Easter 4 – April 21 & 22, 2018
 “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.”
It used to be that when a person was so stressed and anxious that they could not relax and go to sleep, the advice would be given, “Why don’t you count sheep?” I remember seeing on cartoons, what looked like the exact same lamb jumping over a fence as the person counted, 1, 2, 3… until he finally fell asleep. This may be good advice, but a wise Christian said: “Don’t count sheep; TALK to the Shepherd” – don’t just talk to any shepherd – talk to the Good Shepherd, our Savior and Lord!
That does it mean that Jesus it the “Good Shepherd?” Before we answer this question, let me ask you a related question: “Are you good at your work”? Would people say that you are a good supervisor, financial officer, secretary, teacher, student, husband, wife, child? What would they mean by paying you this compliment? Are you so good that nobody else could do your work as well as you?
History records some “workers” of exceptional character: Martin Luther, Michaelangelo, Johann Sebastian Bach, Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford, the Wright brothers, Mother Theresa, Steve Jobs, and others. All of these and many more, even though they have done “exceptional work”, did not do all that could have been done. There have always been others who could carry the work in any area, a little more.
In all of history there is only One who has no successor; no one who could improve or surpass His work. He is the Good Shepherd; Jesus is in a class by Himself!
We read: Jesus words, “I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (v.11) We need this regular reminder because our natural tendency is to “do it our way” – (My will be done!), thinking that we are able to handle our lives on our own. God’s Word is very clear and we know from experience – “all we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way…” (Isaiah 53:6) The Good Shepherd MUST come and find us, lead and guide us, keep us in His fold.
An old shepherd once gave the sage advice: “Don’t count the sheep, or else they won’t thrive.” He meant that by counting the sheep, each live, unique animal became just like the next one, a mere cold and lifeless number. This old shepherd knew that he had to know each of his sheep by name, knowing their needs, their weaknesses, everything about them that made them unique. Only Jesus, the Good Shepherd, can and does know each of us this well! Only Jesus has the power and ability to take care of every one of our needs.
A very important part of “shepherding” is seeking the “lost sheep.” With such a large “flock” we need help especially in seeking and encouraging back, those who are lost or have strayed. Many times you may note someone who you haven’t seen sitting in “their pew.” Please call or contact them and see if they need some special “shepherding,” from you, one of us pastors, or someone here in the family of Holy Cross.
On this Good Shepherd weekend, we thank God that Jesus doesn’t just count sheep, He knows everything about us – individually – and He makes Himself known to us through His precious Word, spoken at our baptism; sung, read, preached and confessed – received in the Lord’s Supper; through family and individual devotions, personal and group Bible studies, and more.
When we or they absent ourselves from God’s Word and Sacraments, we not only miss out on the blessings of a closer relationship with Jesus, but it also grieves Jesus, the Good Shepherd who “came to seek and to save those who are lost” (Luke 19:10)
Jesus also tells us, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.” (v.16) Jesus does this through you and me. We may have the wrong idea like Little Bo Peep, who lost her sheep… “leave them alone and they’ll come home…?” HARDLY EVER!
Note that Jesus says, “I must bring them also.” Jesus gives us the Great Commission – “make disciples of all nations (bring in the sheep to the flock) by baptizing and teaching…” Matthew 28:19 And we can reach people especially in times of grief, sickness, death of a loved one, disappointments, etc. At times like these, many share Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.” And, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (v.11)
Sheep who love their Shepherd make Word and Sacraments a first priority in their lives. They do this because they know that Jesus, the Good Shepherd “laid down His life” for them. Don’t count sheep, talk to the Shepherd – listen to and follow the Good Shepherd – and eagerly invite others to come with you!
Don’t miss hearing the 8th grader’s testimonies of faith this Saturday, 7:30 p.m. and celebrate with us this weekend in worship – also the rite of Confirmation in the 11:00 a.m. service.