GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY
May 11-13, 2019
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Isaiah 40:9-11
“BEST SHEPHERD EVER!”
1. The most powerful Shepherd ever.
2. The most loving Shepherd ever.
Isaiah 40:9-11 (NIV 1984) “You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” 10See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and His arm rules for Him. See, His reward is with Him, and His recompense accompanies Him. 11He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.”
May means graduation season according to the American education system. It’s also the time when yearbooks are handed out. Do you still have yours? I’m not sure if all high schools do this but mine did as did the one my girls went to. It’s called senior superlatives. The class would vote and the yearbook would list the senior with the bestest or mostest. Like Most Likely to Succeed. Or Best Smile. I suppose at St. Jacobi we could have pastor superlatives and so Pastor Waldschmidt would get tallest pastor at St. Jacobi which of course means I would get pastor with the most hair. I think. And there you realize that the importance of a superlative is really dependent on the size and quality of the people in the pool. And that’s what makes a Savior superlative we observe today so awe inspiring. The pool is everyone who ever has or will live and the superlative we celebrate today on Good Shepherd Sunday with all eyes on Jesus is this: Best Shepherd ever!!
Truly all eyes need to be on Jesus. I have a direct command from God to make that happen. Did you catch it? Things were not really all that easy for believers at the time of the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah had the privilege of announcing that what was left of the once great nation of Israel, the southern kingdom called Judah, would be destroyed and most of the people carried into exile into Babylon as punishment for the rampant idolatry. As you can imagine the relatively few believers left in Judah were a little down in the mouth about what was to come. So God had Isaiah give instructions to their pastors, often called prophets. “You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” No need for God’s people to be down. Look up, not down, was the message. Here is your God.
Same thing today. Jacobi. Here is your God. The best Shepherd Ever. Picturing the Savior God, picturing Jesus as the Good Shepherd is not new. God uses the picture throughout the Bible. Think of that 23rd Psalm. Think of Ezekiel 34 and John 10. Shepherds take care of sheep. God’s people are like a flock of sheep and lambs. They need care. Jesus provides it. What makes Him the best Shepherd ever? Isaiah tells us. First He is the most powerful Shepherd ever. “See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and His arm rules for Him. See, His reward is with Him, and His recompense accompanies Him.” How often is fear the reason you do the things that you do? How often does fear prevent you from doing what you want to do? Fear is a powerful motivator. The believers at Isaiah’s time were dealing with fears. What would happen to them when Babylon attacked? What would happen to their families, their children in the long march to exile? What good did it do to be a believer if you got caught up in the punishment of the unbeliever? We face fears. What’s the outcome of this political nastiness for our country? How bad will the anti Christian sentiment get? What will it be like for the kids and grandkids? Will our retirement savings last? Will he get better? Fear.
Jacobi, here is your God. All eyes on Jesus. Fear is not your master. The most powerful Shepherd ever is. He’s the Sovereign Lord which means He’s in charge. His arm ruling means He’s in control. He comes with power. Isaiah’s people did not need to fear because God’s power was for them. If you are on the other side of God then be afraid. As our nation observes Mother’s Day and still we allow the legal murder of babies called abortion I wonder what will happen on the day of Judgment when the baby hitmen doctors stand before the Good Shepherd, the best Shepherd ever, the most powerful Shepherd, and He asks, “And why did you think you could slaughter my lambs for money?” I have recompense with me and it is time for payback.” It also makes you think, mom and dad, do you really want to teach the lambs in your care that worshiping the Good Shepherd weekly isn’t that important? Do you really think that lovingly prepares them for eternity? Do you want to stand before the most powerful shepherd ever and say, “I thought their short lived grade school sports career was more important?”
How much better to be on His side and know that no matter what happens the Best Shepherd ever has all power and uses it for your good? How much better to know that when conquest happens, like it did for Isaiah’s people, or setback like it does for us that there is purpose and reason guided by the Best Shepherd ever. Oh yeah, and that, “What good does it do to be a believer anyway?” Did you hear what He said? His reward is with Him and His recompense accompanies Him. No one who has trusted in the Lord has ever been put to shame. No one who has sought first the kingdom of God and His righteousness has been left hanging. No one who has forsaken others to follow Christ has been forsaken by Christ. Jesus has promised that those who do His work on earth will never lose that reward. Remember that mom when you are caring for the lambs and they kick you in the teeth or disciplining is hard and wearisome or teaching the kids to listen in worship seems to rob you or your own. You’ve got the best Shepherd ever, the most powerful shepherd ever and He knows full well how to take care of His sheep.
And the Best Shepherd ever, who happens to be the most powerful Shepherd ever, is at the very same time the most loving Shepherd ever. Jacobi, here is your God! “He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.” While sadly, we too often, let fear motivate us only one thing motivates the best Shepherd ever. Love. Love for you. For me. For all people. There is supposed to be no greater or more sacrificial love than that shown by mothers to their children. That’s why even though it’s not fair, Mothers Day is a bigger Hallmark holiday than Fathers day. For some Mother’s day is a hard day because you miss your mother who loved you dearly as she is in heaven. For some it’s a hard day because a sinful mom failed you. For some moms it’s a great day because they get some attention, props and presents. Later in the week when you are taken for granted—again, you’ll wonder if you are still appreciated. You are by the best Shepherd ever. He is the most loving Shepherd ever. He loves you.
There is a reason that pictures of Jesus as the Good Shepherd are so dear to Christians. Pictures like these. They help us visualize the most loving shepherd ever. He takes special care of those who have young. Remember that, mom, when you feel things are going badly. If the Shepherd used his staff to give you a yank or trip you up it’s only because he loves you and is saving you from something harmful. Remember that when your kids are growing up and you need to let go. He won’t. He’s the best shepherd ever. Here’s a picture some of you may have not seen. You notice who He’s carrying? The black sheep of the family. Now who are you thinking of? Hopefully yourself. We all like to stray. And what does the the best Shepherd ever do? He carries us close to His heart. Special individual care.
And then when the time came for the price to be paid, when someone needed to carry all sin to the cross, when there was no other way for sin to be paid except through the shedding of blood, the best Shepherd ever didn’t offer up any of His sheep or lambs. He didn’t say, “Hey, here’s ___________________. How about we sacrifice him?” No instead the shepherd became the sheep, the Lamb of God whose death makes me His own. You know what you have to say to that? Best shepherd ever. Jesus. Amen.