"We Need a Shepherd" #78-36
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on May 15, 2011
By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Q&A Topic:Ancient imagery for a modern world?)
Copyright 2013 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: John 10:1-10
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you through Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, the One you can trust, the One you can follow. Amen.
We need a Shepherd today. The world needs a Good Shepherd today.
But that doesn't sound right, does it? I mean, people today might say that we might need a financial planner; maybe what we really need is a physical trainer, or a personal therapist. We might even need a business coach, but I don't know too many people whose first thought is that they need a Shepherd. How about you? Do you realize your need for Jesus, the Good Shepherd today?
In the middle of WWI an unexpected cease fire peace broke out. Do you remember the story? It was Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1914. The truce between the Germans and the British troops started when German troops began to sing "Silent Night, Stille Nacht" as the sun went down. As they sang, they decorated the trees around their fox holes with candle light. As the song pierced through the air, the British troops were moved by the singing and they began to sing carols of the birth of Christ too. As the evening progressed, people became more bold in their show of Christmas cheer. Christmas greetings began to be shared across enemy lines, some even became more bold, crossing the no-man's-land to bring presents to their enemies. The rejoicing went on, the celebration continued through the night and on into Christmas Day.
Now, I must admit, I have heard this story before. But what I hadn't heard amazed me even more.
As the ad hoc Christmas-ceasefire took hold, each side also made a point to care for their soldiers who had died in the previous days' battles. Funerals and proper burials were organized for both sides, and here it comes, this is what amazed me, a common song went up among both the German and the British troops. The Song "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want, He makes me down to lie, in pastures green he leadeth me, to quiet waters by."
The Good Shepherd filled truce continued to spread across other lines, into other fox holes and trenches. Soon the whole war machine was at a standstill. There were even rumors of soccer games breaking out amongst those who just days earlier were firing bullets to kill. In some places they say, that truce lasted right up to New Year's Day. Unfortunately, new troops, new orders eventually broke the peace. The next year, commanders ordered the troops to bomb each other on Christmas Eve to make sure that such a peace didn't break out again.
Now, I'm not naïve to believe that we don't need policeman, soldiers, generals, politicians. They exist in a sinful world to keep all hell from breaking loose. And, I'm glad when they do the hard work that prevents that from happening.
But, what made that peace happen? What caused those enemies to see, even just for a moment, that they were brothers? It wasn't their nationality, or their economic standing, or even their persuasive personalities. They barely possessed the clothes on their backs, and they were probably more afraid than fearless. The power of that peace was the Prince of Peace, the Prince of Peace Who bonded enemies together, even for a moment, as sons of God. The Good Shepherd and His voice, His call to His people helped overcome real enmity, real hatred.
We need a Shepherd in this world. Someone to lead us back to God, Someone to bond us again as brothers and sisters in Him. We need a Shepherd. Someone Who not only keeps all hell from breaking loose, but One Who can give us God's abundant life, Who can truly lead us even to heaven itself. We need a Shepherd to show us again what it means to be truly human, created and redeemed of God for others.
Listen to Jesus as he speaks in John chapter 10.
"The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own by name and leads them out. I am the Good Shepherd!"
The Bible is clear. All people in this world need the Good Shepherd because we're like sheep who've gone astray. Jesus says this even more clearly when He calls all sheep to Him as the Good Shepherd. He says in essence, "You not only need Me because you are lost; you need Me because there are literally forces out their seeking your destruction." Lost Sheep are vulnerable to thieves and robbers. They need protection, they need to be saved, they need to be blessed and led. They need a Shepherd.
But, amazingly, that's the one thing that people don't think they need today. They often think that just a bit more money will solve the problem, maybe just the loss of a few pounds, or maybe just a little common sense advice and we can handle the rest.
If you don't feel your sheepness, your lostness from God, let the voice of God's Ten Commandments have its say with you today. Just try to find your way home to God by following these straightforward Commandments, honestly and completely, in thought, word, and deed, 100% of every minute of every day. Just try to love your spouse, your friend, your neighbor, even your enemy the way that Jesus loves you, at all times, in all circumstances. It won't take long to feel the weight of your inadequacies and failures. You'll sense pretty quickly that not only do you fail to measure up to God's standards; most of us don't even measure up to our own because we are like sheep that are always going astray.
While it's embarrassing to think of oneself as a sheep, it is even more dangerous to deny one's sheepness and to try to live an un-shepherded life in this spiritually dangerous world. When sheep over-confidently go it alone, they are vulnerable to the wolf, to the elements, and even to their own inability to find their way home.
When I listen to some of the arrogant talk that exists in our world today, it sounds a lot like sheep talk. It sounds like people vulnerable to their own arrogance.
When people say that the world just happened, no God, morals, ethics, conscience, love, joy, peace; that it all just happened, sheep talk.
When people say that there is no truth, that there is nothing really to guide us, that each one is in it for ourselves, no need for family, community, faith, religion; sheep talk!
Jesus tells us today, one very important thing, not only are we sheep who need a Shepherd, He is the Good Shepherd for the sheep. He is the One Who cares about us even more than we can care for ourselves. There is danger in this world, there is trouble in this world, but there is a Shepherd in this world calling those who yearn for God's abundant life to follow Him! Trust Him!
Jesus says, "The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own by name and leads them out. I am the Good Shepherd!"
So, let this Shepherd bless you today. Admit to yourselves that you are a sheep in need of this Good Shepherd. In fact, all of us need to know, all of us need to admit, to believe that we are not in this alone. The most powerful confession you can make today whether you are a business man or a business woman, a husband, wife, or child, teacher, salesperson, president, king, queen or just a hard-working Joe or Josephine, all of us need the life and salvation that only God can give. All of us need to know love and laughter, joy, and victory over struggle. We need to know that Someone Who really matters cares. We need Someone Who has been through it all and can lead and guide us through this maze called life to the abundant life that only God can give! We need a Shepherd.
So, hear the Good News! You and I have One, Jesus the Christ!
So, if you are spiritually, emotionally exhausted, having tried every way that you know how to get a grip on life, if you have been run over by the kinds of struggles that tend to overwhelm us all, if you are a person who feels like there is no way you will ever be able to overcome your past, let alone have hope for the future, if you know deep in your heart that you need a Shepherd! Good. You have a Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Trust in Him,
Jesus is bold to all who confess their need for Him, He is bold in His Word to you, He, alone, is the Good Shepherd, He doesn't just claim to be a Shepherd; He claims to be the Shepherd, the Good Shepherd, that you can trust, the One you can follow,
He is the Good Shepherd because He comes straight at you with His blessing, He comes right through the gate, as He says,
I think that Jesus is saying, "Check Me out, I come straight through the gate for you, The watchman knows that I'm the real deal. Hear Me clearly, Hear what I'm offering to you," You see, Jesus doesn't try to trick you or fake you out, He doesn't sell you an inflated product! That's what the false shepherds do.
It's like when you try to make an important purchase in your life, I don't care if it is a car, a house, or a pair of shoes, I want to deal with someone who talks straight to me, who answers the questions that I have because they're trying to really help me. I hate it when I'm dealing with a salesperson, who won't answer my questions, don't you? You know, you ask a specific question and they always give you an answer that has nothing to do with what you just asked. Their answers always avoid the problems and merely highlight the benefits you already knew, I don't trust someone who won't deal with me in a straightforward manner.
Jesus says, then trust Me! I come right through the gate. I'm not like those who come over the walls, or come in the back way. They come to harm, I come to bless you, to forgive you, to call you home. Entrust your life to the Good Shepherd. He comes boldly, clearly, straight through the gate for you. But it's not just His manner that is key, It's also His message. He comes with His love for you, His persevering, merciful love for you, love that He wants you to know and to trust.
In the prologue to his book, "Leadership Jazz," Max Dupree writes about his granddaughter Zoe and the love she needed not just to survive, but to live. He says, "Zoe was born prematurely; she weighed only 11b, 70z. She was so small that my wedding ring could slide up her arm all the way to her shoulder. The neo-natalist who first examined her told us that she had a 5-10% chance of living merely 3 days. When Esther and I saw Zoe in her Isolette in that neo-natal intensive care unit, she had 2 IV's in her navel, one in her foot, a monitor on each side of her chest and a respirator tube and a feeding tube in her mouth,
"To complicate matters, Zoe's biological father had jumped ship the month before Zoe was born. Realizing this, a wise and caring nurse name Ruth gave me these instructions, For the next several months, at least, you are the surrogate father. She said, I want you to come to the hospital to visit Zoe, I want you to rub her body and her legs and caress her with the tips of your fingers and while you are caressing her, tell her over and over again how much you love her because she has to be able to connect your voice to your touch.
Dupree came to the hospital each day, and he spent time with Zoe, not only to help her survive, but to help her begin to live, to actually make those cells grow, but to also make her heart grow, too. She needed more than just food and water, she needed the real, tangible love of a father. She needed a father who would dedicate his life to bringing a healing voice to her daily so that her body would begin to grow and mature,
As human beings, we need God's love and mercy that way too. We need Him in all things so that we can grow to be what He intended us to be. We need His healing touch. We need His loving voice to bless us, As sheep, we need the care of the Good Shepherd who brings that healing voice of God to us today too. Jesus is God's love in action for us. We need a Shepherd. We have a Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
In fact, Jesus as the Good Shepherd, He is the One Who knows you better than you Jesus says, "1 call My sheep by name, I lead them out." In the Near East, the sheep were often given names! They were like family. Now, I don't know about you, but I wouldn't call sleeping with sheep, the highlight of the shepherd's job! But, if I'm a sheep, I sure would want a shepherd like that.
The Good Shepherd is right there where the sheep need Him to be, no matter what the cost to Him. He doesn't bark orders from afar. He gets right in the middle of our lives, no matter how messed up they are at the moment, no matter how foul the smell, no matter how difficult the struggle. He comes right there; right there to lead us out to His abundant life!
And the news gets greater still. He doesn't just 'get in the mix' of our lives, He is willing to lay down His life so that God's abundant life might be ours, as a gift.
Now just think about what Jesus is saying to you, He's saying that this is how God comes to love you and care for you, to redeem you and call you home. Most people wouldn't risk their lives for an insignificant sheep and many people, sadly, wouldn't even give their lives for a fellow human being.
Jesus, God in human flesh, is not only willing to give His life for wayward sheep. This Good Shepherd literally gave His life on the cross so that you could be brought back into the fold of God's grace. Trust him!
Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He is calling you to follow Him today. You can trust Him amidst danger, you can be confident of His continued care. You can trust Him when He says that He can lead you to green pastures, quiet waters, and abundant life.
He's calling you to follow Him because He has made the way for you already, as only the Good Shepherd can do.
He's already made a way for life, for you no matter what you're facing today. If there is fear, He's faced it; a temptation, He's overcome it; real rejection, He's endured it; intimidation, threats, He's stood them down. He's literally overcomes the gates of Hell for you so that you might have life in Him. Only the Good Shepherd can do that. He's calling you to follow Him, to trust the path that He has fashioned for you, for your life in Him.
When sheep successfully follow a shepherd through difficult terrain or through dangerous territory, you'll often see the hoof print of the sheep in the middle of the footprint of the shepherd. When a wise, courageous, loving Shepherd is leading the way, trusting sheep follow His every move for their very lives.
Faith, trust; our footprints in His no matter what the circumstance; that's the life He wants for you. Remember that Christmas truce of 1914? How could such peace break out amongst enemies? It broke out because there was a Shepherd greater than their fears. Armies can win wars, but only the Good Shepherd and the bond of His grace can truly win the peace. They had that common bond that overcome their fears; they followed a common voice that bonded them beyond the terror and the gruesomeness of the moment. They knew a common Shepherd. Each one of them knew His promises that: Beneath me: green pastures Beside me: still waters With me: my Shepherd Before me: a table Around me: mine enemies After me: goodness and mercy Beyond me: the house of the Lord (#4516, p.1 011)
We need that kind of Shepherd, that kind of life, and it's here for you today in Jesus Christ. Put your trust in Him, in His Word, and know that this Shepherd lives to protect and bless you. This Shepherd knows you by name and cares about you deeply. This Shepherd pursues you with His grace and calls you to follow in His mercy footsteps to live life abundantly for others in His Name! Amen!
ANNOUNCER -Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions from listeners. I'm
Mark Eischer. Today we're talking about the Good Shepherd and what it means to have a Shepherd for our lives even today.
SELTZ: That's not as easy a topic as you might think, Mark.
ANNOUNCER: I think that you're right about that. There's a struggle for one of our
listeners to understand just that point. He writes, "How can you share with modern
people who Jesus is when we're using stories about Him as a Shepherd, something that most of us know absolutely nothing about? Shouldn't we then update the Bible stories a little?" Shouldn't we find a better way to speak about Jesus?
SELTZ -I'm not sure that searching for better ways is the motivation for the answer to our question, though.
ANNOUNCER -Well, if not better ways, different ways of speaking about Jesus?
SELTZ -Now, that's well said, Mark. The Bible is a book that conveys the righteousness, holiness and gracious love of God in various ways and sometimes, in very literal ways, ways that we're to hold on to and to follow. But, even in those instances, we translate those words into words that we can understand.
ANNOUNCER: So in the case of our lesson today, Jesus, as the Shepherd, that's kind of a metaphor, one that might have spoken more clearly to agricultural people way back when, not so much today.
SELTZ: Well, yes. We don't have much experience with shepherds today, so there is a tendency for us to look for other examples, other ways of explaining that "Jesus (like a Shepherd) protects us, Jesus knows us by name, Jesus is a Savior who knows our weaknesses, knows our fears and came to save us," just like a Good Shepherd.
ANNOUNCER: OK. But I hear another side coming up as well.
SELTZ: Well, not so much a no, but a caution AGAINST SAYING that those first-century metaphors can't speak to 21 st century folks like us.
ANNOUNCER -And what do you mean by that?
SELTZ -Well, shepherds, like farmers, were people who lived close to the land, to the dust and there is something about dealing with those things so close to the basics of life that even 21 st century folks can understand.
SELTZ -For example, when we worked with people in New York City or Los Angeles, it was good to get them away from the hustle and bustle of life, the technologies that we often cling to more dearly than we should.
ANNOUNCER -So was that kind of a back to nature move on your part?
SELTZ: Well, not so much that it was a back to nature thing, but a back to basics kind of thing. When people see the majesty, even the power of God's creation, and when they are reminded that life is ultimately about relationships to Him, to others and to His world for others, then even these stories about shepherds, sheep, farmers, seed. They speak pretty clearly even to us about Who this Jesus is and was for us.
ANNOUNCER: So, then it's not that His words can't speak clearly to us, but we might have to, maybe, work that word a bit more in order to hear it for ourselves?
SELTZ -Yeah, I would say so. That's good. We might have to do a little reading about what it means to be a sheep in a Shepherd's pen. We might have to do some study about what it is that good shepherds do that bad ones don't. While it might be foreign to us, I think those basic things about God, faith, love, courage, those kind of things, they come through pretty clearly in that phrase, "Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd"
ANNOUNCER -You know, I'm thinking that maybe when we talk about Jesus as the Good Shepherd, the hard part is that means we're more like sheep.
ANNOUNCER: So there is always the pressure, I guess, to take God's word and speak it in words that we can clearly understand.
SELTZ: I think that's exactly what God has done, when He came among us. He breathed our air, He ate our food, He walked our roads, and He communicated His message in words that we can understand.
ANNOUNCER: So, then, don't be too quick to start looking for other images, other metaphors, when what the Bible has to say still speaks clearly or can speak clearly to us even today, right?
SELTZ -Absolutely. Maybe it's best to say it this way.... ln all things we are called to be faithful to God's Word as we seek to share His words in words that people can understand today. You know what's amazing? God's Word can actually do that with our words.
ANNOUNCER: I'm glad that Christ can speak His Good News to you and me in words that we can understand. Thank you Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music selection for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"The King of Love My Shepherd Is" From With High Delight by the Children's Choirs of SI. Paul's Lutheran Church, Ft. Wayne (© 2002 SI. Paul's Lutheran Church)
"The Lord's My Shepherd, I'll Not Want" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"My Shepherd Will Supply My Need" arr. Timothy Make & Georg Masanz. From Magnificent Christian Hymns, vol. 3 by Timothy Make & Georg Masanz (© 2006 T. Make Recordings)