Three Violent Wolves Threaten Us And You Won't Believe What Happens Next!

Text: John 10:11-18
Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
As sheep, we really don’t want a shepherd.  I mean, who really does?  Our hearts are just too un-tame, too wild, and too rebellious to have a restrictive overbearing authoritative figure above us. 
With that said, it might be nice to have a hired hand around at times, so that we can at least get some of our basic needs met.  You know, someone that doesn’t own us, but is required to serve our basic needs.  This way we can still keep our independence, yet have those extra benefits. 
As far as a shepherd though?  Having a shepherd over top of us, a shepherd that rules us?  No thank you!  We would rather not.
The reason why this is so?  We want our freedom.  We want the ability to choose our own destiny, to do what we want, when we want.  We want independence to graze in the paths of unrighteousness.  We want to go here and go there, without any restraints or consequences.  Give us an open field to graze, but hold back on that authoritative shepherd.
Maybe this is for the best not having a shepherd over-top of us.  For most people know that shepherds do not raise sheep as their beloved pets, but exploit them.  Most everyone knows that shepherds are primarily into the sheep for what they can get from them.  These shepherds use the sheep for their wool, meat, and economic profits.  Also, when a predator comes after the sheep, it is common knowledge that the shepherd is not really concerned for the sheep but is concerned about his bottom line investment in the sheep.  When push comes to shove, if there was a decision between giving up his life defending the sheep or letting a sheep die, the shepherd would most surely let the sheep die and save himself.
It appears that you and I may be justified in not wanting a shepherd, since so many shepherds out there are really a bunch of dirtbags, only concerned with their own well-being.  However, in our Gospel reading from today we hear that Jesus is no ordinary shepherd.  We hear that he is the ‘Good’ Shepherd. 
The word ‘good’ should not go unnoticed though.  It is a word that means excellent, noble, and heroic.  Otherwise stated, Jesus is not simply a dirtbag shepherd or some deadbeat shepherd who is only interested in Himself.  No, he is the ‘Good’ Shepherd. What makes the Good Shepherd good is that He lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) Jesus described Himself as the shepherd who loves his sheep by willingly surrendering His life for them.  This sets Good Shepherd Jesus apart from all other dirtbag and deadbeat shepherds.
This may change things having a Good Shepherd, or does it?
This actually does not change anything.  The Good Shepherd “makes [us] lie down in green pastures, but [we] spy grass that is greener on the other side of the fence [and wander away].  He leads [us] beside the still waters, but [we] know of still more exciting places where [we’d] love to drink [our] fill.  He leads [us] for His name sake, but [we] want to make a name for [ourselves], [we] want others to envy [us]…”[1]
What this means is that no matter if the shepherd is a self-serving dirtbag or a good and noble hero, we tend to be and do the same.  We are sheep that go astray, wanting to be independent and shepherd-less.   
Dear friends, repent.  Return to the Good Shepherd of your souls.  “For the freedoms you crave are slaveries in disguise, chains that hell’s butchers cast around your neck to pull you under the slaughterhouse blade.”[2] 
Indeed, there is an infatuation and addiction with this freedom that we desire, but embedded in this desire is deception.  That’s right, the very deception that betook Eve in the Garden of Eden is the very deception that modern mankind has bitten into; the deception that mankind is able and capable of surviving as spiritually, emotionally, and physically independent beings.  When we fight for our personalized freedom, or believe that we have the ability to function on our own, we are actually closing ourselves off to the calling of the Good Shepherd, and it is in this sense that when we fight for our own independence that we are banishing the Good Shepherd from us.
Apart from the tragedy of running from the Good Shepherd, sheep are not meant to be without a shepherd.  The harsh reality is that you and I are not built this way, nor are we able to deal with the pressures of life on our own.  We are not able to define our own meaning, grant self-comfort, and accomplishing our own salvation, as much as we may try to convince ourselves otherwise.    
Repent, return to the Good Shepherd of your souls.
The Lord is your Good Shepherd, not some deadbeat second class false shepherd who will lead you astray.  He is the Good Shepherd who cares for you and lays His life down for you.  Thus, He wants you, you who have gone to the other side of the fence.  The Good Shepherd wants you, you who have cursed His staff, ignored His call, and gone your own way.  The Good Shepherd wants you, you who often act more like a wolf than a sheep.  He wants you, all of you, nothing held back.  He wants you, for a life without Him means that you are left with self-salvation, which is no salvation at all but pure damnation.      
There is more to this though.  No matter how spiritually mature, no matter how devoted, no matter how forcefully independent, and no matter how faithful you think you are, you are not able to take care of the wolves.  That’s right, no matter how much “time sheep spend in the weight room and at the martial arts dojo, [sheep] are not going to be able to take on the wolf.  If the sheep has to defend itself, the wolf will have an easy lunch.  The wolves that come after us are sin, death, and the devil.”[3]
Make no mistake, a false shepherd and a hired hand run at the sight of these wolves.  You will attempt to run from these wolves as well.  However, sin, death, and the devils are like a pack of wolves that surround you, leaving you no room to escape.  There is no escape from them; resistance is futile.  Everyone dies.  Sin must be accounted for. 

Contrary to most people’s inclination to run from these wolves, our Good Shepherd goes after these wolves.  He attacks them by laying His life down before them.  He bears the bite of sin for you, He gives Himself into the fangs of death for you, and He lays Himself between you and the satanic wolf.   This is how it is with the Good Shepherd. It is what makes Him truly good. 

So then as a result, the wolf of sin causes the Good Shepherd to suffer, the satanic wolf licks up the blood of the slaughtered Good Shepherd, and the wolf of death devours the Good Shepherd into his stomach.  Into the stomach of the wolf—the grave that is—Christ goes. 

And after the Good Shepherd attacks the wolves of sin, death, and the devil by giving Himself to them, He takes His life back again.  “The Good Shepherd vacated the stomach [of  death] that had entombed Him, leaving behind Him a predator that you, O little flock, need not fear any more.  Shall you fear the wolf with a burst belly, broken teeth, and his howls of his own defeat?”[4]  No, you shall not fear death, sin, and the devil, for Christ has risen.   

Beloved sheep you are not alone.  You shall not be left to fend for yourself in life and in death.  You do not have to face the wolves of sin, death, and the devil.  You do not have a hired hand or a dirtbag shepherd.  The wolves have not and cannot overtake you.  You have the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. 

Have no fear blessed flock, He knows you, calls you by name, and has made you His own.  The Good Shepherd was not content to let you wander and run from Him, but rather, He sought you ought, called you by name in baptism, raised you up, and placed you on His shoulders, and with great joy brings you home.  He has wrapped your name into His name and joined Himself to you in baptism, making you His own. Furthermore, He binds up your wounds with His precious Word, and feeds you His body and blood, quenching your thirst.

He does all of this for you because He is the Good Shepherd.  He is good because He gives to His flock and doesn’t ruthlessly exploit.  He declares you His good sheep.  Sheep that He not only possesses as His own, but sheep that He loves, defends, and leads.                 

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
[1] Chad L. Bird, Christ Alone Meditations and Sermons (Copyright 2014), 168.
[2] Ibid.
[3] James T. Batchelor, Fourth Sunday of Easter Sermon (26 April 2015) (26 April 2015).
[4] Chad L. Bird, Christ Alone Meditations and Sermons, 169.

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