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Easter 4 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
May 8, 2022
Acts 20:17-35, Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-30, Psalm 23

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Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                           pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                        bit.ly/pastorjud
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            The Shepherd sits with His back to the fire so His eyes will stay adjusted to the darkness.  Wolves are howling and at least one is getting closer and closer.  The sheep are nervous and restless and they crowd together for support near the Shepherd who rises and takes hold of His staff.  He stares out into the darkness straining to see or hear any movement.  It is a dark, moonless night and the Shepherd hears the wolf before He sees him as the wolf slinks in from the woods towards the sheep.  The Shepherd goes to confront the wolf.  You expect that the Shepherd will violently attack the wolf.  But the Shepherd does not pound on the wolf’s head with His staff; he does not hit the wolf with a club.  The Shepherd drops his staff and lets the wolf attack him.  The Shepherd kneels before the wolf.  Then the Shepherd goes down on all fours and transforms into a helpless little Lamb.

            The wolf cannot believe his eyes.  The Shepherd is acting so strangely.  The Shepherd is allowing Himself to be attacked.  He does not defend Himself but instead He becomes a Lamb and the wolf greedily sinks his teeth into the silent Lamb and kills Him. The Shepherd becomes a Lamb and offers Himself to the wolf.  Having killed the Shepherd the wolf now turns to the unprotected sheep thinking, “Now they will be easy pickings, the Shepherd is dead.  I will get them all.”  As the wolf crouches to pounce on a lamb, suddenly a big heavy club crashes onto his head.  The wolf whimpers and rolls on his back to see what happened.  The Shepherd has risen from the dead and is protecting the sheep. The sacrificial Lamb is alive and in triumph guards the sheep.  The Lamb who was slain has begun to reign over His sheep as the Good Shepherd.  His sheep listen to his voice. 

            In language, similes are figures of speech using “as”, “like”, or “than”.  Bob is strong as an ox.  A metaphor is a comparison not using, “as”, “like” or “than”.  Bob is an ox.

When learning to write you are taught to avoid mixed metaphors.  Mixed metaphors are confusing.  “We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.”  “Don’t beat a dead horse in the mouth.”  “Trying to thread a needle with a haystack.”  “That will be opening a can of beans.”  It is confusing.  You shouldn’t mix metaphors.

            Apparently no one told the apostle John who writes, Revelation 7:17 (ESV) 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd…”  Upon seeing Jesus, John the Baptist declares, John 1:29 (ESV) 29 … “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!  Jesus declares. John 10:11 (ESV) 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  About being the Shepherd Jesus declares, John 10:27–28 (ESV) 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 

Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd who cares for the sheep.  Jesus holds His sheep in His hand.  The Church, the flock of the Good Shepherd who listen to His voice, resides in the hand of God.  As a baptized, redeemed child of God, bought by the blood of the Lamb of God, you are a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd and you safely dwell in Jesus’ hand; in God the Father’s hand.  And no one can snatch you out of God’s hand.  There is great depth to God’s love and care for you; unfathomable depth.  God’s love is too deep for you to comprehend.  It is far too deep for one metaphor.  The Lamb takes away your sin.  The Good Shepherd guides and guards you.  Jesus holds you in His hand.  In Jesus’ hand you are safe.  The devil cannot grab you out of God’s hand and drag you away.  You are safe in the hand of God.

            You are safe in the hand of God, but the devil does not want you to stay safely there.  There is still danger as Peter tells us.  1 Peter 5:8 (ESV) 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  

            In our reading from Acts, Paul is warning the elders, the pastors, of the church in Ephesus to be good under-shepherds of the Good Shepherd and care for the church of God obtained by the blood of Christ. While the devil and his henchmen cannot snatch you out of God’s hand they will try to lure you out.  They will try to convince you that freedom means that you do not need Jesus to guide and guard you.  That you are independent and capable and do not need the Lamb to pay for your sins.  They will lure you into complacency about worship and the Word of God.  Then they will lure you into ongoing sinful situations so you will reject God.  They will tempt you to demand of God, “Who do you think you are to tell me what to do?” Paul warns the Ephesian pastors, Acts 20:29–30 (ESV) 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”\

            You are safe in Jesus, but be aware each day of the dangers and temptations that are lurking, trying to get you to turn your back on your baptismal inheritance, to reject Jesus’ death and resurrection for you, and to climb out of Jesus’ hand to reside in and of the world.  Stay alert and listen to Jesus.  Listen to Jesus. 

            Fierce wolves will try to lure the sheep out of the hand of the Good Shepherd who is the Lamb of God sacrificed for the sin of the world.  To remain on guard against this danger, remember what Jesus’ sheep do.  John 10:27 (ESV) 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  Jesus’ sheep listen to Jesus.  Listening to Jesus is getting increasingly difficult in our media saturated lives.  It was not so many years ago that the only news from the outside world to reach rural areas was a weekly newspaper arriving in the mail.  The church and the Bible had greater potential for influence.  Today there is a constant cacophony of voices coming from the television and the radio and podcasts and tiktok and teachers and family and friends and so many other places all competing for your attention. Be aware of who you are listening to. Are these voices speaking for the Good Shepherd or are these voice trying to lure you away from Him?  Are these voices encouraging you to remain in God’s hand or drawing you away to eternal destruction?  Listen to Jesus because you are a sheep safely in the hand of the Good Shepherd.  Remain in Christ. 

            You are safe in Jesus, but be aware each day of the dangers and temptations that are lurking, trying to get you to turn your back on your baptismal inheritance, to reject Jesus’ death and resurrection for you, and to climb out of Jesus’ hand to reside in and of the world.  Stay alert and listen to Jesus.  Listen to Jesus. 

            There is an old children’s finger play that goes, “Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people.”  The people are the church.  God’s hand holds the church.  God’s hand holds all of His children.  God holds you in His hand and He will not let you go.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd defending you from the assaults of the devil with His rod and His staff.  As you struggle each day against temptations to sin.  As you fail to resist the temptations.  As you realize again that you are not good enough.  As you are heartsick by all the evil in you and in the world, remember you are forgiven by the blood of the Lamb.  Remember God’s hand holding you and all the followers of Jesus.  Through all the struggles of life you are safe for eternity.  Listen to Jesus.

Dwelling in the hand of the Good Shepherd, listen to Jesus every day.  Spend time each day in prayer.  Spend time each day reading or hearing the word of God.  Spend time meditating on God’s Word.  Come to worship each week to hear God’s word in the liturgy, lessons and sermon.  Abide in Christ.  Listen to Jesus.  He is your Good Shepherd who is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world and holds you in the palm of His hand.  Amen. 

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