Psalm 1:1-6 – Blessed the Man

Psalm 1:1-6

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2  but rather his delight is in the instruction of the Lord,
and on his instruction he meditates day and night.

3   He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4   The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5   Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6   for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father through our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Whether you are being confirmed today, or are being recognized as a graduate and moving on to new things, or just living in a changing, uncertain world, this is a good text for you.

The first Psalm gives a true picture of what it is to be blessed.  The picture is of certainty and security, of being firmly planted by streams of water, of receiving everything that is needed.  The picture is one of always bearing fruit, always prospering.

The Lord knows the way of the blessed.

A beautiful picture.  A picture that everyone would like to be descriptive of themselves.

But as you start to look little deeper and really think about the truth of this Psalm, you begin to realize… Uh oh.

The blessed person does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.  Where do you walk?  The blessed man does not stand in the way of sinners.  Where do you stand?  The blessed man does not sit in the seat of scoffers.  Where do you sit?

Then comes the worst news, ‘his delight is in the instruction of the Lord, and on His instruction he meditates day and night.’  Everything breaks down.  That doesn’t describe you.  It doesn’t describe me.

We hear about this tree planted by streams of water, yielding its fruit in its season, un-withering leaves.   We hear that this blessed man does what he is supposed to—he bears fruit.  Everything that man does prospers.

That sounds so wonderful.  You and I say, “I wish I were that man.  I wish this Psalm was more descriptive of me.  I wish the blessed truths of this Psalm were true of me.”

Then you see the descriptions of the wicked in this Psalm.  Those are true as well.  Those are descriptive of you; they are descriptive of me.

There are only two types of people—blessed and wicked.  Everyone who is not blessed is wicked.  The wicked wither.  The wicked are chaff.  The wicked are driven away by the wind.  The wicked will not stand in the judgment.  The wicked will not stand in the congregation of the righteous.  The way of the wicked perishes.

True and descriptive…

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were even a middle ground?  Too bad there is none…

Everyone wants that blessed description to be true of themselves.  Everyone wants to have that delight, that nourishment, that fruitfulness, that prosperous existence.  But sinners should never expect that.  Sinners should expect judgment.

We can maybe think of individuals who appear to be like the firmly planted tree.  But if we could look inside, or if everyone would be honest, we would find out no one would dare say, “Here is a description of me and my life.”  Why do we even have this Psalm?  It does not describe any individual, except One.

This Psalm describes Jesus.  Hear this description of Jesus:  Blessed is Jesus.  Jesus does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of scoffers.  Jesus Christ’s delight is in the instruction of the Word of God—He is the Word of God.  He meditates on the Word of God day and night.  Jesus is like that tree, firmly planted by streams of water, always yielding fruit, always prospering.

But the description of Jesus doesn’t end there.  What happens to the wicked is also true of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Himself was like that withered chaff: it was on the cross where He said, “I thirst.” (Jn. 19:28).  Jesus was like the chaff that is driven away by the wind: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mk. 15:34).  Jesus was not in the congregation; He was “cut off out of the land of the living” (Is. 53:8).

Jesus suffered the results of wickedness, not because He Himself was wicked or did anything sinful.  He suffered the results of wickedness because He chose to become sin for you.

Think about that tree planted by water.  Christ speaks about being the One Who gives “living water” (Jn. 4:10).  Jesus says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (Jn. 7:37-38).

Nourishing, living streams of water.

Sinner, wicked one, you were baptized into Christ and have put on Christ (Gal. 3:27).

As you are in Christ, this Psalm becomes descriptive of you.

Blessed are you, Christian.  You don’t walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of scoffers.  Your delight is in the Word of God which declares that you are clean.  Day and night the Word gives you nourishment.

You are that firmly planted tree.  You bear fruit.  All that you do prospers.  The Lord knows your way.

If this Psalm is descriptive of Christ (and it is), it is descriptive of you who have put on Christ.  Despite all appearances it is true of you who have put on Christ.

When God looks at you, this is what He sees.  Meditate on that day and night.  Amen.

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John 15:9-17 – Abide

John 15:9–17 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Grace, mercy, peace, and love to you from God the Father and His Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Our text this morning is a continuation of the sermon text from last week.  Judas has left the Upper Room and is in the act of betraying Jesus.  Jesus is now teaching His disciples knowing that these were His final moments with them before He would go to the cross where He would put His life on behalf of His friends.

Last week we covered the first eight verses of Jn. 15 where Jesus taught, “I am the Vine, My Father is the Vinedresser, you are the branches.”  Jesus’ repeated plea to the disciples was, “Abide, remain, stay in My love.”

The text today continues that theme and takes the next step.  “The Father has loved Me.

“I have loved you with that same kind of inseparable, indivisible, perfectly united love.

“Abide in that love.”

What a beautiful picture.  The same love the Father has for Jesus is the love Jesus has for you.  “The Father loves me.  I love you.  Abide in My love.”  The care, the protection, the guidance that the Father has given to the Son is the same love that Jesus gives to you.

We say, Yes, Jesus this is wonderful.  By Your grace keep me in Your love.  Forgive me of my sins.  I know that whenever I sin, I can turn to You and receive Your forgiveness.  Amen?

“The Father loves me.  I love you.  Abide in My love.”

Why couldn’t Jesus have stopped speaking?  Jesus’ call to abide in His love fits with our desires and wishes.  We want to abide and remain in His love.  But when Jesus explains how that abiding occurs in v. 10, well, there is disappointment.  “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love.”  What does Jesus command? v. 12, “This is My commandment, that you love one another.”

“The Father has loved Me.  I have loved you.  Abide in my love.  Love one another.”

I don’t want to hear that last part, “Love one another.”  I don’t want to hear it because of what I know.

When I look at the ways in which I ‘love’ others, I find not love, but selfishness.  Deep down, when I look at the ways in which I try to help people, I see the stains of self-interest.  I help others so that I will get noticed.  I make sure that when I help others I get something in return.

My love is not sacrificial.  My love is not giving of myself.  My love, frankly, stinks.

“The Father has loved Me.  I have loved you.  Abide in my love.”  I wish Jesus had stopped there, but He goes on to say, “Love one another.  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love.  This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Jesus describes this love that you should have for one another.  “Greater love has no one than this, than that he lay down (put) his life for his friends.”  How true that is.  There is no greater thing that you can do than to give your life to save someone else.  More on that in a minute.

Jesus says, “You are my friends if you do what I command you—love one another.”

“[Name someone], I really like you.  You are my friend.  Now, do whatever I tell you.”   What kind of friendship is that?  Doesn’t that sound weird?  Yet, that is what friendship is.  A friend will do what his friend asks.  A friend will even try to help before he is asked.   A friend is going to give his friend commandments that are beneficial to his friend.  And as we look at the context v. 13-15 and see how it all fits together, there is beautiful Gospel here.

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  You are My friends if you do the things which I command you.  No longer do I call you slaves because the slave does not know what the Master is doing, but I have called you friends for all that I have heard from My Father, Who loves Me, I have made known to you.”

Usually, when we consider a man laying down his life for a friend, we think of peers.  A husband dying for a wife, a soldier jumping on a grenade to protect the rest of his troop.  Those are beautiful pictures of this, but an even greater love is going on here.

In Jn. 19:12,  Pontius Pilate is trying to release Jesus.  But the crowd cries out, “If you release this Man, you are not Caesar’s friend.”  There is a friendship between two people of unequal status.  When a high-ranking official has someone in his charge or care, that official has a vested interest in the success of those under him.

When we understand Jesus’ work and words about laying down a life for friends in this way, it sharpens what Jesus is saying.  There is no way that Caesar would lay down his life for Pilate who was just a governor of the outer territories of the empire.  We wouldn’t expect the President of the United States to lay down his life for the East Grand Forks city zoning superintendent.

That is the love Jesus has for you.  He laid down His life for you.

“The Father has loved Me.  I have loved you.  Abide in my love.  Love one another.”

Absolutely central to this is what Jesus said in Jn. 15:5, “Apart from Me you are not able to do even nothing.”

Jesus repeats the same idea in v. 16, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and I appointed you (I ‘put’ you) that you should go bear fruit.  I chose you which results in you bearing fruit which remains.”

Jesus did not chose you because you were bearing fruit that lasted.  He chose you and appointed you which results in you bearing fruit that lasts—the fruit of loving one another.

And so often people want to take this last part of v. 16 and say, “If you perfectly obey God, He will give you whatever you want.”  Just perfectly obey God’s commands and He will become your Heavenly Rich Uncle.  “O Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz.”  But that is not what Jesus is talking about.  Jesus is not talking about prayer in general; He is talking about bearing fruit and loving one another.

In Jn. 15:1-8, Jesus says, “Already you are clean because of the Word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in Me because apart from Me, you are not able to do even nothing.  If you abide in Me, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”  He continues this teaching in v. 9-17, “Abide in My love and remain clean and free from sin.  I chose you to bear fruit that would abide.  The fruit that abides is love for one another.  So ask Me to help you love one another.”

Jesus has made you clean through His Word.  He has freed you from sin.  And you don’t want to return to sin.  You don’t want to return to being outside God’s will.  You have just been cleaned from all that rot and filth.

So your prayer becomes, “Jesus, You have freed me from sin.  Keep me free from sin.  You have appointed me to bear fruit.  Make me bear the fruit you want me to bear.  Help me love my neighbor.  Help me love the person You have put in front of me right now.  Help me be a better spouse.  Help me be a better parent.  Help me be a better worker.  Help me be a better neighbor.  Help me to show Your love to others.  Help me abide in Your love.”

It all comes full circle.

“Love,” is Jesus’ command, and the key to obeying that command is His love.  Jesus says, “As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you.  Abide in My love.  If you keep My commands, you abide in My love.” And back in Jn. 14, Jesus says, “If you abide in My love, You keep My commands.”  Put it together, “If you keep My commands, you abide in My love.  If you abide in My love, you keep My commands.”

It always starts with God and His love for you.  “in this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us.  We love because He first loved us.” Jesus’ love poured into you leads to obedience.  Obedience leads to fruitfulness.

Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

If you want to know what God thinks about you, listen to what Christ has to say.  Do not look to your thoughts or experiences.  Listen only to Christ.  He says, “You did not chose Me.  You did not chose Me, but I chose you and appointed You.  As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Abide in My love.  Love one another.”  Amen.

John 15:1-8 Pruned by the Word

John 15:1–8 1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I am in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

So last week we looked at Jesus as the Noble Shepherd, and Jesus is a Man full of metaphors.  In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes seven “I am the…” statements.  It can be a good exercise to consider them all together, but don’t “miss the trees for the forest”—if I am allowed to reverse the saying.  Today, Jesus tells you, “I am the True Vine.”

Jesus is the Vine, the Father is the Vinedresser, and you are the branches.

God uses this same imagery in Isaiah.  In Is. 5:1-7, God speaks about His vineyard.  He had given it all the advantages and protections He could, but still the vineyard produced worthless, wild grapes.  God throws up His hands and asks, “What more could I have done for My vineyard?”  God destroys the worthless vineyard.  God starts over, and in Is. 27:1-5, God again is pictured as a Vinedresser.  God keeps His vineyard night and day.  He even wishes that He had thorns and briers to battle.

Now, Jesus uses this same imagery to describe your relationship to Him.  Jesus describes two types of branches.  The first type of branch is the not-bearing-fruit kind.  As a good gardener/vinedresser should, the Father gets rid of it.  He takes those fruitless branches away.  The other type of branch is the bearing-fruit kind.  As a good gardener/vinedresser should, the Father prunes those.  Those branches are made clean of any imperfections so that those branches continue to grow correctly and keep bearing fruit—more fruit and better fruit than they are baring even now.

This idea of pruning is carried into v. 3, but it comes so quickly, and we translate it differently in English so we miss it.  Jesus says, “Already you are clean/already you are pruned (same word) because of the Word that I have spoken to you.”

The difference between the branch that bears fruit and the branch that does not bear fruit is the Word.  The Word gives life.  The Word makes you pruned/clean.  The Word declares to you that your sins are forgiven, it continues to make you clean, it  continues to make you bear more fruit.  It is all about the Word.

In v. 6, Jesus says, “Anyone who does not abide in Me and in My Word is like a dead, fruitless branch and is thrown away.”  Those dead, fruitless, thrown-away branches are gathered, cast into the fire, and burned.  This is eternally serious.

Look at Dt. 6:4-9 and see the importance God places on the Word.  God places such an emphasis on hearing and learning His Word which declares that you are a sinner who does not love God with all your heart and soul and might.  Confess that sin and hear the Word of God which says that He forgives you.  Hear from the Word that through faith, you do love Him as Christ loves Him—with all your heart and soul and might.

Jesus is the Vine, the Father is the Vinedresser, and you are the branches.

Apart from Jesus, apart from being His branch, apart from His Word, what can you do?  You cannot do anything.  You can do nothing—nothing.

This spring, I went after one of our lilac bushes because it was growing crazy.  I hacked away many of the branches.  Those branches have been sitting in my yard and drying out.  I really don’t expect them to bud and sprout any lilacs.  I do expect those that are still connected to the roots to bud and flower, and they are.  Those other branches are simply waiting for me to throw them in the fire.

Jesus is the Vine, the Father is the Vinedresser, and you are the branches.

Apart from Jesus you cannot do anything.  There is absolutely nothing that you can do apart from being connected to Jesus, the Vine.  When you disconnect yourself from the Word, you disconnect yourself from the Vine.  Remaining in the Word is absolutely essential because the Word continues to make you clean.

Jesus says, “Apart from Me you are not able to do nothing.”  Jesus here uses an emphatic double negative, in Greek it doesn’t cancel out.  There are a couple ways to take this and both are true.  First, apart from Jesus, there is nothing that you can do.  Everything you accomplish, all your strength, all your abilities, all of your faculties come to you from God.  Apart from Him you can do nothing.

Second, there are individuals who are apart from Jesus and don’t acknowledge that their gifts and faculties are from God.  And they do lots of things.  Yet, what they do amounts to nothing.  Suppose, for the sake of argument, a person decided to completely follow perfectly the Commandments and did (again, this is impossible).  Nothing they did would amount to anything because it is without faith.  Apart from Jesus not even the best deeds count for anything.

Your best works, your best deeds, if they’re apart from faith, fall flat on their face.  So do not sever yourself from Christ.  Do not remove yourself from Christ and His Word.  The Father will continue to prune and cleanse you so that you bear more fruit.

Don’t let Satan use these verses to cause doubt.  Don’t let his lies get you caught up in thinking, “I need to bear more fruit.  I need to show more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in my life,” then go out and try to pick yourself up by the bootstraps and do better.  You won’t.

Apart from Jesus and His Word, you can do nothing.  Confess your inability to do those apart from Jesus and His forgiveness.  Hear the Word declare, “Already you are clean because of the Word I have spoken to you.  The only the branches that get pruned are bearing-fruit ones.  You are bearing fruit.  You are going to continue to be pruned and cleaned so that you can bear even more fruit.  In this I, your Heavenly Father, am glorified.”   The Father will cleanse, prune, and cause more fruit to be borne because that fruit glorifies the Father.

Jesus is the Vine, the Father is the Vinedresser, and you are the branches.

Abide.  Jesus’ call through this text is to abide, remain, stay in Him—the Vine.

Abide, we don’t use that word very often.  You don’t ask someone, “Where did you abide as a kid?” or, “Where do you abide?”   No.  You ask, “Where did you grow up as a kid?  Where do you live?”  Abiding gives a picture of constancy in the midst of change.  The Word of God remains constant despite this changing, dark, sinful world.  The Word of God remains constant.  Abide in Jesus; abide in His Word.  You will remain clean, and you will bear much fruit.

I mowed our lawn Tuesday.

My older two kids have been asking if they could mow the lawn.  Eli just turned five yesterday—happy birthday Eli—and Anna is three.  Neither of them are nearly old enough to mow on their own, but I thought since our lawnmower is self-propelled, I would let them help mow a couple of passes.

When I brought Anna outside, I showed her how to run the lawnmower.  I showed her how to hold the bar down so the engine would keep running.  I showed her how to push the lever to engage the self-propel feature.  I showed her where she should try and keep the line of the grass so that she would steer straight and not miss strips of grass.  I gave her all the information she needed to be able to mow the lawn.

I started the mower.  She didn’t know how, and I’m not going to teach her either.  She ignored my repeated directions to hold down the bar to keep the engine running.  So I did that.  She forgot to hold the self-propelling lever.  So I did that for her too.  She didn’t pay much attention to where she was going.  So I helped her steer.

She isn’t strong enough to start the mower.  She isn’t tall enough to push the mower on her own.  She isn’t coordinated or concentrated enough to keep the mower running and moving.  She isn’t focused enough to steer the mower.

Knowing all this and desiring that she mow when she is older, I wanted this first mowing experience to be a good one.  So I did it all.  Basically, I mowed the lawn standing off to the side so I would not step on my daughter.  I strained the muscles and tendons in my arm and twisted my back and mowed a couple of passes back and forth.

I felt like charging admittance, but it maybe wasn’t as impressive as a Cirque de Soli performance.

In the midst of my concentration and struggle to mow, my lovely daughter looked up at me and said, “This is easy!”

Anna was abiding in her earthly father.  As far as mowing is concerned, apart from me she could do nothing.

Abide.  Abide in Christ.  Abide in His cleansing Word.  His Word comes to you today and declares to you, “Your sins are forgiven.  Already you are clean because of the Word I have spoken to you.”  His Word comes to you and abides in you because apart from Him you can do nothing.

Abide in Him.  The Father is glorified in the fact that you do bear fruit because of His cleansing.  And in the forgiveness He gives you in His body and blood you bear even more fruit.  Amen.

John 10:11-18 – The Noble Shepherd

John 10:11-18—I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our crucified Lord and risen Shepherd Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Poets, film directors, and comedians all know the importance of… timing.  It’s all about timing.

In many places of Scripture, you find this shepherd/sheep imagery used: Ps. 23 and Ezek. 34 are two very important places.  But you find the shepherd/sheep metaphor scattered throughout the Bible (Is. 40:11; Jer. 23; Mic. 5, 7; Zech. 11; Jn. 21; etc.).  This text and others like it have been a source of comfort for Christians for thousands of years.

The picture in your Scripture insert is an example; it is taken from Roman catacombs (Christian burial crypts) from the 100’s AD.  In the face of death and persecution, Jesus’ description of Himself as the Good, Noble Shepherd gave peace to early Christians.  Images of Jesus as the Good Shepherd gently leading a flock (like the one in our entry way) or searching out a lost, troubled sheep continues to dominate Christian art and literature today.

Timing.  It’s all about timing.  Today, we are three weeks removed from Easter—Jesus’ resurrection.  But consider the timing when Jesus originally spoke these words.  He spoke these words as He was teaching about Who He was at the feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem five months before He would lay down His life for the sheep.

Jesus, as He describes what it means to be the Good Shepherd, gives a similar picture of Ps. 23, but it’s a somewhat limited version of Ps. 23.  Jesus’ focus is the Good Shepherd as the Protector of the sheep.

Translating Jesus words as ‘Good Shepherd’ are maybe misleading because of the way in which we use ‘good’ today.  Jesus is the ‘Noble Shepherd.’  He is the Shepherd Who recklessly serves the sheep.  The Noble Shepherd goes far beyond what you would expect even a good shepherd to do—the Noble Shepherd puts His life on behalf of the sheep; He lays down His life for the sheep.

This is what sets the Noble Shepherd apart.  Jesus emphasizes this as He repeats in v. 15 that His work as the Noble Shepherd is to lay down His life for the sheep.  You would expect a shepherd to risk his life for the sheep and fight the wolf or the bear or the lion threatening the flock.  But you do not expect a shepherd to lay down his life for the sheep.  What shepherd risks his own life for the sheep?  Yet, that is what the Noble Shepherd does.

In the first several verses of Ezek. 34, God speaks against the shepherds of Israel who were not protecting or feeding the sheep.  In fact, they were stealing food from the sheep and eating it themselves.  They were not healing the sick or binding up the injured or bringing back the strayed.  They ruled with force and harshness.

Jesus says the same thing in our text about the hired hand guy who is not really a shepherd and does not own the sheep.  When that guy sees the wolf coming, he doesn’t risk his life for the sheep.  He flees; he is no shepherd.  He flees, the wolf ravages the sheep and snatches the sheep, and the sheep scatter.

The flock is no more.  Some are eaten, the rest are scattered and defenseless, and the wolf wins.  The sheep become endangered and are easy prey for the beasts that would steal them and snatch them.

The hireling, who is not a shepherd, flees because he is only taking care of someone else’s sheep.

But Jesus, the Noble Shepherd, faces the ultimate enemy of the sheep, death.  The Noble Shepherd lies down His life—dies—for the sheep.  The Noble Shepherd Himself goes through the valley of the shadow of death for His flock.

Again Jesus says, “I am the Noble Shepherd.  I know My own and My own know Me.”  Look how strong the bond is between the Noble Shepherd and His flock.  Just as the Father knows Jesus and just as Jesus knows the Father so Jesus knows who are His sheep.  The bond between God the Son, Jesus, and God the Father is the bond between the Noble Shepherd and His flock.

Jesus knows who are His sheep, and His sheep know that Jesus is their Noble Shepherd because their Shepherd has laid down His life for them.  Jesus seeks out all the scattered sheep of His flock from the nations.  From every tribe, there will be one flock, one Noble Shepherd (Jn. 10:16).

Here the metaphor ends.  Metaphors can do a good job explaining the relationship between two things, but now Jesus leaves this metaphor of the Noble Shepherd because its usefulness has ended; He says something more.

God the Father loves the Son because the Son freely lays down His life.  Notice that Jesus lays down His life in order that the He can take it up again.  Jesus lays down His life for the purpose of rising from the dead.  Jesus leaves no way to separate the laying down and the taking up of His life.

Jesus lays down His life for the sake and purpose of taking it back up.  Here, Jesus views His death and resurrection as one thing.  Five months before Jesus was crucified, He spoke about laying down His life for the purpose of taking it back up.  And that should give you hope.

Despite how bad everything looked on Good Friday, despite the religious leaders and crowds and soldiers appearing to be in control on Good Friday, Jesus says not so.  Jesus was not killed.  He willingly laid down His life.  “I Myself lay down My life.  I am the One Who is in control.  I freely lay My life down of My own accord.  I have the power to lay My life down and I have the power to take it up again.”

The will of God the Father is followed unto death by God the Son.  The mission which the Father gives the Son is fulfilled as the Son choses to lay down His life so that He could take it up again all for the sake of His sheep.

So as we ponder this text not five months before the crucifixion, but three weeks after the resurrection, remember that Jesus is not the Noble, dead Shepherd.  He is the Noble Shepherd Who died and now lives forever.

Since your Shepherd has died, and yet lives forever, you can look at Ps. 23 in a new and different way.

The Lord is your Noble Shepherd.  The Noble Shepherd Who laid down His life for you.  You are lacking nothing; your desires are filled.

The Noble Shepherd makes you lie down in green pastures and leads you beside still waters.

He restores your soul and leads you in paths of righteousness—not for your sake—but for the sake of His Name.  He is the Noble Shepherd and out of His Own interest, He makes His sheep righteous so that He can remain the Noble Shepherd.  If the Noble Shepherd doesn’t have a noble flock, He is not going to be the Noble Shepherd anymore.  For the sake of His Name which He has placed upon you in baptism, He leads you in righteousness and gives you all good things.

And even though you face death’s shadow, there is nothing for you to fear because you are part of the one flock of the Noble Shepherd.  He is the One Who is with you.  The Noble Shepherd Himself has passed through death and has taken up His life once again—just as you will because you are His noble sheep.

The Noble Shepherd’s rod and staff comfort you.  You hear His Word, and He teaches you with His Law and Gospel what it means to be His sheep.

Though you are surrounded by enemies, your Noble Shepherd prepares a table for you.  You can sit and dine and feast in the presence of your enemies without fear or worry because your Noble Shepherd has defeated your enemies—sin, death, and the devil.

Your Noble Shepherd anoints you with oil.

Your Noble Shepherd fills your cup with His forgiveness.  Your cup is so full that His grace spills from you to others.

Certainly goodness and mercy will follow you, noble sheep, all the days of your life.

You will dwell in the house of the Noble Shepherd who died and rose again.  You will be with Him forever.  Death shall be no more.  Amen.