Easter 2, 2019
The Epistle – 1 Peter 2:19-25
The Gospel – St. John 10:11-16
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
This second Sunday after Easter is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday.
This is because the lessons today point us to that fact about Jesus.
He describes Himself as The Good Shepherd, as we hear in today’s Gospel lesson.
The office of Good Shepherd is two-fold.
As the Prayer for today states, He is both a sacrifice [for sin] and an example of godly life.
We should briefly go back a few weeks to Easter Day where our baptism was recalled as the parallel or an analogy to resurrection.
We go to death at baptism, putting to death the sins that cling to us and infect us and alienate us from God.
We die at that moment in a real way as the waters wash over us and the Holy Spirit begins to sanctify us.
We then rise from the waters, washed, cleaned and renewed. The pollution of original sin is washed away.
Baptism signifies birth to a new life. And a birth to new life calls to mind the rising to life again of Christ, from the dead.
Though He was without sin, there was a birth to a new life with Him as well. He was now in what we call His “glorified body.”
He was recognizable…when He allowed it. He was as He was before death, when He walked with His disciples, but at the same time, He was changed to something new.
He was able to appear in rooms where doors are locked. He was able to keep people from recognizing Him for a time.
And yet we also learned that in baptism we are tied to Christ.
We are buried with Him in baptism and yet we were also raised with Him, as faith was present at baptism whether it was ours or our godparents.
It was the powerful working of God, Paul says, who raised Jesus from the dead and raised us from the deadness of sin and trespasses.
At that time, we were made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all of our sins.
This is reiterated today in the Gospel where Jesus is speaking and He says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Is that not what we celebrate on Good Friday? The Good Shepherd on Good Friday laid down His good and perfect life for us….His sheep.
I am the Good Shepherd.
I lay down my life for the sheep.
Basil of Seleucia: “For the sake of his flock the shepherd was sacrificed as though he were a sheep. He did not refuse death. He did not destroy his executioners as he had the power to do, for his passion was not forced on him. He laid down his life for his sheep of his own free will. “I have the power to lay it down,” he said, “and I have the power to take it up again.” …
Basil continues… “By his passion he made atonement for our evil passions, by his death he cured our death, by his tomb he robbed the tomb, by the nails that pierced his flesh he destroyed the foundations of hell.”
Jesus goes on to contrast Himself to the heirling….the hired hand, who does not own the sheep.
This hired hand is more concerned about his own flesh than that of the sheep. As soon as he sees any trouble or difficult situation, his first concern is for himself. …then maybe the sheep…but not before he has first secured his own safety.
This is a sobering call to all clergy who have been entrusted each with a flock of sheep. Keep us in your prayers.
What can happen if the sheep, the people of God are not cared for, fed and tended, is they can drift and fall away.
They need to be constantly fed with the sacraments, preaching, teaching, counsel, friendship and care.
Again, pray for the clergy who shepherd the flocks of the Churches.
So, then Jesus comes around again by reiterating, “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.
And here is now how intimate the relationship is between Christ and us…the Shepherd in this case and His sheep. …even more than the shepherd and sheep in your average field…think about our baptism and how closely this brings us to Christ here….
Jesus says, “I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father…”
Jesus says He and the Father are one.
He says here that they know one another.
Cyril of Alexandria: When Jesus says, “I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father,” it is equivalent to saying, I shall enter into a close relationship with my sheep, and my sheep shall be brought into a close relationship with me, according to the manner in which the Father is intimate with me, and again I also am intimate with the Father….In the same way, we also, being brought into a close relationship with God the Father, are called his family and are spoken of as children, according to what he himself said:
“Behold, I and the children whom God has given me.” Truly, we are called the family of the Son, and in fact we are part of his family.”  Commentary on the Gospel of John 6.1.
Christ is the bond of our union with God. He is the one who stands between us and God to bring us into union with God.
And yet keeping this bond in mind, Calvin – “At the same time, he demands the duty which we mutually owe to him, because, as he employs all the power which he has received from the Father for our protection, so he wishes that we should be obedient and devoted to him, as he is wholly devoted to his Father, and refers everything to him.”
St. Augustine calls our attention to the last phrase lest we think this might not apply to us…. He says, “…listen to this unity being even more urgently drawn to your attention: “I have other sheep,” [Jesus] says, “who are not of this fold.” He was talking…to the first sheepfold of the race of Israel according to the flesh. But there were others, of the race of the same Israel according to faith, and they were still outside, they were of the Gentiles, predestined but not yet gathered in.
He knew those whom he had predestined. He knew those whom he had come to redeem by shedding his blood. He was able to see them, while they could not yet see him. He knew them, though they did not yet believe in him. “I have,” he said, “other sheep that are not of this fold,” because they are not of the race of Israel according to the flesh.
But all the same, they will not be outside this sheepfold, because “I must bring them along too, so that there may be one flock and one shepherd.” Sermon 138.5.
So, our Gospel today is certainly for both Jew and Gentile. And certainly, calls us to be cognizant of just how closely we are in Christ and He in us.
And yet we cannot ignore that last fact mentioned by Calvin…. “At the same time, he demands the duty which we mutually owe to him…”
Here is why the Church gives us St. Peter’s Epistle to hear today as well. Because of the unity which we are brought into with Christ, by Christ, we are called to imitate Him.
That is how we serve Him here and now.
That is how we show we are devoted to Him.
Remember our prayer for today. He is not only a sacrifice for sin, but He is also an example of godly life.
If we have been brought into this deep union with Christ, it means that our life is to reflect His in certain ways.
He was not liked by everyone. Neither are we.
He was persecuted for what He taught. So are we at times.
His mind was set to please His Heavenly Father. Ours too is to be oriented toward that as well.
After speaking about suffering, Peter says today, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.  He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.  When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
Because Christ suffered for us, we are called to follow in His steps. This means stepping out of being comfortable sometimes and standing for the truth of things.
Disagreeing with those who make false statements…about us or about anything.
Defending the Christian faith against all of its many detractors and enemies.
Defending the lives of others as if they were our very own. Jesus laid His life down for us. We should stand at least for the lives of others.
And there are many examples.
Peter even says again there, “no deceit was found in His mouth.” Can we at least try for that?
“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return.” Can we at least try for that?
“When he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”…continued to trust that God would ultimately and finally put all things right.
Those who do not or will not repent will suffer severe judgment and will suffer losing their souls for that rejection.
Those of us who continually, by faith, live for God and trust only in the saving power of Christ…will be tested, and even judged, but the final verdict will be admission into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Because Jesus Himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, we are now to die to sin and live to righteousness.
This is not just a thing we do or see at baptism. It’s an ongoing process. Dying to sin…living to righteousness…dying to sin…. living to righteousness.
He did this, so that we should do that.
He died on the cross. We died at Baptism.
He died for sin.
We died to sin.
St. Paul says it clearly in Romans 6:2–14
“…How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.  We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
 For one who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.  Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” (ESV)
This is why the Good Shepherd title is so important to us. He leads. He guides and He saves.
“By his wounds [we] have been healed.  For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (ESV)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.