Kruiz edited
Shepherd for the Sheep
Monday of Lent 5
19 March 2018
The church I grew up in was a charming neo-Gothic building with a sublimely intricate oak altar and reredos. At its center stood a statue of Jesus the Good Shepherd, with the shepherd's staff in the crook of His arm and a little lamb cradled in His arms. His eyes look down longingly to the need of the prone lamb. This Jesus the Good Shepherd is for the lamb. His whole goal and ministry is to reach down into the mud and mire, rescuing the lamb who has been cast down. How the little lamb cried plaintively for the rescue made necessary by his own foolishness! The shepherd heard his cry for rescue (Ps 40:1). The Good Shepherd seeks and saves the lost (Mt 10:6; Lk 15:6; Lk 19:10). This is part of Christianity with which we struggle mightily. We would prefer a more muscular faith that does not obligate Jesus to rescue us. We would prefer to find the Shepherd on our own, rather than depend on the Shepherd to find us. That didn't work out too well for the little lamb. Only when the Shepherd found Him could He be saved.
 
If Christ is the Good Shepherd then there is nothing greater than being the little lamb who rests comfortably in the arms of the Shepherd who carries His sheep. Bootstrapping is not a method of recovery open to the lambs who depend on Christ. Help can only come from outside ourselves. If Christ is the Good Shepherd then our spiritual pride must be sacrificed to His shepherding. We must become the weak whom the Shepherd rescues. This takes a leap of faith to believe that we are incapable of working our own salvation and that faith rests only in the arms of the Good Shepherd. By being rescued by the Good Shepherd those who have nothing get everything, the weak become strong, the dead are given life, the hungry fed, the thirsty given to drink. All depends on Him.
 
There is no greater condescension in the majesty of God, than that Christ should become the Shepherd of Israel. He who is King, Divine Majesty, Creator, and Master, becomes for us poor sheep the Shepherd. How kindly and loving this condescension for us. We needn't fear the approach of the Shepherd who quietly calls for and seeks His sheep looking through the bramble-blighted domain of this world. He will not be deterred because He alone is truly good and in His arms we shall never experience want. So, all that He wants to give He will give, even if it costs the life of Shepherd for the sheep (Jn 10:11). He is the Shepherd for the sheep.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

  Martin Luther
"'The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want' (Ps 23:1). First of all the prophet [David], and every believing heart, calls God his Shepherd. Scripture gives God many friendly names; but especially dear and charming is the one that the prophet gives God here in calling Him a Shepherd and saying, 'The Lord is my Shepherd.' It is most comforting when Scripture calls God our Refuge, our Strength, our Rock, our Fortress, Shield, Hope, our Comfort, Savior, King, etc. For by His unceasing actions He truly demonstrates in His people that He is exactly as Scripture portrays Him. It is exceedingly comforting to know that here and in other places in Scripture He is frequently called a Shepherd. For in this single little word 'shepherd' there are gathered together in one almost all the good and comforting things that we praise in God.
 
"The prophet therefore uses these words with a happy, secure heart-a heart that is filled with faith and overflows with great joy and comfort. He does not say, 'The Lord is my Strength, Fortress,' etc., which would also be very comforting, but 'my Shepherd'; as though he would say: 'If the Lord is my Shepherd and I am His sheep, then I am very well supplied both in body and soul. He will feed me well, protect and preserve me from misfortune, care for me, help me out of all troubles, comfort me, and strengthen me. In summary, He will do for me what a good shepherd can be expected to do.' All of these blessings, and more, are comprehended in the single little word 'shepherd'; and so he himself soon interprets it when he says, 'I shall not want.'
 
"Some of the other names which Scripture gives God sound almost too splendid and majestic and at once arouse awe and fear when we hear them mentioned; for example, when Scripture calls God our Lord, King, Creator, etc. The little word 'shepherd,' however, is not of that kind but has a very friendly sound. When the devout read or hear it, it immediately grants them a confidence, a comfort, and a sense of security that the word 'father' and others give when they are attributed to God.
 
"Therefore, this metaphor is one of the most beautiful and comforting and yet most common of all in Scripture, when it compares His divine majesty to a pious, faithful, or as Christ says, 'good shepherd' (Jn 10:14), and compares us poor, weak, miserable sinners to sheep. One can, however, understand this comforting and beautiful picture best when one goes to nature, from which the Prophets have taken this picture and similar ones, and carefully learns from it the traits and characteristics of a natural sheep and the office, the work, and the care of a pious shepherd. Whoever does this carefully, will not only readily understand this comparison and others in Scripture concerning the shepherd and the sheep, but will also find the comparisons exceedingly sweet and comforting."

Martin Luther, Psalm 23, 23.1
John 10:11-18

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)
Prayer
Lord Christ, You are my Shepherd and I shall not want. Help me to depend completely on Your care, that I might rest in Your arms alone. Keep seeking and saving the lost as You Yourself have promised. Rescue me from the pride that presumes the sheep find the shepherd. Save me, Lord! Amen.
 
For all those who are moving, that the Lord Jesus would be with them in their sojourn
 
For President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS and the members of the Praesidium, that they would be upheld in every good deed
 
For Pastor Victor Atsinger, that his Lord Christ would support and strengthen him
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias  Isenheim Altarpiece (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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