Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, out of Your fatherly goodness You have been mindful of us poor, miserable sinners, and have given Your beloved Son to be our Shepherd, not only to nourish us by His Word, but also to defend us from sin, death, and the devil: We beseech You, grant us Your Holy Spirit, that, even as this Shepherd knows us and helps us in every affliction, we also may know Him, and, trusting in Him, seek help and comfort in Him, from our hearts obey His voice, and obtain eternal salvation; through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever.
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.
12 “But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.
13 “The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.
15 “As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
16 “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your word is truth. Amen.
Not a Hireling, but the Owner
Dear fellow redeemed,
If you talk to real estate investors who rent out their houses, they can tell you horror stories about renters who have utterly trashed their homes. Typically houses are better taken care of if the homeowner lives in it. Don’t worry, we’re taking good care of the parsonage. Or take an example of a business. Oftentimes a business owner has a difficult time handing off managing duties to someone else, because no one cares about a business as much as the owner. The house, the business is especially prized, and cared for, and loved, when it was purchased at a great cost.
Likewise, a flock of sheep isn’t so loved and carefully tended by a hireling as it is by the owner of the sheep. And that is especially the case if that flock has been purchased at a great price.
In this 10th chapter of John, Jesus contrasts him to a few different characters. There are the robbers and the thieves. They are the ones with ill intent. They wish to destroy the sheep and steal the sheep away from life in God’s kingdom. Jesus, however, gives life for the sheep.
Then in our text, Jesus talks about the hirelings. The hirelings may not have ill-intent. They do not seek to destroy and steal like the robbers and thieves, but they do not care for the sheep so much. They are hirelings. They’re in it for the money, for the benefits. They want money, prestige, they want the acceptance of the world. But if a threat confronts the hireling and the flock, at the time the sheep needs the hireling the most, the hireling flees. What is it to the hireling if a wolf, if the devil, or a false teacher, or the world, or the sinful flesh destroys the faith of the sheep. What loss is it to him? He does not own the sheep. But he values his money, fame, and acceptance in the world, and that is what he guards.
But Jesus is not a hireling. He is the owner of the sheep. And He dearly loves His sheep, for He is a loving shepherd, and because of the great price He paid to make them His own. He dearly loves you. He has paid the great price of His blood and His innocent life so that you may be His own. He brought you out from under the just wrath of God, and paying the penalty for our sins, He has made you the sheep of His pasture.
He will not run from the wolf or any kind of danger that threatens Him or you, rather He will stand guard and keep you. For He was willing to do battle with the devil for your sake. He was willing to give up His life to save you. He was willing to suffer the Father’s justice on the cross to redeem you. He gives up His life, but then takes it back up again, so that He is your living Shepherd. Now He has dominion over all things, sitting at the right hand of the Father. Nothing can threaten Him now. All His enemies, the devil, the world, and death are defeated before Him. And so He fills all things, and rules over all things for the sake of His flock.
He has gathered His flock and continues to add to His flock with His Holy Spirit through the gospel in word and Sacraments. He says, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” This includes you who have been added to this flock, and those yet to be added to the flock of Christ. He has brought you to faith, to recognize the voice of Christ, to believe in Him as Your Savior, and believing Him, you are dear members of His flock. You are under His tender care.
How blessed you are to belong to the Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for us! So what do you then make of this wandering and straying and sinning that persists? It’s frustrating and awful isn’t it!? With your ungratefulness, you belittle the cost it took for Jesus to make you His own. You desire to go your own way. You obey the lusts of your flesh. You fall into temptations the wolf sets down before you. You think that there are greener pastures for you if you rejoined the world in its evil pleasures, and you step into it to nibble on its deceiving promises. And furthermore, how do you treat those things that the Good Shepherd instituted and given His flock upon which you are to be nourished, preserved, and saved? So that you may benefit from His giving up of His life, He has given you the precious gospel in Word and Sacraments. But you do not make use of it as you should. You do not appreciate the grace, power, and holiness of that gospel!
What sad sheep you and I are. Certainly not fit to belong to the flock of the Good Shepherd. But you were never fit to belong in that flock. No one was. But Christ made it so. It was for sinners that Christ laid down His life. And thankfully, He doesn’t treat us as a hireling would. But no you belong to Him. He has claimed you in your baptism. And that sacrifice, that price He paid so that you may belong to Him still covers your sins. You are here in His pasture, and He does not say to you, “get out.” Rather He says, “repent,” and He draws you to Himself. His voice proclaims to you, “You are forgiven! Feast upon that word, and be filled with it! Feast upon the table that I prepare for you, My body and blood that I have laid down and taken up again!”
What grace there is in that voice of His! That is the voice that we know, that we cherish. And so may our Shepherd who has gathered us by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, keep us in His pasture, and hearing His gracious voice, so that all our days we may live holy lives as we follow Him, rejoice in His forgiveness and love, and be shepherded through the valley of the shadow of death into eternal life! Amen.
Glory be to the Father and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.