John 10:9-10 I am the door; if any one 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.
Its Good Shepherd Sunday, for that is the theme of the 4th Sunday of Easter. Jesus is the good shepherd, we are the sheep. We are the sheep, but perhaps its best to say that we are a mixture, of sheep and lambs and goats. You see, God knows that the church is a mixture. Some who are mature in faith, some who are as it were new born in the faith, and some who will eat anything, but havenít really come to faith, theyíre all part of the flock. Sheep need green pastures, quiet waters, and a safe place to rest. Lambs need the same things as sheep, but they also need those things which help them grow. And as for the goats, they need to be changed, for at the last day, the good shepherd will separate the sheep from the goats, and only the sheep will go to heaven. The goats need to be changed, to be made a new creation, a goat canít change himself into a sheep, but God can. Thatís what makes baptism so special, for it is the way that God begins to work that change within us.
You see, God wants all to be saved, and so it is Godís plan to warn the goats of what is coming, and to offer to change them from goats who perish into sheep who are saved. Its Good Shepherd Sunday and so we want to remember all of the flock. Sometimes people look at the church and all they can see are the goats, they say I donít want to be a part of that. To them it looks like the church is a gathering of goats. No one has told them that the goats have gathered so that God might change them. Satan would like that deception to continue, heís an old goat himself, and he wants more goats to be with him to spend eternity in Hell. Satan is the one who keeps saying, you canít teach an old dog new tricks. Satan is the one who keeps saying, you canít make a silk purse out of a sowís ear. Satan doesnít want anyone to know about the life, forgiveness and salvation that come by grace through faith in Christ. Satan doesnít want anyone to hear that God can and does work new life, and regeneration - that God can make anyone a new creation, that God wants to make everyone numbered with the redeemed.
Jesus came that there might be life, abundant life. But if the world is leading you by a ring in your nose, and leading you away from the Good Shepherd, how will you hear of Godís gracious plan, how will you turn from fruitless ways, how will you become a new creation? So it is that the first task is always the sharing of that law, the law which shows us our sins, the law that reminds us of the wrath of God, the law which shows us that we cannot save ourselves, the very law that shows us why we need a savior. The law by itself cannot save. The law commands us to be perfect. The Law tells us of Godís minimum requirements. But the law cannot earn for us forgiveness or make us a new creation. And so it is that always tied with the law is the gospel, which is the good news of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. Christ has overcome every obstacle, defeating sin, death, and the devil, overpowering the world, and our sinful flesh. Christ has kept the Law perfectly, and suffered and died for our sins, and is risen, and the risen Christ shares his victory with us. Jesus wants to change us, Jesus want us to have victory over temptation and every evil. Jesus wants us to be a new creation. Jesus wants us to be the sheep of his pasture.
That that is the real joy of this Sunday. For the Sheep of his pasture, are the sheep of his hand. Who can hurt us, if we are in the hand of God? And in the hand of God, we have the green pastures and quite waters, and a safe resting place.
Some people think that they can get in by climbing over the fence. Some people think that they can climb out over the fence. But there is really only one way in, and that is faith in Christ. Jesus is the door. Jesus gives life. Jesus works the new creation. Jesus is the name given among men in which there is salvation; and there is no other name.
The church is a mix of sheep, lambs and goats, and from time to time, a wolf in sheepís clothing. It is not up to us to separate the flock, but it is good for us to remind ourselves, that at the last day, God will separate. We pray that we will be good sheep, not wandering sheep. We pray that we will be lambs who faithfully grow by feeding on the word and sacrament. We pray that God would work his new creation on all the goats, even on the wolf in sheepís clothing, that repenting of their sins, and turning to their savior, they too might have the new creation. But most of all we thank God for the great blessing that is ours in our Good Shepherd, Savior, and Lord, Jesus Christ.