I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
᛭ INI ᛭
Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Misericordias Domini. Is the Latin name for this Sunday. It’s a translation of the Introit: “The earth is full of the steadfast love Of the LORD.”
Misericordia Domini. (Also the name of my blog, not just the Introit.) Misericordia Domini. “The steadfast love of the Lord.” It’s translated in many ways: “Oh give thanks to the Lord for He is good, and His mercy endureth forever.” Whether it’s “steadfast love” or “mercy” or “gracious mercy” or “merciful loving kindness,” it’s all describing how the Lord operates.
Now, we don’t have to search for examples that fit “steadfast love.” On Easter 3 we hear Jesus Himself give us a picture of what “steadfast love” looks like. Jesus describes it pretty simply. Jesus describes “steadfast love” in terms of a shepherd and his sheep.
(2. What sort of shepherd is Jesus?)
Today, Jesus talks in terms of shepherd and sheep. When He talks about the shepherd, Jesus talks about what kind of shepherd He’s talking about. He doesn’t describe what a “bad shepherd” looks like. He describes what a hired hand looks like. “A hired hand, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and flees.” He does this “because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”
Jesus describes Himself differently. He talks like He’s the only shepherd. (In fact, that’s how Peter talks about Him today, and also how Jesus talks about Himself through His prophet Ezekiel.) But it isn’t just that Jesus is the only shepherd in town and all the rest are hired hands. Jesus says, in fact He says it twice, “I am the Good Shepherd.”
But why is He “the Good Shepherd”? It’s not some abstract idea or meaningless mantra like “God is good.” He proves Himself to be the Good Shepherd by His actions. “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” He didn’t flee from the danger, but ran towards it for your sake. “He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, by His wounds you’ve been healed.” But it wasn’t just laying it down.
Just a little bit later in John 10, Jesus says, “I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” And He did—He rose again! That makes Him the eternal Good Shepherd. “He lives and reigns” as the Good Shepherd. He is now “the shepherd and overseer of your souls.”
All of this is His “steadfast love” on display, His “Good-Shepherd-ness” on display. He shepherds His sheep according to His steadfast love. But that brings us to another question: what about His sheep?
(1. What sort of sheep are His?)
Jesus’ sheep are those who “listen to My voice.” It doesn’t matter if they’re Jew or Gentile. That’s what Jesus is talking about when He says, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold.” Ultimately He’s even talking about you and me. “I must bring them also,” bring you also, bring me also.
But what sort of sheep are his? What’s their quality? Jesus is the Good Shepherd. What are His sheep? Good sheep? Bad sheep? Well, the answer to that comes through Ezekiel today.
“Thus says the LORD: the lost I will seek, the straying I will bring back, the broken I will bind up, and the weak I will strengthen.” Those are the sheep Jesus claims as His own: “the lost, the straying, the broken, the weak.” He chooses the misfit toys as His own. He is shepherd of sinners. He is King, shepherd, over those who don’t deserve such a shepherd as Him.
King David foreshadowed this. In 1 Samuel 22 we’re told, “Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to [David]. And he became commander over them.” Not exactly a stellar sounding band of soldiers. Not exactly a stellar sounding flock of sheep either.
But that’s exactly the Good news of Good Shepherd Sunday. That’s the Good News about Good Shepherd Jesus. That’s the Good News about His steadfast love. “I have other sheep not of this fold. I must bring them also.” ““The lost I will seek, the straying I will bring back, the broken I will bind up, and the weak I will strengthen.”
We are the misfit toys, the outcasts, the worried, the doubting, the afraid. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.” “He Himself bore our sins in His own body, by His wounds you’ve been healed,” forgiven, made His own.
“I must bring them,” must bring you. “There will be one flock, one shepherd.” So there is. You and I, misfits that we are, are a part of it—one of Jesus’ sheep, you and me. As Paul says, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
“There is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” And the bread is a communion of the body of Christ. The Cup of Blessing, a communion of His blood—“given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
What are we to make of Good Shepherd, misericordias Domini Sunday? What does the Lord’s steadfast love look like? Shepherd and sheep. And the Good News for you is
THE LORD’S STEADFAST LOVE IS THAT HE MAKES EVEN YOU HIS SHEEP.
“By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
He brought you back: “The lost I will seek, the straying I will bring back, the broken I will bind up, and the weak I will strengthen.”
His Word and His Gifts do that. They are how “the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.”
Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, Holy Scripture, Holy Sermons, Holy Supper of His body and blood are all the ways He does it. They ways He delivers His steadfast love right to you. The steadfast love He put on display at Calvary and with an empty tomb.
No matter how you define it, the truth is the same. Whether you look at the cross or the empty tomb, no matter how you end up “listening to [His] Voice” (Font, Keys, Preaching, His Word, His Supper)—
THE LORD’S STEADFAST LOVE IS THAT HE MAKES EVEN YOU HIS SHEEP.
I’m going to say it one more time to let it sink in. It doesn’t matter if you’re weak or sad or doubting or broken or hurting or sinning or mourning or scared or worried or afraid: