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John 10:1-18

 

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

 

So Jesus again said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the 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. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father." (ESV)

For the Sheep

Friday of Pentecost 10 

7 August 2015

When I was a child, I would delight in going to the barn with my grandfather to feed the cattle he kept over the winter. Sometimes it was so cold, even in the stable, that we had to break the ice that formed in the water bowls overnight. My grandfather, who was a great story teller, told me of the brutal winter weather that he remembered from his childhood in Canada, when they had to string a rope between the house and the stable, so that they would not get lost in the snow while going to and fro. The one constant, no matter what the weather was like, was that the animals had to be fed and checked. They were dumb beasts and couldn't fend for themselves. The farmer had to go out into all kinds of weather to care for them. The stockman was responsible for their well being.

 

If the farmer is willing to undergo such hardships for the sake of his animals, how could the shepherd of God's people decline any hardship experienced for their sakes? What suffering could be too burdensome? What death unnecessary? The good Shepherd has considered them worth His suffering and death, how shall we esteem them less? If the sheep are led to the slaughter all day long, why should their shepherds be exempt from such a death? Ought they not all the more seek to lead the sheep toward their slaughter, to be the first among the day's dying. So the love of the shepherds for the sheep led them into the arena to be devoured by the wild animals while the mob howled. And from their fertile blood sprouted the verdant faith of Christ and His church, against which the gates of hell cannot prevail. Every pastor dies a thousand deaths for the sake of the flock which Christ committed to his care. All shepherds die for their flock as they feel their sheep's suffering, weaknesses, and trials.

 

The sheep too must be aware of the suffering of their shepherds. They cannot be hardened to the cost of shepherding; with its prayers, vigils, sleepless nights, and stomach tied in knots. The sheep are precious to the shepherds. The suffering of each one is felt by their leader. The shepherds are not cavalier toward their sheep, even if their love of them includes a willingness to chide and correct those who fall into sin or misbelief. Only the hireling will let the sheep crash over the cliff of shame and vice to their death. The good shepherd will stand at the very precipice begging and pleading with them to turn away from evil to the right or to the left, even if he is stampeded over the cliff by the very sheep he loves. Both sheep and shepherds must forebear if they are to live together in God's church; each building the other up in love in the midst of suffering and death. All may be suffered for the sheep.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"Consider the shepherds in Cappadocia, and how much they suffer in their stewardship of unreasoning creatures. They often stay for days together buried down under the snow. Those in Libya are said to undergo no less hardships than these, wandering about for whole months through a dreary wilderness filled with dangerous wild animals. If for unreasoning creatures there is so much zeal, what excuse could we give, who are entrusted with the care of sentient beings, and yet slumber on in this deep sleep? For is it right to be at rest, in quiet, and not to be running about everywhere, and giving one's self up to endless deaths on behalf of these sheep? Don't you know that for the dignity of this flock that your Master took endless pains, and afterwards poured out His blood? And you seek rest? Now what can be worse than such shepherds? Do you not see that wolves stand round about these sheep; wolves much more fierce and savage than those of this world? Can't you see what greatness of soul he ought to have who takes in hand this office? Even political leaders, if they have common matters to deliberate on, add days to nights in careful deliberation. Yet, we who are struggling in heaven's behalf sleep even in the daytime. Who is now to deliver us from the punishment for these things? If our body were cut into pieces and if we undergo ten thousand deaths, should we not run to it as to a feast?

 

"Let not just the shepherds hear this, but also the sheep; that they might make the shepherds the more disposed to action, that they might encourage their good will. I mean they should do this by yielding everything in compliance and obedience. They are so commanded, 'Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account' (Heb 13:17). When the writer to the Hebrews says, 'watch,' he means thousands of labors, cares, and dangers. For a good shepherd, who is such as Christ desires, is contending before countless witnesses. Christ died once for him; but this man dies ten thousand times for the flock, that is, if he is such a shepherd as he ought to be; for such a shepherd can die every day (Rm 8:36). Therefore, since you are acquainted with what the labor is, cooperate with the shepherd, with prayers, zeal, readiness, and affection, that we may boast in you and you in us.

 

"For this reason, He entrusted this to the chief of the Apostles, who also loved Him more than the rest. The Lord first asked him if He was loved by him, that you might learn that this is before other things, and is held as a proof of love to Him. This requires a hardy soul. This I have said of the best shepherds; not of myself and those of our days, but of anyone that would be the kind of shepherd Paul was, or Peter, or Moses. Let both leaders and those who follow imitate them. For the one who follows may be a shepherd to his family, to his friends, to his servants, to his wife, and to his children. If we arrange things this way, all manner of good will happen. May God grant that we may all attain to it, by grace and God's love of man."

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 29
 
Prayer

O God of all grace and mercy, You have called pastors, poor, unworthy sinners, to be servants of Your Word. You have placed them into the office that preaches reconciliation and gives them their flocks to feed. By Your grace make them able ministers of Your Church. Give them Your Holy Spirit. Fill them with the right knowledge of Your Word, and open their lips to proclaim the honor of Your name. Fill their hearts with a passion for seeking the lost and with skillfulness to give to the lambs and sheep entrusted to their care what each one needs at the proper time; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

For the Council of Presidents of the LCMS as they travel at the close of retreat, that the holy angels would watch over them

 

For the meeting of the Board of Directors of the Luther Academy, that the mission of Christ would flourish under His gracious care in their labor

 

For the family of Morgan Jones as they mourn her passing, that those who know the power of the resurrection would testify to the peace of Christ

 

For all those suffering from slavery to addiction, that they might be freed by Christ from its demonic power

Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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