Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS
INI + AMEN.
There’s the shepherd, and there’s his sheep. He does the shepherding. The sheep do the sheep-ing. There’s one true shepherd of the sheep. That’s Jesus. He alone shepherds His sheep; He alone saves them. That’s our comfort today. Our comfort isn’t in our being sheep, or in Leroy’s being a sheep. It’s true! But our focus isn’t on what we as sheep do. Our eyes and ears aren’t on the sound of other sheep or on their actions, no matter how much of a blessing they were for us. “My sheep listen to My voice,” Jesus says.
You’re either a sheep or the Shepherd. Only Jesus is the Shepherd. Only Jesus is the Good Shepherd. You are His sheep. He made you that. This is good news! Good news for us. Good news for Leroy, too! He sees it now, sees Jesus right now! Jesus alone shepherds. Jesus alone saves. But our greatest comfort today is
JESUS ALONE GIVES LIFE TO HIS SHEEP.
((I. Jesus alone gives and takes back His life for the sheep.))
JESUS ALONE GIVES LIFE TO HIS SHEEP because Jesus alone gives His life for the sheep. He lays down His life. He goes into suffering, He carries the sins and faults and shame of His sheep, He goes into death, He goes into the grave. That’s what Jesus means when He says, “I lay down My life for the sheep.” For their false trust in false shepherds, in their works, even in their own faith, He is completely faithful to His heavenly Father. For their acting not like His sheep, His blood alone eternally cleanses them from all their sins. His sheep are holy through His blood! His death rescues them from the true wolf, the devil. His death also saves them from their own death.
But Good Shepherd Jesus lays down His life fo the sheep so that “I may take it up again,” as Jesus says in John 10. JESUS ALONE GIVES LIFE TO HIS SHEEP because Jesus alone came back to life on the Third Day for His sheep. He brought others back to life as a preview of what He would do. But He came back to life, “never to die again,” as St. Paul tells us in Romans 6(:9). Now Jesus “lives and reigns” to shepherd His sheep, to save them, to care for them in a world full of trouble, sickness, viruses, and death!
((II. Jesus alone gives eternal life to His sheep.))
JESUS ALONE GIVES LIFE TO HIS SHEEP because He alone gave His life and came back to life again for His sheep, and that’s the sort of life Jesus promises and gives to His sheep! Coming back to life forever is the sort of life only Jesus can give. It’s the sort of life Jesus does give! He gives His abundant, full, complete, and completely free forgiveness right to us. Along with that free forgiveness comes eternal life with Him.
“No one can snatch them out of My hand,” Jesus says. That means His sheep are always in His hands. If a sheep’s in His hands in this life, then that sheep stays in His hand once that sheep dies and then is face to face with Him. Sheep now. Sheep forever. Sheep on the Last Day when Jesus will raise His sheep from the dead, and they will never die again.
That’s what Jesus has done and will do for Leroy. Jesus died and rose for Him. Jesus baptized Him, giving Leroy the Holy Spirit, giving Leroy His resurrection, making Leroy His brother. Jesus absolved Leroy. Jesus delivered His Word to Leroy in the Bible, in preaching, in devotions. Jesus fed Leroy with the medicine of eternal life—His own body and blood for the forgiveness of all Leroy’s sins.
Jesus does those things for you, too. In fact, what He does, He does for the whole world. “God loved the world that He gave His Son.” Jesus’ sheep listen to His voice, that is, they trust Him, they trust His promises, they trust His Word, they trust His baptism, His absolution, His Supper, and they are saved. His Sheep listen to the Shepherd, trust the Shepherd who died and rose for them, the Shepherd who delivers His full and free forgiveness in Words, water, bread and wine. By faith alone sheep receive the life that Jesus alone gives.
Today’s a day that isn’t going according to anything we could’ve planned, probably anything that you would’ve wanted. Whatever happens in this life is what it is. It’s not easy. We don’t like it. We would probably have chosen to have a few more years, right? But in the midst of so many dangers, of so many things we can’t control, of so many things that we can’t understand, one thing is true, on thing gives us comfort as we’re standing at Leroy’s graveside. That one thing is this:
JESUS ALONE GIVES LIFE TO HIS SHEEP.
That’s what Jesus will do for Leroy. On the Last Day Jesus will again call out to His sheep. He will raise them from the dead. On that day, all the dead will rise in the power of Jesus’ resurrection, and Jesus’ sheep will live forever in His presence, rejoicing in the eternal and free forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life that He freely and eternally gives to them. “My sheep listen to My voice,” Jesus says. His sheep trust Him, trust His death and resurrection, His baptism, Supper. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” This casket, this grave won’t stop Jesus. Your casket and grave won’t either. JESUS ALONE GIVES LIFE TO HIS SHEEP. He’ll do it for you. His empty grave and His baptizing you are proof of that.
INI + AMEN.