The sermon was not recorded, but here is the text of the sermon.
The Door is my Shepherd – John 10:1-10 – Trinity/Zion
The door is my shepherd, I shall not want. Wait, that doesn’t sound quite right. But it fits the metaphors that Jesus ably and deliberately mixes in our Gospel reading for this morning. For what Jesus is trying to get across to us is the truth which is both simple and profound — He is the way to enter the kingdom of heaven and He himself is the king. The door and the shepherd.
This Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday. Every year we have this Sunday as a chance to rejoice in this picture of how Jesus relates to us. He is the Good Shepherd, and we are His sheep. He is the Saviour, and we are the saved. Every year we read and sing Psalm 23, which reminds us of many of the good things our good shepherd does for us. He leads us to quiet waters, He restores our souls, He feeds us at His table, He causes goodness and mercy to be with us all the days of our lives.
Similarly, in today’s reading from 1 Peter, we see Peter talking about how good the Lord is to us, and all that He provides for us. We are sinners, and often stray from God’s will, but by God’s grace we have returned to the Overseer and Shepherd of our souls. And from these other readings we can understand a little better what it is that Jesus is teaching us today, about how He is our Shepherd and our Door. By considering what Jesus is and does for us, we can better understand and rejoice in His love for us.
The Gospel for today follows the reading in John where Jesus heals the man born blind. Jesus is addressing the Pharisees and others who have gathered around Him to ask Him about how He had healed this man who was born blind. And it is in this context that Jesus issues us this warning about thieves and robbers, false shepherds, those who claim to lead according to God and yet really are out to slaughter the sheep. It brings to mind Ezekiel 34, where the LORD soundly condemns the shepherds who do not help His sheep but merely abuse them to get what they can from them, with no care or concern.
There are many ways in which this comes into play. In the Gospels, the scribes and Pharisees are examples of false shepherds. After all, they prided themselves in their own righteousness but, as Jesus noted elsewhere, delighted in heaping rules upon rules on God’s people, while devouring widow’s houses, claiming “corban”, that is, that they didn’t have to spend a penny helping their own family in need. And yet the false shepherds do not stop there. Anyone who proposes some way to God which is not through Jesus Christ alone, is not a shepherd from God. Anyone. They can be great and noble people, wonderful humanitarians by the world’s standards, they might be able to quote the Bible chapter and verse without flaw, but if the way to salvation they propose is anywhere other than through Jesus’ death and resurrection for us, then that is the sign of a thief or a robber.
More often than not, thieves and robbers are very convincing. They show us things we want to see, tell us things we want to hear, build up our self-esteem and our happiness. But this doesn’t change the fact that they are stealing from us. And what they steal from us is almost unnoticeable at first. It seems to be not such a big deal, for a little while, to have Jesus taken from us. It sure seems like we can live in this world pretty well without Him. After all, look at the wealth of those who give to themselves, not God! Look at the success of those who follow works-oriented religions and philosophies which focus on doing the best for yourself, of maximizing your personal potential! Isn’t life about following whatever the latest and greatest self-help manual says?
But this sort of teaching is hollow comfort in times of trouble, when you’ve climbed the steps to success and find yourself instead at the foot of failure. When you’ve tried to make meaning by finding yourself, choosing your own paths, plotting your own social reality. The thieves and robbers say the key to happiness is found inside ourselves, but the harder you look there, the less you’ll find it. Yes, the thieves and robbers would have us stuck on ourselves all the way to hell.
In the midst of the thieves plotting new and better ways to take our lives away from us, our Jesus, our loving and gentle Shepherd, calls to us. For not only is He our Shepherd, but He is also the door to salvation and hope for all who follow Him. As Shepherd, Jesus is the one whom His sheep rightly listen to. We hear Jesus’ voice and it gladdens us. We hear His words and they give us encouragement. Jesus is the good Shepherd God promised to His people in Ezekiel, the one who is both God Himself and also the Son of David, the one who cares for the sheep and provides all they need. Our Jesus bids us to come and be fed, and spreads before us a table which has no compare, a banquet of the richest meats and the choicest of wines, as the prophet Isaiah says in Isaiah 25. We celebrate a small taste of this feast in the Lord’s Supper, when we have our Shepherd’s body and blood to eat and drink.
This shepherd marked us as His own people at our Baptism, when in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, water was washed over us, and we were named as sheep belonging to this one Good Shepherd. We were given a brand which cannot be removed. As such, we have a special relationship with our God. It is not just a casual knowing, or an occasional relationship. God knows us more intimately and more deeply than a shepherd knows his sheep. Like a shepherd who carefully watches his sheep, counting them off to make sure none have gone missing, to make sure none have been taken away, so our Lord and Saviour looks out for us.
For Jesus is not only our Shepherd, but also the door for His sheep. Unless He calls us and brings us into his sheepfold in the first place, we will never get in. And in our lives as His people, He also makes the way possible for us to go in and out. Here we have a reference to the daily lives of us as sheep. True, we have a fold to which we return each week, this fold of the congregation, in which we are specially fed and nourished with God’s Word and with the Lord’s Supper. But we also have our own lives and callings outside the walls of this building, our particular responsibilities, our vocations, as we often call them.
Jesus is also our door into a proper view of the world. He gives us a way to go out into this world and live our lives. We come in through Him and are saved from our sins. In Baptism He brought us in, He carried us into His fold and marked us, as was mentioned earlier. But the life of faith doesn’t end with entering the sheepfold, just as sheep are not kept in a pen all the time. We also go out through Him and are able to affect the world around us with the love of our Shepherd, the care and protection He provides for us by His grace. In whatever our pastures may be, we can find contentment on even the leanest of grazings because we know that our Jesus has a full spiritual meal awaiting us when we return to the fold. In good and in bad times alike the Door awaits us to come home to the fold. In good and bad times alike the Shepherd’s watchful eye is upon us, to see to our needs, to care for us, to help us. Whatever we may do, wherever we may go, we have the promise that Jesus is with us always, to the very end of the age (Matt 28:20).
My fellow sheep of the Good Shepherd, on this day, and, indeed, on every day, we have cause to rejoice and celebrate. For we have not been left to the hirelings, to the thieves and robbers who would destroy us. We have not been left defenceless and vulnerable, left to the whims of an ever-changing world with its ever-changing morals. Instead, we have a good Shepherd who will be the guardian and overseer of our souls, both now and always. We can live our lives boldly, trusting in our God for all our needs of body and soul, relying on Him in all situations, good and bad, for He is with us, His rod and staff are there to comfort us.
To be His sheep is to rely on His defending and power alone. We must not rely on our own strength and ability, strutting as though we can exist without our Shepherd, like the thieves and false shepherds would tell us–or we may find ourselves victim to their lies, lost forever. To be His sheep is to continually return through the door of His Word and Sacraments rightly taught and administered, to continually return to where Christ reveals Himself to us. We ignore this calling from the voice of our Shepherd to the peril of our very lives. We in turn then call to the sheep who are not of Jesus’ fold and show them how well our good Shepherd loves, guards, guides, and keeps us. Our job is to live as Jesus’ own sheep, to take care of each other and to build each other up. Our job is to love one another as well as our Shepherd has loved us and taken care of us.
But most importantly, we have been given a hope and a joy–the hope that comes from knowing that our Shepherd loves us and wants the best for us, the hope that comes from seeing His promises in the Word of God come true, the hope that expects that when we shall leave this earth, we shall find an open door through which to enter, and the welcome of a shepherd calling His sheep home one last time. We have a joy which cannot be taken away, for the one who has promised us life and hope is true.
The life as Jesus’ sheep truly is the full life–He fills our every need now and in eternity. Praise be to Christ forever! The Door is my Shepherd! Amen.