Preaching Resources

Preaching Mission for the 4th Sunday of Easter (April 30, 2023)

The Shepherd that Serves
by Bishop Chris Giesler

Sermon Text:  John 10-1-10

The Lord is risen!  The Lord is risen, indeed!  These words are not just for Easter morning. These words are not reserved for the Easter season, which continues today.  These are words to live by every day of our lives.  If we believe that, we might ask ourselves, how can Easter improve my life? What does a risen Lord give us me? These are valid questions that we all ask ourselves at some point in our lives.

Let’s face it; we live in a “what’s in it for me” kind of world. We live in a society that values consumerism and often makes decisions based on how things benefit us individually.

So how does an Easter faith benefit us? How does it help our brothers and sisters in Ukraine now who are facing devastation and tragedy resulting from fourteen months of war? This brings us to Jesus’ words, as recorded in John’s 10th Chapter.

One way I see this self-centeredness played out in our world today is red light etiquette. Stop lights are there for our safety as they regulate traffic flow through busy intersections.  Growing up, I learned, “Green means go, yellow means slow, red means stop, stop, stop.”  I remember teaching this to my children as well.  It is sound advice.  However, while this was the basic understanding, it generally has meant, “Green means go, yellow means go faster, and red means stop.  However, in these latter years, the reality is that “Green means go, yellow means go faster, and red means stop but only if cars are already moving in the other direction in the intersection.” I increasingly see people gunning through an intersection well after the red light has flashed.  They stop only if they see that other cars are clearly in their travel lane.  They don’t want to wait a minute or two for the light to cycle around again.

The imagery of the shepherd was imprinted upon the literature of Jesus’ day and is found throughout the Bible. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the shepherd is often seen as the model for a good king.  The book of Psalms is full of shepherd imagery, especially in Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd…” Jesus, particularly in John’s Gospel, frequently used the image of the shepherd to teach us about the love and compassion of God. Remember the image of the shepherd who leaves his flock of ninety-nine to search for the one lost sheep. This certainly illustrated the shepherd’s dedication to his flock and is to be seen as a reflection of Jesus’ love and commitment to us.

While Jesus spoke these words before his crucifixion, they take on new meaning, hearing them on the Easter side of the story. In John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  The thief thinks only about the immediate need, and selfishly so, while Jesus’ concern is not for himself but others.  This notion is only amplified a few verses later in John 10:18, “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.” Jesus’ expression of love for the Father and dedication to humanity is so powerful that Jesus gives himself unconditionally to us and the world so that we have life in abundance.

Knowing that we have a shepherd who is the gate through which we can have an abundant life and who lays down his life for us does not mean that we get a free pass on the unpredictability of life. But it does assure us that no matter what, we have a shepherd who walks with us with God’s grace. This is the true meaning of Easter. It is a celebration of the ultimate sacrifice and act of love that transformed the world forever.

Jesus’ essential mission was not to take for himself but to give to others.  Think back to his temptation experience in the wilderness.  Here Jesus is tempted to take political control of the world, feed himself, and make a spectacle out of his power.  He shunned all of that.  When Peter tries to talk Jesus out of going to Jerusalem, where he would face persecution and death, Jesus angrily rebukes him saying, “Get behind me, Satan.” Jesus knew where he needed to go and what he needed to do.  He knew that his life was for the benefit of others, not himself.

These words from Jesus call us to reflect on the meaning of love, the gift of sacrifice, and the power of Easter for transformation and new life! They invite us to bear witness to a shepherd who walks with us through life’s challenges and who laid down his life for us. Let us be grateful for the gifts of grace, mercy, and love and share them with others. Can we make it our mission to make an abundant life available to all God’s children on this earth?