The Shepherding Lamb

Sunday May 8, 2022 The Fourth Sunday of Easter (Cycle C)

The tie in between today’s readings: No sheepish sheep

Psalm 100:1-3;5Acts 13:14;43-52Revelation 7:9;14-17John 10:27-30

Every church goer is familiar with the wonderfully comforting idea of the Lord being their shepherd. Who doesn’t love the image of us sheep grazing on a beautiful hillside lying down in green pastures, drinking from still waters? Our Lord, Jesus watches over us and tends to the whole flock. All the while, He is caring for each of us individually as well, even to the point of leaving the ninety and nine in order to retrieve the lost one. He reassures us with the promise in John 10 that no one could ever snatch us away from Him or the Father. We feel peace and security from a loving Shepherd who laid His life down for His sheep. But you can’t graze the hillside forever, No! Our Good Shepherd also sends us through the dark valleys, where we are sheep among wolves. We go because there are others of His/our fold to reach. Let’s look at our reading in Acts 13, for example.

Paul and Barnabas are in Pisidian Antioch (not Syrian Antioch in Acts 11). It’s their second Sabbath at the synagogue. Like the Blues Brothers, they were on a mission from God to get the band back together, only this band was the whole Jewish and Gentile world! Not two weeks there and almost the whole city came out this day to hear them. Things were going good for the gospel messengers…too good. They aroused the ire and jealousy of the synagogue shepherds: the hirelings, thieves and robbers that were afraid of losing their flock. Our faithful witnesses could handle their heckling and contradictions, but when the Jews ramped it up to blasphemy, Paul and Barnabas cut it off. With a strong rebuke, they left the synagogue and focused their message on the Gentiles. Those among them that were appointed to eternal life, that is the true sheep of the Lord’s flock, believed and were saved. In the days to follow, the gospel spread throughout the whole region. Their enemies in the city had had enough! Using their political muscle, the Jews persecuted and expelled Paul and Barnabas! The brothers in Christ moved on, but not before establishing Pisidian Antioch as the first fully Gentile Christian church. They went to Iconium, where they were driven out again and then to Lystra where they almost died. In spite of hardships, they kept on going to other cities. Apparently, there was nothing sheepish about these missionary sheep.

Let’s not forget, one of the reasons for maintaining a flock is the harvesting of the animals. We serve His purposes. The sheep, if needs be, will be slaughtered. We’ve seen martyrdom throughout history and even more in our world today. The blood of the martyrs is still the seed of the church. In our reading in Revelation 7, multitudes that were killed in the great tribulation stand and worship before the throne of Jesus, the Lamb who shed His blood for them. This scene in heaven loops back where we started today, only better. Jesus, our shepherd is on His throne forever. We will never hunger or thirst again, and God, Himself, will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Will you be ready to die for Christ if the time comes? It’s hard to say, isn’t it? We believe that to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). We pray that God will give us the strength for that hour. The thing is, would we dare die for our Lord at that time, if we are reluctant to live for Him now?  Maybe we need to examine ourselves at this point first and make any needed changes.

Our reading in Psalm 100 ties everything together on a worshipful high note that I can imagine everyone singing as we pass through the Pearly Gates:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

2 Worship the Lord with gladness;

come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God.

It is he who made us, and we are his;

we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving

and his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

his faithfulness continues through all generations.

If you are not a sheep of his pasture, by faith come to Jesus as the Lamb of God who died to take away your sins and be your Savior. He will never chase you away, no matter what. If you have lost your way from the flock, He has left the other ninety-nine looking for you. He is calling. Answer Him. Follow Him. Live for Him. If need be, die for Him too. There is a Kingdom coming that is worth it all! Be in that glorious number that enter through His gates as the saints goes marching in.

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