Christ Is Not A Flimsy-Weak-Wimpy-Sissy-Cowardly-Spineless Shepherd

Text: John 10:11-16

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

The most comforting image in the Christian church has to be the image of the Good Shepherd with His sheep.  The image of the Good Shepherd with His sheep conjures up a great sense of comfort and solace. 

Now, the reason why this image is so tremendously comforting is because we know that the Shepherd is good, that He cares for the flock.  Truly, it is most reassuring for you and for me to know that the Good Shepherd has our backs, when the going gets tough.  

With all of that said, it is not right though when this image does not include the Good Shepherd.  In other words, if we had an image of a flock of sheep with a meager hired hand, well… this whole image is simply ruined.  A flock with some no name hired hand displaces comfort and security is lost.  The reason why?  We all know that a hired hand does not care for the sheep as the Good Shepherd does.  Like a deadbeat dirtbag dad, a hired hand is only there for the money and the good times, but runs away when the going gets tough.  If a wolf were to come and leap on the sheep, well, the hired hand would tuck tail and run away, leaving the sheep to their demise.  You see, the hired hand really has no concern for the sheep; they do not matter to him, why should they?  He is not their shepherd and frankly he is spineless and a coward in the face of trouble.   

This comforting image is also ruined when it does not include the Good Shepherd, but a wicked shepherd in His place.  Otherwise stated, a flock with a wicked shepherd is just not right either, for the wicked shepherd is not there to seek the lost sheep, bind up their wounds, and strengthen them, but is only there to feed his own belly.  The wicked shepherd is a false shepherd, who rules with harshness and force.  Furthermore, when the sheep least expect it, he shaves their wool for his own warmth, he drinks their milk for his own strength, and then roasts little lambs over the hot coals of a fire for his own stomach’s satisfaction.         

Tragically, there are many people in our world today that have left the Christian faith because of spineless cowardly hired hands and wicked false shepherds, who played the role of the Good Shepherd.  That is to say, thousands upon thousands of people have left the church and sworn never to beckon the doors of the church again, because they have been spiritually abused by hired hands and false shepherds – those who are in religious authority positions in the church.  Sadly, these wounded sheep were either abandoned when the going got tough or were plundered and abused.   Rather than being moved from unbelief to belief in Christ, these individuals were moved from what little faith they had to unbelief, as they were either left by the hired hand to be food for the wild beasts or exploited by the false shepherd, so that they could be food for the wicked shepherd’s belly.  Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy on these individuals, for they were wounded not by the Good Shepherd, but by counterfeits shepherds.

Unfortunately, this beloved image of the sheep with their Good Shepherd has been polluted and ruined throughout every generation and throughout every continent.  Indeed, when the flock – that is the church – does not have the Good Shepherd, but a spineless hired hand or a wicked false shepherd, things are poisoned and the sheep scatter into desolate places or run into the mouths of wolves. 

With all of this stated how does the church – that is you – know when you are listening to the voice of a hired hand or the voice of a false wicked shepherd?  How does the flock throughout ever generation and throughout every various geographical location know if it is following a hired hand or a wicked false shepherd?  The answer is that it is evident in the teachings and lives of the hired hands and the wicked shepherds.  Indeed, it is evident in the teaching and lives of these spineless hired hands or wicked false shepherds; however, many sheep unfortunately do not care or would rather turn a blind eye for the sake of keeping apparent peace with the flock. 

Dear Christians, do not become lethargic.  Do not become deaf.  Do not let yourselves be led astray by the voice of a hired hand or a wicked shepherd, if and when they appear in your lives.  Do not let the wool be pulled over your eyes and do not be so easily deceived!  You know the voice of the Good Shepherd; therefore, do not be fooled by the voice of frauds.  Yes, as a dear Christian flock you must always demand to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd – Jesus Christ – for without Christ’s Word, it is only a matter of time before the wolves come and you will soon be devoured. 

This is how it works.  A hired hand serves the flock only as long as he can get a paycheck.  He is there for his own personal gain and will stay the course as long as he is comfortable.  However, he will shamefully flee and leave the flock when he hears the wolves growling or he will be silent and leave the sheep without a green pasture when any amount of uncomfortable conflict emerges.    Furthermore, a hired hand will preach and teach only for his own glorification; the hired hand is greedy and is never satisfied with what God daily provides.[1]   Even if he would preach God’s Word for the sheep’s nourishment, it would only be there until the wolves would threaten him.  At the first sign of intimidation or when he sees the wolves, he is gone and the Word of God is gone with him.   

On the other hand, wicked false shepherds are no better and probably worse.  They may preach well, smile brightly, seem friendly, and look like a good shepherd, but underneath the deception they do not preach God’s Word.  They actually teach the opposite of God’s Word.  They make many rules and keep few.  What is built up by God’s Word, they actually tear it down with their own aspirations and the ideologies of the present age.  What is planted by the Word, they uproot, mutilate, and destroy, so that they can ascribe salvation to human works and manmade philosophies.  These false wicked shepherds are all about cutting down faith and making the flock serve their needs and their desires and their aspirations. 

Let it be perfectly clear, both hired hands and false wicked shepherds do not preach and teach the Word of God, but preach and teach the opinions of mankind.  They cover their false doctrine with slobbering talk and fickleness.  They will threaten to get their way and will sweet talk to get their way as well.  They are against the integrity and truth of the Bible, because their moral compass is not attached to God’s Word, but their own bellies and the blowing wind of contemporary culture.  And so, they are not the Good Shepherd, but evil.

St. Paul says that these hired hands and false shepherds are enemies of the Cross of Christ.  Their end will be destruction. 

What does all of this mean for you and for me?  You and I mustn’t forget that we are Christians!  You and I are the sheep of the Good Shepherd – Jesus Christ.  You and I know the Good Shepherd’s voice!  You and I believe and trust and hear the Shepherd’s voice!  You and I know the doctrines of Christ!  You and I know Jesus’ Word.  Therefore, you and I must repent of the times where we have listened to the voice of a hired hand or the voice of a false shepherd, for they are everywhere… speaking into our ears through about every media venue imaginable.  Yes, repent of the times where you have dismissed the Word of Jesus for the words of false shepherds and a hired hand.  Repent of not endeavoring to listen to Jesus’ voice.  Repent of listening to every voice blowing in the wind of cultural spirituality, other than the Good Shepherd.  Repent of your wandering heart and your desire to leave the God that you love.  Repent – you and me! 

Yes, today, repent and hear the voice of the true Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.  A voice that says to you and to me,   

I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  A hired hand and the false wicked shepherd are not the real shepherds. The sheep mean nothing to them. They see a wolf coming and run from it it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. . . . The sheep don’t matter to them.  However, I am your shepherd – the good one.  You shall not want.  I make you lie down in green pastures.  I lead you beside still waters.   I restore your soul.  I lead you in paths of righteousness.  Even when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you shall not fear evil, for I am with you.  My rod and my staff, they comfort you.[2]

Dear Baptized Saints, our Lord Jesus Christ is not like the wicked shepherd or the spineless hired hand, for He actually cares for the sheep – He cares for you.  He is also not like the false shepherd and the hired hand, for He does not run away from the wolves.  He is not spineless or wicked! 

Truly, our Good Shepherd cares for you and goes after the wolf.   When the wicked shepherd and the hired hand scurry away with their flimsy-weak-wimpy-sissy-cowardly spines, our Lord Jesus Christ does the exact opposite.  In fact, He lunged at the wolf and placed Himself between you and the hungry wolf.  Indeed, Christ laid down His life for you and for me.  He put His body between you and the wolf of death.  He allowed Himself to be devoured by the jaws of death at the cross.  He was chewed up and put into death’s stomach, the tomb – for you. 

When the wolf of death howls though, it is not in victory, but it is a howl of defeat, for Christ Jesus could not be contained in death’s stomach.  Christ came forth out of death – out of the tomb – for He not only laid down His life for you and for me, but He took it up again in victory bursting death to pieces.

Therefore, dear blessed Baptized Saints, your Good Shepherd lives and reigns for you today.  The jaws of death could not keep Him down; the stomach of death could not digest Him. 

You, dear flock, shall not fear.  Christ did not run and flee, but destroyed the jaws of the wolf of death, silenced the wolf’s threatening cry, and lives for you today. 

Jesus is your Good Shepherd.  You belong to Him.  He seeks the lost.  He brings back the straying, and binds up the injured.  He strengthens the weak.  He accomplished this on Mt. Calvary and fulfills it in you through His precious and powerful Word and Sacraments. 

He is not a spineless hired hand.  He is not a wicked shepherd, but your Shepherd – the Good Shepherd of the sheep.

In the name of the risen and victorious Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ: Amen.

[1] Martin Luther, Complete Sermons of Martine Luther: Volume 6 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2000), 81.

[2] Paraphrase of John 10:11-13 and Psalm 23.

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