"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters…"
You know how that poem continues, don’t you? To see the rest of it, open your Bible to Psalms 23. But for now, just let that picture of our Good Shepherd linger in your mind. The Lord is my shepherd.
Our text today is actually our Savior Jesus taking that same picture and applying it to himself and us — the Good Shepherd and his sheep.
In John 10:22-30, Jesus is dealing with some Jews who were rejecting him. They didn’t see how he could possibly be the Christ. He had proven it, but they didn’t buy it. It was in response to this that Jesus reminds them of the picture of the shepherd and sheep when he calls them, "not my sheep" in verse 26.
Ouch! Huh? That’s a problem, but sadly, it’s not a problem that Satan just reserves for those who profess to be enemies of Christ. Just like those Jews told Jesus to give them the kind of proof they were looking for, Satan tempts us make those same kind of demands of God: Prove it, God!
We get in our heads something that we think God would or should do and challenge him to be what we think our shepherd should be without bothering to follow his voice. We’re trying to call the shepherd to follow us.
That doesn’t work. If you’ve ever tried to put together a kit that is less than intuitive or beyond your engineering skills without following the directions, how does it turn out? Now maybe it’s because I’m no carpenter, but without following the directions for me — it just doesn’t.
Or in cooking: Flour instead of sugar or rat poison instead of salt won’t work for that recipe when you’re cooking. Trying to be a Christian without Christ or a sheep without our shepherd is a recipe for even greater failure.
Think of what that looks like in real life. It’s the couple who want God to make them happy and bless their marriage, but they don’t want to follow his directions and study the word together and pray together and really sacrifice for one another, forgiving when one spouse demonstrates weakness.
They don’t want to make the choice to truly love like God commands — they figure it should just come to them.
It’s people who want peace and a chance to rest, who keep trying harder and harder to protect and provide for themselves and worry about every little or big thing so that they can finally have everything under control and get some rest. But in all that hustle, they don’t have time to listen to Jesus when he said, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest."
And the only result is that they wear themselves out trying to handle things God has already offered to take care of.
It is God’s infinite grace, his astounding gift, that he has so changed our hearts with his law, making us realize our helplessness.
By God’s underserved, amazing and abiding grace, he has shown us our help — our shepherd. And look at what he said he does for us, what he proved he does for us by his resurrection.
He gives us eternal life. Every predator is defeated — our sins of going our own way, our death that they had earned, Satan’s doubts and despair — gone because Christ is risen!
Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday is at 10:30 a.m. Full sermons and more information can be found at abidinggrace.com.