Third Sunday of Easter - Confirmation Day - April 30, 2017
Grace and mercy to Krystol, Xander, C.J., Alex, and Crew on this your confirmation day, to your parents and grandparents, guests, visitors, and to the bad and the good gathered before God our Father this morning. Grace and mercy to your from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
It is written, Jesus says, "I AM the Good Shepherd".
Let us pray: Gracious Father, You sent your only begotten Son Jesus Christ to be our Good Shepherd. Thank you for Shepherding Krystol, Xander, C.J., Alex and Crew throughout their lives and to this day. Continue to Shepherd us with the Shepherd, the Good One, Jesus Christ so that we may be brought into Your fold and remain with You for eternity; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.
A quick announcement for your comfort. You are not the future of the Christ's church. Just like your parents and grandparents before you, you are not the future of Christ's church. No, the future of Christ's church is Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd.
It is written, KJV John 10:11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
This verse - by itself - says so much.
I AM - this is not simply identification, but Jesus revealing Himself as the I AM of the Burning Bush in Exodus 3. He is God, the Word Incarnate. The I AM sermons in John (unique to the Fourth Gospel) are special messages to us about Jesus and His relationship to the Father. Likewise, when Jesus said "I AM" to the frightened disciples when He walked on the water, He was not saying, "It's me," but "I AM God."
The Good Shepherd is also a special construction. Literally, it is "I AM the Shepherd the Good One." The word for good here is stronger in Greek – something like the noble One. In this combination it means:
The Ultimate Shepherd, or
The Unique Shepherd, or
The Shepherd above all shepherds.
We have used the Good Shepherd so much in English that everyone knows what that means, and no hip translation can replace what is familiar to us through readings, paintings, and stained glass.
We see in religious art the Shepherd guiding His flock with His staff (Psalm 23) or holding a lamb in His Arms (Isaiah 40).
The second part of the verse defines what it means for Jesus to be the Good Shepherd - He gives His life for the sheep.
The preaching of the Gospel is the solemn proclamation of the Atonement, the shedding of blood, which was predicted as early as Genesis 3:15 and clearly taught in Isaiah 53.
The message of the Atonement is simply this. Jesus died for the sins of the world. Krystol, Xander, C.J. Alex and Crew – you are part of the world, therefore Jesus has made atonement for your sins. This sermon plants and sustains faith in the hearts of those who listen attentively to it. Some scoff and do not listen. Others listen and believe for a short time. Others listen and remain in faith until they build idols in their hearts to worship - in place of God. The last group can disguise themselves within the visible church as believers, but their actions and decisions betray their lack of faith in Jesus Christ.
16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
Christ Jesus brings sheep into the fold - you do not. If you teach the Gospel as it is, without watering it down or sugar-coating it, the elect sheep hear Jesus' voice and come to hear more. Why do people not come to hear Jesus? Because they hate Jesus. It is not more complicated than that.
Jesus never said the true Church would be large in size. Luther often mentioned, "The Gospel is thinly sown."
There is a hymn, which we just sang, entitled - Fear Not Little Flock - but notice, there is no hymn called "Fear Not, Mega-Flock."
To Krystol, Xander, C.J., Alex, and Crew: throughout your lives you will meet many false shepherds who will tell you what to do to grow the church. You will meet false shepherds who will tell to pitch your Small Catechism, pitch your hymnal, maybe even pitch your Holy Bible.
And yet, you are Baptized and you believe what you have been taught. Jesus is the future of His church. Listen to Him and do not be afraid.
With the preaching of angels you learn to know God perfectly. And those words are: “He is not here. He has risen.”
Indeed. The women saw the empty tomb. So did Peter. Salvifically perplexing. Salvifically marvelous. FOR YOU, that is! In the crucified and risen Jesus you know God perfectly. That He is God FOR YOU. What He did on Good Friday and Easter Sunday is FOR YOUR salvation. As pure gift from Him! Truly He justifies the ungodly as St. Paul preaches.
He is risen. This is no idle tale. It is the truth. Just as Jesus promised. Delivered into the hands of sinful men. Crucified. But on the third day raised from the grave never to die again. Remember His promise? Jesus preached it over and over again. Good thing Jesus had what many would call a death and resurrection mania! A death and resurrection on the brain!
This is the gospel! What is primary! What is ultimate! I preach it to you today. Why do you look for the LIVING in a grave at the cemetery? I said, why do you look for the LIVING? The LIVING! That’s the key word! LIVING! He is risen! Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. He was buried and RAISED on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
“He is not here. He has risen.” Consequently, Good Friday is not emptied of its power! His atoning death really does count for you! His IT IS FINISHED work of salvation is absolutely reliable. You are forgiven. All your sin answered for.
All your life has meaning now! Everything is different. Salvifically different! Because Jesus died for our sins. Because Jesus rose on the third day. Here is the fact: “Christ has been raised from the dead.”
The resurrection of Jesus is the all-controlling fact of the world’s history – as well as your history! What do I mean? The text says it. Listen. The resurrected Jesus is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
Your bodily resurrection is guaranteed because Jesus is the firstfruits. In other words, Jesus’ bodily resurrection is FOR YOU! It counts for you. Notice how Paul preaches this. In Adam all die. “For as in Adam all die.” But in Jesus, the head of a new humanity, “all will be made alive.” With you Firstfruits Jesus shares His resurrection reign. He shares His triumph over death and grave with you. Yes, Jesus is the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Jesus is the beginning and the guarantee of the full harvest of the resurrection of the body that will take place on the Last Day. “For since death came through a man [Adam], the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man [Jesus].” Believers receive eternal life in the body. Unbelievers, who insisted upon it, are given eternal damnation in the body. “But each in his own turn: Christ the firstfruits; then, when he comes [on the Last Day], those who belong to him.”
Death is not your friend. Death is not to be welcomed. I know. I know. One of your favorite rock songs from the 1970s is Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” I’ve had that requested for funerals believe it or not. Buck Dharma, lead singer of Blue Oyster Cult, wrote those lyrics while he pictured an early death for himself that he could embrace as something neutral. Death, however, is your enemy.
However, the goods news is that your enemy death is defeated. Death is put to death in Jesus’ death and resurrection. He rose. And so will you on the Last Day. Until then, you live in what God has promised you in your Baptism. There at the font you were baptized “into Christ’s death.” Consequently, since “you have been united with him like this in his death, you will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection,” (Rom 6). What you have now by faith, on the Last Day you will see with your eyes. It is this: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” when Jesus raises your bodies from your graves to give you a resurrected body like His never to die again.
Your bodily resurrection to eternal life is for sure. It is certain. Jesus will do it. He promises. He is the firstfruits of those that sleep because, “He is not here. He has risen.”
In the Name of Jesus.