April 25, 2021

Rev. Mark F. Bartels



First Lesson; Acts 4:23-33

Psalm of the Day; Psalm 23

Epistle Lesson; 1 John 3:1-2                             

Sermon Text; John 10:11-18



Today is the Sunday in The Church Year known as Good Shepherd Sunday.  We will hear Jesus preach a sermon about Himself.  It is taken from John, chapter ten, verses eleven through eighteen.


I am the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.  The hired man, who is not a shepherd, does not own the sheep.  He sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep, and runs away.  Then the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them.  Because he works for money, he does not care about the sheep.

“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 also have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen.  I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.  Then there will be one flock and one Shepherd.  This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life so that I may take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.  I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it up again.  This is the commission I  received from my Father.”


These are your words.  Heavenly Father, lead us in the way of truth.  Your Word is truth.



I want to show you something that inadvertently happened in my office over the past five years.  Five years ago, we moved in to the part of the building that our offices are in.  On the day we moved in, we got everything unpacked.  We had brought over a whole bunch of pictures from the old building.  I remember standing in my office, (after the furniture was in place), and taking one of the pictures, and holding it up.  And then, another picture, trying to figure out which one fit just right on the wall, and which one looked good.  Finally, I hung pictures on the wall, the ones I thought looked best in that space. 

You have probably done that in your house.  And you have probably discovered in your house, sometimes a picture that might look best in a certain place gets replaced by a picture that you fall in love with, that means more to you than the one that is on the wall at the time.

So, the first picture got replaced.  I have always seen this picture on the internet.


I always thought it really would be cool to have a picture of that in my office.  One day, I was in a resale shop, and here was this painting by Alfred Sourd.  It is a nice big painting of a shepherd who is in this very precarious position.  He is reaching to pick up, and rescue this lost sheep.  I bought that one.  I took down the picture that was in place, and put that one up.

About a year or two later, I happened to be at an antique store, and ran across a picture that I just fell in love with, for some reason.  I just fell in love with it.  It is the Good Shepherd.  He has a sheep close to His heart, and He has this look of care, and compassion on His face.  I bought that one, and took down one that was on my wall, four feet next to the one that was the Good Shepherd reaching down to the lost sheep.


Then, about two months ago, I got tired of what I had on my computer, for my screen saver, so I thought, “What would I really like on my computer?”  I got a ladder, went out to the Narthex, took my cell phone, and took a picture of the stain glass window we have out in our Narthex. 

I put that on my computer.  I love that picture!  It is a picture of the Good Shepherd, Jesus, who has this look of contentment on His face, that He has His sheep up on His shoulders.

All of a sudden it hit me, one day.  I didn't plan this at all.  But, you walk in to my office, and you see the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd!  And, I thought, “You know, subconsciously what has happened here is exactly what a church father once said, 'There is one word that summarizes everything good about God.  That one word is shepherd.  That summarizes everything good and enduring about God.'”
In fact, I heard somebody else say, “The whole work of Christ, and The Church is a work of  carrying.  Jesus talks about finding the lost sheep, putting it up on His shoulders, and carrying it home, rejoicing.  He carries us through the troubles and trials of this life.  That is the whole work of Christ, and it is the whole work of The Church.  Jesus is still carrying us, today.  He is the Good Shepherd.”

So, today, being Good Shepherd Sunday, I want to look at five reasons from today's text why it is so comforting to be carried by the Good Shepherd.

        -Number one is when you have a troubled conscious.  Now, The Bible says this about sheep. 

“We all like sheep have gone astray. 

Each one of us has gone to his own way.”

Sheep wander.  They have a tendency to wander.  They don't realize the trouble they are getting in to.  Off they go, and all of  a sudden all of a sudden, the sheep will find itself in a terrifying situation.  All of a sudden it realizes, “Where is the shepherd?  What am I going to do?” 

Maybe they see the wolf coming.  “Who is going to watch over me?  Who is going to protect me?”  It must be absolutely terrifying for a sheep, when they realize, “I have wandered away, and now I am lost.  I am in danger.  Now what do I do?”
The same thing can happen to you and me.  We have this Good Shepherd, but we can 'jump out of the sheep pen'. 

-It can happen to youth, who maybe are the most eager sometimes to 'jump out of the pen', and wander different ways, and go down different roads, and try different things. 

-It can happen to us, other older people, who maybe inadvertently don't even realize we are headed down a path, away from the Shepherd.  Or, maybe we do, and we are 'nibbling on things that taste good', and feel good.  We are headed down a certain direction, and then all of a sudden we can get ourselves into a situation where we realize, “What have I done?  What have I done?  Now, I have gotten myself in to a huge mess.  I have wandered away from my closest, dearest friend.  I have wandered away from the Good Shepherd.  I have sinned against Him.  I don't deserve to have Him care about me at all.  Now, now what ought to happen to me?  Well, that 'wolf ought to kill me and destroy me'.  And, I ought to be condemned forever.”

The heart of 'a sheep', at that point, is not asking the question, the theoretical question, “What do I think about God?”
Then, the question really is, “What does God think about me?”
That is why Jesus uses this picture of Himself.  He says,

“I am the Good Shepherd. 

The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

If a wandering 'sheep' ever has to wonder, “What does God think about me?”, here Jesus preaches it so plainly, so simply and yet so eloquently, when He says,

“I am the Good Shepherd.”  

And, how much does He care about us?  He says,

“...I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Now, the passage says, “We all like sheep have gone astray.  Each one of us has gone to his own way” and what?  “the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

There is the carrying office of Jesus.  Our Good Shepherd picks up our sins, and He carries them.  And, what did He do? 

He carried them right to the cross. 

King David, before He became a king, was a shepherd.  He tells us that one day a lion came to attack the sheep.  He grabbed the lion by the beard, and he says he clobbered it.  He killed it.  That would be a great shepherd to have, wouldn't it? 

But, it would not be the same as Jesus.  Jesus willingly, willingly, not only put Himself in harm's way, but He willingly laid down His life.  He said,

“...I lay it down on my own.” 

He paid for our sins. 

That is the Good Shepherd who told the story,

“Who of you, if he has one hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, would not leave the nine-nine in the open field, go and look for that lost sheep, until you find it?”

You pick it up, and carry it home, rejoicing. 

Then Jesus said,

“There is more rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner who repents, than ninety-nine righteous people who do not need to repent.”

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  Who of us, because of a troubled  conscious wouldn't say, “The Lord is my Shepherd.  That is who I want to be carried by.”

        -Number two, He also rescues us from death.  As a pastor of a large congregation, I have presided over hundreds, hundreds of funerals.  That means I have been beside hundreds, and hundreds of people who are on their deathbed.  I will drive in my car, and be headed to Hospice, or the hospital, or somebody's house who is dying, and be thinking, “What am I going to say?  What am I going to use from Scripture to comfort them?” 

A lot of you remember Pastor Orvick.  Pastor Orvick was a pastor here at Holy Cross for thirty-two years.  He was a very, very beloved pastor.  He was also the president of our church body for many, many years.  And, he was a deep theologian.  He knew doctrine way better than I do. 

I will never, ever forget when I was driving to his house, as he was on his deathbed.  I thought, “What do you say to somebody who knows way more than I do about Jesus, and God's Word?”  I remember walking in to his house.  There he was, laying on his deathbed.  I thought, “What am I going to say, that he does not already know?” 

Beside his deathbed was taped a little, white, piece of paper.  On the white, piece of paper there was some crayon markings that had been made by his grandchildren.  The crayon markings were little sheep, and a little Shepherd.  I thought, “That says it all!  That says it all!” 

Jesus said,

“I am the Good Shepherd.” 

“I lay down my life for the sheep.” 

And then He said,

“I lay it down on my own. 

I have the authority to lay it down...”  

And then He said,

“...I have the authority to take it up again.” 

That is exactly what Jesus did.  He died for the sheep, but then He took up His life, again, showing He has power over everything, even death.  Who wouldn't, who wouldn't want to place his or her soul in the hands of that Good Shepherd, and get up on that Good Shepherd's shoulders?  That is why Psalm 23, The Good Shepherd Psalm says,

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil

for Thou art with me.”

Who wouldn't want to say to that Good Shepherd, “The Lord is my Shepherd.  He helps me with a troubled conscious.  He takes it away.  He carries me through death, in to eternal life in Heaven.  I have nothing to fear.”

        -Thirdly, this Good Shepherd helps me through all troubles.  I get up really early on Sunday mornings, and I have a ritual.  I stop at Kwik Trip by my house, and get a cup of coffee.  So, just today, I stopped by this morning, and got a cup of coffee.  There is always the same guy, early Sunday mornings, who is at Kwik Trip, waiting on customers.  I walked up to him today, and usually we just say hello to each other, and then off I go.  But, today he looked at me, (and I had on my tie, with a shirt), and he said, “You either have to be a pastor, or a doctor to be dressed like that this early on a Sunday morning.”

I said, “You are a detective.  I am a pastor.”
He asked, “Where are you a pastor?”

I told him, “I am a pastor at Holy Cross Lutheran Church.  It is over by...”
He stopped me, and said, “I know where it is.  You are on the interstate, just right off the interstate.  You can see it from the interstate.”

I said, “Yeah that is it.”

Then, he told me, “I know somebody from your church!”

I asked, “Well, who is it?”
He said, “His first name is...”  And then, he said a first name, but he could not remember the last name.

He continued saying, “He has a couple kids who went to your school, and I used to work with him at 'such and such a place'.”
I then asked, “Oh, is his last name...?” And, I threw out a last name.

He said, “That's it!  I know him.  He goes to your church.”
Jesus says,

“I know my sheep and my sheep know me...”

That guy at that gas station, he kind of knew, sort of, the guy who goes to church here.  He knew about him.  He knew his first name,  last name, and knows where his kids went to school.  But, Jesus says,

“I know my sheep and my sheep know me...”  

Then He says how. 

“...(just as the Father knows me and I know the Father).”

So, this is a type of knowledge that goes way beyond just knowing somebody's first name and last name, and where their kids go to school.  How deeply does the Father, God the Father, know the Son?  How deeply does God the Son know the Father?  They have known each other from eternity.  They know the deepest thoughts of one another.  They know the love and passion each of them has for the sheep.  They know each other intimately.  Jesus uses the same word.  That is how Jesus knows His sheep.

So, whatever trouble you have, whatever trouble you are going through, Jesus knows your trouble.  He knows every thought you have.  He knows every worry you have.  He knows every concern you have.  He knows what people are doing to you, and how they are treating you. 

He knows what is coming today.  In fact, there was great pastor who said, “If you trust your death in to the hands of the Good Shepherd, and you trust He is going to take you safely through death, you trust He is going to raise you from the dead someday, why in the world wouldn't you trust Him with what is going to happen today?”

Why wouldn't you trust Him with what is going to happen today?
So, Jesus says,

“I know my sheep and my sheep know me...”

Who of us wouldn't want to say, “That's my Shepherd!” and get up on His shoulders, be safe, and have Him safely take us through the day, through all of our troubles?

Then, there is false teaching.  One thing the Shepherd has come to protect us against is false teaching.  You know, we can go in all kinds of different, sinful directions.  But, one of the most dangerous sinful directions we can go to is false doctrine.  False doctrine can actually lead your soul away from Christ, and lead your soul away from salvation.  So, Jesus says this in today's text,

“The hired man, who is not a shepherd, doesn't own the sheep.  He sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep, and runs away.  Then the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them.  Because he works for money, he doesn't care about the sheep.”

Did you know that eight days ago was an extremely significant day for Lutheranism?  Martin Luther grew up in a context where all of a sudden, he realized what had happened to this huge flock of God's sheep.  He realized they had all been led astray.  They had been led to believe that somehow their works, and what they do, contributed to their salvation. He saw lots of troubled consciences, including his own, wondering, “Have I done enough?”  “Does God love me?”  “Does He care about me?”
He began to dig into scripture, and he dug, and dug, and dug.  All of a sudden, he discovered this truth of scripture, the Shepherd's true voice, where the Shepherd was telling him, “You are not saved by what you do.  You are saved by what I have done for you.”

And so, Martin Luther began to teach what scripture taught.

We are saved by grace alone,

through faith alone,

in Christ alone.

And he also pointed out false doctrine.

Five hundred years ago, on April 17th, (which is eight days ago, which was a Friday, two weeks ago), was the day Martin Luther was before a council in Worms, Germany.  He was told you either take back everything you have said, or you very well may be put to death.  It was called, “The Council of Worms”, “The Diet of Worms”.   

Martin Luther said, “It is not safe to go against conscience.  Unless you can convince me from scripture, I cannot and will not recant, (or I won't take back what I said).  Here I stand, so help me God.”

You see, he understood there is only one safe place to be, when it comes to teaching, or doctrine.  And, that is on the shoulders of the Good Shepherd.  His sheep know His voice, and they find it in scripture.

        -Fifthly, as a sheep of the Good Shepherd, you are not the only sheep.  Jesus in today's scripture reading says,

“I also have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen.”  

Then, He says He is going to find those sheep so that there is one shepherd and one flock.  He was talking about the Gentiles.  You and I, most of us are Gentiles.  We are not Jewish.  He was going to bring Gentiles in to His flock.

I want to close by reading this from a pastor by the name of C.F.W. Walther.  He lived back in the 1800s.  He talks about the benefit of being part of the flock that is riding on Jesus' shoulders.  Here is what he says.

“Whoever takes Christ as his shepherd, will also find souls who let themselves be led by this same Shepherd, who go the same way, who bear the same hope in themselves.  These fellow sheep cling to you with intimate joy, and tenderness.  They rejoice with you, when you rejoice.  They weep with you, when you are sad.  They are near you.  They are nearer than your brothers, and your sisters.  Such souls bear your need with you.  They bear your burden with you, your poverty, your shame, and regard as their own destiny everything that befalls you.  These welcome your soul as their own, and admonish you.  And when you err and sin, they call you back.  These are the ones who strive with you, and pray for you, who themselves acknowledge you before the whole world.  With these you will one day be together eternally in another, more blessed world.  Oh blessed pilgrimage of those who, with the vast number of saved fellow sheep, can confidently and joyously journey through this wretched world with the Good Shepherd, Jesus, as the head.  Protected by Him from all havoc, and gently led by the loving voice of His Gospel.  They have the living hope that one day, through death, as through the gate of an eternal morning, they will enter and bask in the meadows of Heaven, and drink forever at the fresh mountains of a perfect life.  May He, our Good Shepherd, call us to Himself, and cause all our souls to be gathered around Him.  Here and in Heaven.



Now may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord.