Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | May 4, 2009

Sermon on John 10:11-18

I Have Other Sheep

In the Name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

John 10:11-18: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to 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 authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

In the old way of reckoning the church year, today was called Cantate. Cantate is Latin for “sing.” It comes from one of the appointed verses for this day. The fourth Sunday of Easter is a day to sing. And today’s song is one of the most well-known and comforting songs, “The Lord is my Shepherd! I shall not want! He walks me through the valley of the shadow of death! He lays down His life for me! He takes it up again!” That’s why today is also called, “Good Shepherd Sunday.”

It’s interesting that this is so familiar and comforting. First, shepherds aren’t all that common today. I haven’t done any research, but I’d bet that most of us haven’t seen a real-life shepherd. Yet the picture still communicates with us. We still get it. And the second reason this is so interesting, is because shepherds weren’t all that popular in Jesus’ day. In fact, according to some, shepherds were just a rung or two above tax collectors and pig farmers in social reckoning. Jesus hints at why, The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Not many chose the noble profession of shepherding, and those who did weren’t always considered all that reliable. Which is why Jesus had to qualify His statement. He didn’t just say, “I’m your shepherd.” He says, “I am the good shepherd. I shepherd the way a shepherd should. I lay down my life for the sheep. And I know my sheep, not just as money-makers, but as my individual, beloved possessions, my children.”

This description of a good shepherd is what makes Psalm 23 so beloved. This Shepherd finds us the greenest of green pastures, leads us to the quietest of quiet waters, and in every possible way restores and revitalizes our souls. For He guides us in good paths, He walks with us when death lurks near. He removes the fear of evil – no wild beast will attack us, for like young David, He guards against lion and bear. With such a Shepherd all is well. The table is filled with food. No enemy can approach. No one can snatch us from His hands. Goodness and love surround us. Because He’s here and because He says so. Such is the ideal picture of a shepherd, and such is the Shepherd we have. He showed us His willingness to lay down His life when He did so on Calvary. He showed His ultimate authority by taking it up again on Easter. He didn’t run away from the beasts that attacked Him from every side. Instead, He stood between them and us and let them take Him down so that we would live. And, in His words, It is finished. The Devil-Lion is destroyed. He can only stand around the edges and watch as our Shepherd prepares this phenomenal table of salvation for us.

And yet, there is some unfinished business. Jesus says, I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. I wonder if this verse is as puzzling to you as it has been to me. If it is, let it be no more. For what we have here is nothing but another demonstration of the goodness of our Good Shepherd. It’s nothing if not a repetition of Luke 15: Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?

But we must be careful as we look at these words. The Devil has managed to find ways to pervert and corrupt them. Jesus is not affirming what so many teach, “There are many ways to one God. You don’t need to believe in Jesus, just believe in something.” He’s not opening the door to Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, and agnostics. Put that out of your mind. He’s simply saying, “The flock is not full. I must bring them. I know who they are. This Church is bigger than you can see.” This is nothing but Jesus describing for us the amazing, the comforting, the mysterious (and sometimes confusing and controversial) doctrine of election, which Paul relates to the Ephesians: For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.

What’s Jesus point? We’re included. We’re the sheep He’s searching for. We were the one lost, now, by His grace, we’ve been found. He wasn’t just searching for the 12 disciples. He wasn’t just searching for ethnic Jews. He wasn’t just searching for people who happened to be born and on the earth when Jesus was on the earth. The sheep for whom Jesus searches are found throughout time and eternity, in every corner of the globe in every era of human history. And knowing how fearful we are of being left behind, left out, ignored, and forgotten, He includes us already in this amazing Word of God. I have other sheep…I must bring them also. There is a divine necessity here. It’s the divine necessity that drove Him to leave 99 for one. It’s the divine necessity that speaks through Ezekiel, I do not desire the death of the wicked. It’s the divine necessity that speaks through Paul, God wants all men to be saved. He must bring them in also. He decrees it. He desires it. And we have the assurance that He means me. He has not ignored me. He has not found more valuable any number of found sheep than me, little, lone, and lost as I am. When He died for the sins of the world, those were my sins too. No matter what the Devil might say, it comes to naught against this proclamation: I have other sheep…I must bring them also. And, incredibly, They will listen to my voice, because I know my sheep and my sheep know me.

The sheep of Jesus listen to Him and they know Him. Again, there are false impressions and false teachings to put out of your mind. This does not minimize original sin. It’s not as if we’re born half in and half-out of God’s kingdom. We’re born totally out of God’s kingdom, hating God, fighting against Him, and ignoring Jesus. Nor does this break down the barriers between Christian and non-Christian religions. It’s not like C.S. Lewis wished to make it in his final book about that imaginary land of Narnia. In that world, there were followers of a Christ-like figure, Aslan, and followers of a false god named Tash. When Judgment Day came, followers of both Aslan and Tash were in heaven. When asked how this could be, Aslan said, “Some who follow Tash followed me without knowing it.” This is what Roman Catholicism teaches when they say that some would be Catholic, would be Christian, if only they heard about Jesus, and so too will go to heaven if they just try their hardest. Jesus never says this. Nor does this imply that in some mystical, magical osmosis-like way, will someone who has not heard of Jesus nor read of Him in the Scriptures suddenly become one of His sheep. To hold to such unscriptural poppycock is to undermine all of Scripture, it is to shipwreck the faith – yours and those to whom you would offer such false comfort. It is not Christianity.

So what’s Jesus saying? “I will speak, and those who are my sheep will listen. And they will come. There will be one flock. And I will be their one Shepherd.” We understand how this happens. We confess it in the Augsburg Confession: So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given.

These sheep, known to Jesus from all eternity, yet to all appearances anything but sheep now, become God’s sheep in one way and one way only – through His voice, trumpeted by the Holy Spirit through the ministry of preaching and teaching the Gospel and administering Baptism and Holy Communion. The youngest among us know this, because we confess it in words we hold dear, I believe that I cannot, by my own thinking or choosing, believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gather, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. Luther expanded on this in his Large Catechism, But the Holy Spirit carries on His work without ceasing to the Last Day. For that purpose He has appointed a congregation upon earth by which He speaks and does everything. For He has not yet brought together all His Christian Church or granted all forgiveness. Therefore, we believe in Him who daily brings us into the fellowship of this Christian Church through the Word.

Jesus today assures us of our own inclusion in His shepherding work, I have other sheep not of this pen. He assures us of His desire to come and find us, to find all His sheep, I must bring them also. He assures us of the effectiveness of the means that He and the Holy Spirit have chosen to do this bringing in, They will hear my voice. And the linchpin: I know my sheep and my sheep know me. The Greek verb for “know” here indicates knowledge gained from personal experience. Jesus knows you, not from reading a book, but personally. And you know Him in the same way. Your knowledge of Jesus isn’t like your knowledge of the American Revolution. Your knowledge of Jesus is personal experience through Word and Sacrament. Faith creates this personal bond between you and your Savior, between you and your Shepherd. As close as He is to His Father, so close are you to Him. The Word is near you. It is in your heart. And so is Jesus. He has brought you in. You are His sheep. He is your Shepherd. And until that day when we our Shepherd says from His throne, “They’re all in,” we rejoice in this personal relationship, we continue to the righteous path of His Word, feed on the green pastures of His Sacrament, and drink the cool waters of our Baptism, and we can, of course, be the voiceboxes of our Shepherd, bringing this voice to the unknown by us, but known by God sheep of His pasture. Let it be so among us always! May the God who laid down His life for us and took it up again be praised through Jesus Christ! Amen.

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Responses

  1. Hi, nice post. I have been wondering about this issue,so thanks for writing. I’ll definitely be coming back to your blog. Keep up great writing


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