Let us pray: Dear Savior, when we think of You as our Good Shepherd, we envision Your tender, gentle, loving side. We imagine You holding Your little lambs and speaking softly to Your wandering sheep, to us. Although we find great comfort in those images, today remind us that there is a whole other uplifting side to Your Shepherd status. Remind us how You are also our protector, guardian, and sometimes our warrior who willingly laid His life on the line to save us. When troubles come upon us, focus us on that side of Your nature, as well. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GOOD SHEPHERD!
TEXT: John 10: 11-18
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
I’ve always admired the U.S. military when it comes to their professionalism and devotion to duty. Unlike most other military units throughout history, ours is governed by a rigid set of orders and principles. And those orders and principles are directly drawn from our Constitution and Bills of Rights. Hence, we have a professional armed forces. We have men and women who overcome their fears and put their lives on the line to protect us all the while governed by the rule of law, not personal whims, prejudices, or emotions. Perhaps the motto of West Point: “Duty, Honor, Country” best captures what the military is all about. And when you see our soldiers enduring awful conditions and deadly circumstances, and at the same time trying to save a child during a fire-fight, well it cannot help but make you proud. At those times, the saying: “Where do such men and women come from?” floats into our conscience.
As I looked over this extremely familiar text, the thought struck me: we seldom talk much about how Christ protects and defends His flock. We seldom think about His “warrior” side. Yet, that side is talked about in our lesson. So, today we’re going to focus on it by considering:
CHRIST’S MOTTO: DUTY, HONOR, SACRIFICE
I believe it was Napoleon who taught his generals and his troops to: “run to the sound of the guns.” Obviously the natural inclination of human beings is to run away from mortal danger. But because his soldiers lived for glory and were rewarded for it, they usually followed his order. I thought of that last Monday when I heard about, as the New York Post phrased it in a headline: “Air Farce One.” That is, the buzzing of New York by the Presidential jetliner, accompanied by 2 F-16’s for a photo op. Recall the horrified steel workers who were building a new skyscraper 40 stories in the air and how they scrambled down the building. Recall how office workers ran for their lives when they saw that plane. They all thought 9-11 was re-occurring and the instinct of self-preservation, of fleeing took over.
On 9-11 none of those heroic rescue people knew those towers would collapse and they would die. They willingly responded to the call to go and help, scrambled up those many flights of stairs and tried valiantly to save people. My question is: if they had known the future, if they had known that they all would die trying, would they still have responded so quickly, or would they have run away from certain death? Yes, they all possessed a tremendous sense of duty, but in the face of certain defeat, namely death, how many would stay and do their duty?
Well, we’ll never know. What we do know is that our Good Shepherd also possessed and possesses a devotion to His duty. As God’s Son, He knew that His duty was to save God’s sheep. The Father had given Him that duty before He left heaven for Bethlehem. Likewise, Christ knew that in carrying out His Divine Duty, He would have to confront Satan and death. He knew there would be no escape. And yet, Jesus didn’t flinch. He was born, He lived, and finally He died to carry out the salvation of our souls. He willingly laid down His life for the sheep, for us. And then, when things looked darkest, He arose! He took His life back. And in doing so, He saved His sheep! He wasn’t a hired hand who ran away. No, the Shepherd owns us. He paid for our souls in blood. And today that means that He’ll “never leave nor forsake you.” Duty in protecting and guarding us from danger is really His middle name.
The second word of Christ’s motto is: honor. I know that most people don’t think much about honor in this day and age, but it still exists and it still is vital for our lives. Honor means speaking and acting on the truth. It means living up to your word. It means that you’ll be diminished as a person if you lie, cheat, or steal. It means knowing who you are inside, knowing some things in life supercede your emotions, and knowing that you must live with yourself—either honorably or dishonorably.
Jesus says here: “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.” When God the Father assigned to Christ the task of saving us, God’s honor was at stake. Jesus didn’t come to die just to save the “good people.” No, God’s love was all-inclusive. He loved and loves all human beings enough to save them. And so Christ died, even for His enemies—for in God’s perfect sight, everyone was an enemy, a terrorist, at war with God’s perfect goodness. You know, God didn’t have to save you. None of us are that special in and of ourselves. But, God did save you and has saved you in Jesus Christ! He did it by working and putting saving faith into your heart. He linked Himself to you by bestowing trust and confidence, which came from the loving work of the Good Shepherd. Yes, I know that not everyone is saved. Some sheep are really goats who hate the Shepherd and run away from Him. They think being in His flock is way to confining for them. And yet, Christ still reaches out to them and tries to bring them back—even as they walk over the cliff. Such is the nature of His honor. Such is the nature of His love. For to do otherwise would be to deny Himself and deny His honor.
And now we come to sacrifice. “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…This command I received from my Father.” In love for lost sheep, Christ willingly sacrificed Himself. In love He “ran to the guns” the nails of the cross. In love, He ran into the skyscraper, knowing it would end up killing Him. He sacrificed Himself for us because the Father’s love towards us demanded it. Christ did His duty in the most kind, humble, honorable fashion imaginable. He told everyone in advance what was coming and what He would do, and then He endured it. And He did all this not for personal accolades or applause. No, He did it so that thereby He could make us right with God in heaven. He did it so that all His honor would be transferred to us by faith and become our honor and our glory. Even His resurrection wasn’t simply about His victory over sin and death, no it was about our victory through Him over those ageless enemies.
Clearly we see Christ’s motto: Duty, Honor, Sacrifice—we see it defined in our lesson. And never, ever, forget that all the blood, sweat and tears it took for Him to carry it out were really shed for you, His beloved sheep. It was all done for you. All the blessings it conveys are given to you. Next time trouble comes your way and you don’t know what to do or how to respond, ask your Good Shepherd to help. Focus not on your weakness, but on His mighty strength! And because our Warrior/Shepherd lives—help you He will! Amen