Home > Piles in my office > Jesus has made us His life. Misericordias Domini 2014. St. John 10:11-16

Jesus has made us His life. Misericordias Domini 2014. St. John 10:11-16

ImageMisericordias Domini + St. Peter Lutheran Church, Joliet, Illinois + St. John 10:11-16 + May 4, 2014

“Jesus has made us His life.”


Iesu Iuva!


When I was 16 I worked for a painter.  His name was Tim.  Tim didn’t drink or smoke.  He did work of exceptional quality, and he did it fast.  He’d tell me, “No drips, runs, or brush marks!”  And when I’d be lugging ladders or 50 pound buckets of paint he’d holler, “Run, Karl, run!” 


Despite how it might sound, Tim was a kind-hearted boss.  And he was also a Christian.  He ministered to me at a time when I was trying hard to be a lost sheep.  He tried to teach me what it is to be a Christian and a man.


One time we did some work for a man in the Chicago area who had started a business that made him a multi-billionaire.  For some reason, the man wanted Tim to re-do some of the work he had done.  Tim lived off of his reputation and his work, so if something wasn’t right he fixed it immediately. 


So that night found us working in the man’s garage way past my quitting time.  The sun went down.  Tim made me get out the floodlights.


I don’t entirely remember how this story ends.  I think sometime after dark I started complaining and Tim drove me home and probably went back and kept working until everything was finished.  But there is a point to this story.  Don’t miss the point.


Tim was ready to stay all night if he had to, maybe even to die painting that garage that night, because his business was what enabled him to provide for his family.


But I, on the other hand, was a hired hand.  I liked my paycheck.  But not enough to want to work 12, 13, 14 hours from dark till dark.


Tim was like the good shepherd to whom the sheep belong.  He was ready to sweat and bleed for the business because it was his. 


I was like the hired hand in Jesus’ story from the Gospel.  Not only would I have run if a wolf had somehow gotten loose in that posh suburb and come into the garage, I was ready to leave the business once my eight hours were up. 


Jesus has a business, so to speak, like Tim.  Jesus’ business is caring for His sheep—His Christians, His Church.  Just like in the painting business, only the one who owns the business is ready to do whatever it takes for it.  The one who owns the sheep is Jesus, the shepherd. 


The word “Pastor” means, literally, “shepherd.”  But there is really only one pastor of the sheep of Jesus in a strict sense.  That’s Jesus.  The Good Pastor.


That’s because all real shepherding that gets done in the church is not really the work of the men we call pastors.  When they do what comes naturally to them, they do just what the hired hands do in the Gospel.  They run when danger comes.  If they stay and tend the flock, that’s Christ working in them.


  It isn’t really pastors laying down their lives for the sheep, but the good shepherd living in them.


Jesus has made us His life.  Just like my boss was willing to do whatever was necessary for his business, a shepherd who owns the sheep will do whatever is necessary to protect them, because they are his life.


We aren’t naturally Jesus’ life; Jesus has life in Himself.  He is the fountain of life from the beginning; God of God, Light of Light…being of one substance with the Father, by Whom all things were made.


Yet Jesus made us His life.  A good shepherd will die for his sheep not so much because he loves the sheep more than himself but because the sheep are his livelihood.  Without them he has nothing.  Jesus had plenty to live for without us.  But He made us His life.  He chose to love us so that He couldn’t be without us.  He chose from eternity to love us so that He laid down His very soul for us.  That’s what the word “life” in John 10 really means:  The good shepherd lays down his soul/ his life for the sheep.  Much like when Jesus told the disciples, “What good is it if a man gains the whole world and loses his soul?”


Jesus chose to love us so that our lost souls would be his loss; our fall into sin, death, and hell became His fall into sin, death, and God’s wrath.  He chose to make our rescue His purpose.  He made us His life. 


He made Himself our shepherd and us His flock.  He made Himself one of us, a man, to lead us out of death and into communion with God.  He did this by setting us an example, the way Tim tried to set me an example of being a man in the image of Jesus.  But Jesus also became our substitute.  He gave His life for ours.  He traded His glory for our shame; His righteousness for our punishment.


That is why it is such a terrible evil to do injury to Christ’s flock, whether by abandoning it, or persecuting it, or despising it, or pretending not to have anything to do with parts of it.  You know why?  Because Jesus has made that flock, the Church, His life, and has laid down His soul for each sheep of the flock.


Jesus loves His sheep.  “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, and I lay down my life for the sheep.”


Jesus knows His sheep, each one, the way the Father knows Him, the way He knows the Father.


Fathers, how do you know your sons?  I know my son with love.  As evil and selfish as my heart is, I am ready to die for my son. 


Jesus knows His sheep intimately, in love, not as a sinful human father knows his son but as the divine Father knows His only begotten Son.


And Jesus has laid down His life for each sheep.


Now then, if Jesus has given the most precious thing in the universe for His sheep—what greater crime could there be than to harm His sheep? 


How serious and awful a crime and tragedy is committed by pastors who forsake the flock of the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep!  A pastor who does this is forsaking Jesus.  He is denying Jesus.  Because Jesus has made us His life.


But what about when a Christian who isn’t a pastor hurts Christ’s sheep?  With fists?  With words?  By ignoring them?


What about you, when you don’t actively hurt Christ’s sheep—you’re just embarrassed of them.  You don’t love them.  You pretend you don’t know them.  You look down on them?


When you just fail to show them mercy?  When you just don’t given them a cup of cold water?  When you refuse to bear with them and love them when they show their faults and sins?


Have you ever done such things to Christ’s sheep?  How would you know if you had?  We can’t see who is a sheep and who isn’t.  But Jesus tells us that the sheep are those who hear His voice and go where He is—not because they are always obedient and never stray, but because they simply know His voice and not the voice of another.  That sounds like a lot of people in the Church, doesn’t it?


Chances are good, then, that you are among the people who mistreated the sheep whom Christ made his life.  For whom the Son of God laid down His life.


And I know that I have not always loved Jesus enough to care for the sheep willingly, even when the wolf came.


What can such grievous sinners do? 



Only hear the voice of the good shepherd calling from a distance.  I lay down my life for the sheep.  I know my sheep. 


Yes, He knows our sins.  He also knows our helplessness, how despite our best intentions we have denied Him or injured the ones whom He made His life.  He knows you and He knows your sins.  And He laid down His soul for you on the cross.


He calls to you and says, “You are my sheep.  I laid down my life for you.  You are mine.  You are my life.  Your sins are my sins, your punishment is my punishment, your salvation is my salvation, your resurrection is my resurrection.”


And now He comes to pastor you through His Word.  To calm your fears and to go ahead of you to lead you into safety and pasture where He will make you lie down and rest without being afraid.


That does mean that He will kick you out of the pen.  We don’t get to stay in the enclosure forever where it seems to be safe.  We have to go out so that we can get to the pasture, and on the way to the pasture there are wolves. 


Jesus doesn’t let us stay children forever.  He brings us out into the pastures of His Word so we can eat and grow up, but when we feed on the word, the devil comes to feed on us. 


But Jesus isn’t leading us in a way that isn’t right.  It is the way He has already gone.  Mark’s gospel says that the spirit drove him out into the wilderness and he was tempted by the devil and was among the wild beasts.


But Jesus says that when the Shepherd has driven all of his flock out of the pen, He goes ahead of them.  The sheep follow because they know His voice, not because they understand or like where He is going. 


But Jesus is out in front of us, exposed to the danger, leading us to the place He has already brought us in His death and resurrection and ascension—to the pastures of eternal life in the new heaven and earth.


He has already walked this path for us—a road that passes through danger and temptation and the valley of the shadow of death.  He went on the road that passes through the outposts and ambushes of the devil, through the opposition of the world, down roads that the world says are forbidden.


And He cleared the path for us.  The wolf and his dogs fell on Him.  They tore Him apart for you, but He smashed their vicious teeth, broke their jaws, made them walk with a limp.  And now when we walk the path after Him as a church, not listening to anything but His voice, His Word, the devil and his dogs can’t harm a hair on our head.  Or a curl of our fleece.  They can growl and charge and foam at the mouth, but they can’t hurt you.


Not only because He has broken their power on the cross, but because He is with us now as our good shepherd.  It is He who speaks to us, pastors us, and defends us by His mighty word.


In case the devil forgot about His victory over them for us Jesus our shepherd is here with us to remind them and us.  And the devil and his pack of dogs remember when they bring us trouble on earth, pain, but they aren’t able to separate us from the shepherd.  They see the shepherd nourish us and strengthen us with His Word and His body and blood, with food from the pastures of eternal life.  They grind broken teeth as they see us taste the rich pastures that will be ours in His Word and Spirit, in the Sacrament of the Altar and the blessed absolution.


And the devil and his servants in the world also hear the voice of Jesus.  As weak as it seems and as much as people seem to ignore it, the devil and his servants hear it.  And they are afraid.


They see Him strengthen us so that we don’t scatter when they charge.  And they see Him in us when we don’t flee like hired hands.  He resists them in us and overcomes them and proclaims the day of their doom, and they despair.


But why are you afraid, little flock?  Listen, your shepherd knows where He’s taking you.  He’s been there.  He hasn’t gone back on His word to you because He knows you and laid down His life for you.  He knows how to get you to what He has promised.


Nothing you can do or fail to do will prevent Jesus from getting the one flock gathered to the one shepherd at the place of His rest. 


Nothing I can do or not do will make Jesus fail.  He has His whole life invested in us, just like Tim had everything invested in his business.  Jesus will spare no pains and take no rest from guarding us.


And He is the one shepherding you, even though there are wolves around snapping at your heels, even if there are wolves in sheep’s clothing in the midst of the flock, even though there are hirelings in the ministry and also sinful Peters who sometimes conduct their office not in Christ but in their flesh.


Jesus is the good shepherd; He shepherds this church, and He calls sheep from pens all over the world and is gathering His whole flock together.


Don’t look to your own efforts, or mine, or that of any man, to get the flock at St. Peter to safety.  Those efforts will surely fail and harm the sheep.


Look to your good shepherd who made you His life and laid down His life for you on the tree of the cross.  That is where He knew us, made us His life, suffering for our good in order to raise us with Him.  How could He let His sheep perish after He laid down His life for them?  How can Jesus let a toothless wolf or a selfish hireling or even your own willfulness be the death of you?


Listen to His voice and call to Him when you feel danger.  Don’t take matters into your own hands and start butting the other sheep or running around to every patch of grass you see.  Trust in the Lord, commit your way to Him and He will act.


And then do the opposite of what the hirelings do.  Do what the good shepherd does.  Treat the sheep’s problems and weakness as your own.  Because the Son knows you and has laid down his soul for you, and you no longer need to try to gain the whole world and end up forfeiting your soul.  He has already given you the whole world.  He has made you His life.


The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria.



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