt us to believe that our salvation and life and success are all really based on us picking ourselves up and improving our lives on our own. After all, He’s done His part; now it’s up to us to do ours.
This leads to the following way of thinking: So do you love Jesus enough? Have you made Him the Lord of your life? Really? Have you fully committed to Him? Is your life better than it was before? Have you stopped sinning? Do this, do that, change this, change that, pray, work, and maybe God will count you worthy to be saved. And in all this “you doing” stuff, you make yourself the door. You are actually the one who, by what you do and don’t do, determines if you are in the sheep pen or not. You are the door through which you get into heaven.
It sounds funny when I put it that way, doesn’t it? Sounds weird. You’d never believe such false teaching. You wouldn’t even listen to it. For you don’t listen to the hireling. You will never follow anyone’s voice other than that of your Shepherd. Remember what we said two weeks ago? “God does the verbs.” You are not the door. I am not the door. Jesus is the door.
Because you are the sheep. The Lord uses that word six times today. Sheep. Sheep. Sheep. Sheep. Sheep. Sheep. Maybe it should be “Sheep Sunday”!
But you aren’t just anyone’s sheep. You are His sheep. Each of you is a sheep. You’re a sheep. You are a sheep. You over there, sheep. You two over there, sheep. Each one of you is His sheep. You are each uniquely loved, particularly cared for, and led out to pasture by Him. He called you by name. Shepherds used to do that! They’d name their sheep. Pet names. Special names for each one.
To me, all sheep look the same. In my mind they’re all white(ish), fuzzy, and go “baaaaaah.” But to the Lord, each one is unique. He gave you your name. He gave me my name. He names His sheep at the baptismal font. In the water and His name, we were tagged as His sheep.
Your Lord Jesus is the Door for the sheep. He’s the way into the sheep pen. He’s the way out to green pasture. And He’s not just any door or anyone’s door. He’s your Door. He’s your way into not just life, but life eternal.
You are the sheep. He is the Good Shepherd. He lays down His life for you. That’s the Good News of this day. Jesus says that hireling shepherds were anything but good or noble. When the wolves or thieves would show up, the shepherds had a choice between their lives and the sheep. “Hmm. Do I want to live and see my family, or do I want to protect these stupid sheep? I’m gonna go with my family.” The hirelings bolted, and the sheep were slaughtered.
For the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. The thief would draw you away. He tries to steal you. To get you to trust in yourself and what you can do to lock down your green pastures by something that starts and ends with you and your work. But the only thing that you’ll find behind that door is death.
But your Shepherd—He gave up His life for you. He took upon Himself all the times that you live for yourself and not others. He died for all the times you try to make yourself the door. He rose again on the third day. You have life in His name, in His Baptism. Life that goes on and on and on as long as He goes on and on and on.
You are His own sheep. He goes before you, protects, guides you. He meets your enemies head-on and defeats them for you. You follow Him, for you know His voice.
Don’t listen to other voices that would tell you that you can make things better with God by doing, saying, and feeling the right things; that there is any other way into the sheep pen than through Jesus and Jesus alone. You are His sheep. He isn’t just a shepherd. He’s your Good Shepherd who lays down His life for you on the cross. The righteous sacrifice that makes you acceptable to God.
So what should we call this Sunday? Doors Sunday? Sheep Sunday? Nah, better than all of that is Good Shepherd Sunday. The Sunday when we celebrate that Jesus Is Our Shepherd, the Door through Whom We Have Life and Have It Abundantly Forgiven.
In the name of Jesus.