Jesus, the Compassionate Shepherd
Grace Lutheran Church
Albuquerque, New Mexico
22 July AD2018
The 9th Sunday after Pentecost
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down
in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores
my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s
sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of
death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your
staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the
presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil, my cup
overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days
of my life, and I shall dwell in the House of the Lord forever.
Jesus: The Compassionate Shepherd
Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God our Father, and
our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Once again, it is truly a joy and privilege to worship Christ with
you today. As you have already noticed, the Old Testament reading
speaks of sheep and their shepherd. Today’s Gospel finds Jesus
feeding the multitude. A common theme in these two lessons can
be summed up in the precious words of Psalm 23 which is the
Introit, or Entrance Psalm, for the day.
I invite you to consider Psalm 23 under the theme, “Jesus: The
Compassionate Shepherd”, and ask God the Holy Ghost to be with
us as we meditate on this theme. Let us first consider the meaning
of the word “compassion”. It means much more than the dictionary
would suggest. Pity, sympathy, empathy, care, tolerance,
tenderness and charity are fine ideas. But these emotions miss the
mark. The Church preaches the passion of our Lord. The word
passion means suffering – the Suffering of our Lord. When the prefix
“c-o-m” is put in front of passion} it means to suffer with. Hence,
Jesus, the Compassionate means Jesus Who suffers with us.
Straight away we call to mind Good Friday. The Church
—…. -c, “<,
preaches Christ and Him crucified. We do not hear anything about
that in the news reports. But we see the Compassionate Jesus in all
of His actions – from His conception in the womb of the Blessed
Virgin, to His death on Calvary, and burial in the Tomb. The people
of this world have no interest in any of this. What makes Good
Friday good? What makes Jesus the Good Shepherd? He is the
One Who laid down His very life for the sheep. The cross of Christ
reminds us of that great sacrifice. He died on the cross, taking upon
Himself the sins of the world. He bore the burden, He faced down
the devil and all danger. He paid the terrific price – for our
redemption. He suffered with us and for us, thus saved us from sin,
death, and eternal damnation in hell.
In stark contrast, all the world’s so called leaders, prophets,
rich and powerful people – none of them can by any means redeem
even themselves, much less the lost souls of this world who would
follow their ideas, doctrines or wretched examples. Although they
set forth all kinds of schemes, programs, proposals and strategerns,
with which they would deceive and inveigle those who trust in them,
they are really like hired hands, like those irresponsible shepherds
described in Jeremiah. At the first sign of trouble, they run away.
Christ never runs away. In fact, Jesus invites us to call upon Him in
the day of trouble. (Psalm 50:15).
At this point, may I urge you most strenuously: Are you having
any trouble whatsoever? Are you perplexed and annoyed in any
way? By all means, call upon Jesus the Compassionate Shepherd!
He will not run away from you, or abandon you in your hour of
distress. Jesus will hear your cry, and answer your need in the most
perfect way. Others, like those shepherds in Jeremiah, will run
away. Jesus suffers with us. He loves us when were were in the
most desperate of situations. In Romans Chapter 5, Saint Paul
says, For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for
the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person –
though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but
God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ
died for us. [verses 6-8]. That alone makes Christ the
Compassionate Shepherd. For this reason alone, Jesus is worthy of
our thanks and praise forever.
During my recent travel back to New Mexico, I saw two scenes
that taught me something about sheep and shepherds. Keep in
mind, I grew up in Detroit, Michigan many years ago, and know
nothing about such animals. In fact, for many years, I wondered
how a sheep could eat at a table. But that’s another silly story that
has an easy explanation – as New Mexicans, we know what a “mesa”
is. Back to the scenes I saw on my recent journey: One morning I
left Eureka, Utah and was struggling to climb the Pinto Summit. As I
slowly ascended the pass, my eyes did a double-take to the right
side of the road way. There on the hillside was a very large flock of
the most beautiful sheep imaginable. Then, my eyes did a triple-
take. Further up the hillside, not far, was the shepherd! He wore
something like a poncho of many colours – red, brown, grey. I was
close enough (and moving slow enough – 18 miles per hour – my
truck pulls the trailer very slowly!). Then I saw what that dear
shepherd was doing, and what he had in his hand. He had a long
stick with a hook at the top. The staff in hand, the shepherd was
nudging the stragglers down the hillside to rejoin the rest of the
flock. He was so energetic, and the sheep were so secure because
their shepherd, with the staff in hand, was guiding them all.
Instantly, I began to say Psalm 23.
I few days later, now somewhere in Arizona. I saw another
scene, this time the situation was disturbing. This time, scrounging
for food along the side of the road were some poor sheep. They did
not look well cared for. No shepherd was in view. The sheep were in
danger of being hit by the traffic on the roadway. All the noise of
passing cars and trucks undoubtedly disturbed them. Who knows
what they might have eaten among stuff that could be found on the
shoulder of the road. Again, I was urged to say Psalm 23 – only this
time, I thanked the Lord Jesus anew that He is the Compassionate
Our Lord Jesus Christ knows us, He care for us, and He goes
with us. Psalm 23 has three verbs – action words that are too often
overlooked. “He leads me beside still waters” “He leads me in
paths of righteousness .. ” and “Even though I walk through the
valley … “. He leads, He leads, I walk. Action words that describe
movement, a journey. The rod and staff comfort. The rod or club, as
it were, in the hand of a skilled shepherd was a weapon to beat off
enemy animals that might harm the sheep. As I saw on Pinto Pass,
the staff was a tool to guide a wandering sheep to stay in the safety
of the flock on their journey to green pastures and drinkable water.
Now think of Jesus our Compassionate Shepherd. Not only
does He know us, care for us, and go with us on our journey, He
brings sornethlngs that bring us comfort. Think of the means of
grace. The Word and Sacraments. As we are confronted by the
accusations of the devil and his minions, let us remember the words
of “A Mighty Fortress”
Though devils all the world should fill,
All eager to devour us.
We tremble not, we fear no ill.
They shall not overpower us.
This world’s prince may still
Scowl fierce as he will
He can harm us none,
He’s judged; the deed is done;
One little word can fell him.
The Word of God is both a weapon of defence and of offence,
powerful and comforting. Baptism and the Holy Supper also give us
comfort in our journey. Have you ever heard a message maybe on
radio, or TV, internet or elsewhere and had a strange feeling
afterward? Perhaps all the words were right, but the words seem to
be used to convey the wrong message? Do you know why you had
that strange feeling? You were not listening to the Compassionate
Shepherd or one of His true assistants. You were listening to a hired
hand, a false prophet, an irresponsible shepherd, such as Jeremiah
described. These leaders’ only interest is their own selfish welfare.
Because you are a follower of Christ, born anew by water and the
Word of Baptism, forgiven, trusting only in Him Who died for you,
none of the words of these liars appeal to you. All their talk about
fasting, prayer, tithing, good works, sacrifice and how great they are,
sound hollow, make you feel uneasy and uncomfortable, and rightly
so. These people are not the representatives of Christ. They are
ambassadors of the devil, who as Jesus said in John 10:10 is come
to steal, kill and destroy.
The voice of Jesus, the Compassionate Shepherd brings peace
and comfort on our journey. Another word about journey. As we
look at the commercials, one might think that travel is trouble free.
Just buy that gourgeous fifth-wheel toyhauler, or that impressive
motorcoach and you are on your way to carefree journeys. Not so
fast! Journey is not trouble free. Life is not trouble free. Struggle,
set-backs, and hardships are part of journey, no matter what mode
of travel we select. Sin, Satan, and our own weakness make the
journey of life something fraught with danger. Jesus Himself uses
“journey language” in John 10:27 when He says, “My sheep hear My
voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”
Today, we heard the beautiful Gospel that Jesus fed the
multitude – including 5,000 men. We hear that Jesus had
compassion on the multitude. There is that word again –
compassion. Jesus was the compassionate shepherd to the
multitude then, and He is the compassionate shepherd to you and
me today. He comes to us in His precious Body and Blood in the
Sacrament of the Altar. Like that multitude that was hungry and
lacked food, Jesus does not send us away to find sustenance
elsewhere. He feeds us with the eternal Manna, the Heavenly food
that gives us forgiveness of sins and life everlasting which sustains
us on our journey.
Jesus knows our weaknesses, our insecurities, our struggles,
our hurts, our pains, our fears, our innermost thoughts and desires.
Jesus strenuously invites us to come to Him in prayer. You and I
know well the old hymn of the Christian community that speaks of
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged –
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our ev’ry weakness
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
In the sitting room of my trailer, I have a picture. In AD1979
when I was a vicar at the Church of the Good Shepherd, in Laurelton,
Queens, New York, I found a bunch of pictures someone had thrown
into the attic of the church. They were pictures of Jesus, the Good
Shepherd, leading His flock through a precarious, stony path. On His
shoulders, He carried a little lamb who, apparently, needed his
shepherd’s special attention. I dusted off one of those pictures, and
today, it is in my sitting room where I can gaze upon it daily. I often
see myself in that picture as that lamb whom Christ is carrying
across perilous territory.
I am also reminded of my sainted grandmother, of whom I
often speak. On her deathbed, she uttered these words as Angels
carried her to Heaven: “The Lord is my Shepherd”, she said, as she
breathed her last. Such confidence is ours, because Christ not only
died for you and me; Jesus rose and now rules over all things. Jesus’
majestic lordship is not to the exclusion of His intimate care about
the details of our life journey. He orders and directs our days. Even
that which appears to be accidental, or troublesome, or even tragic
finds the rod and staff of the Lord to comfort us. In difficult times,
think of that picture I described of Jesus carrying you over those
precarious rocks. Jesus loves you and cares for you and me most
particularly when we sorrow and are in distress.
Jesus is the Compassionate Shepherd, indeed. He will
certainly continue to love you and befriend you. May the Holy Ghost
empower you to continue to trust in the Lord Jesus. Surely,
goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life, and you
will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Rev. John Timothy Plump, Emeritus
Post Office Box 61
Cedar Crest, New Mexico 87008