Third Sunday of Easter [c] May 1, 2022
1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
In the Name of Jesus.
Jesus is your shepherd. To his Father he prayed,
“[O Father,] I kept them in your Name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now, [O Father,] I am coming to you … I have given them your Word … I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, O Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us.”
When Jesus prayed to his Father for those who believe in him through the Word he gave to the Apostles, he was praying to his Father for you—that you would be one with him and his Father.
He’s your Shepherd. Here’s how: he takes your name before his Father, praying to his Father to forgive you, to bless you, praying for the Holy Spirit to bring the Word of cleansing to you, to sanctify you, and in this, Jesus is keeping you in his Name—he’s your Shepherd.
He’s our Shepherd—the Good Shepherd who loves his sheep, giving himself up for them.
From John 21, Jesus said to Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me? … Feed my lambs,”
“Simon, son of John, do you love me? … Tend my sheep,”
“Simon, son of John, do you love me? … Feed my sheep.”
Before our Lord ascends to Heaven, he is sending his Apostles out. He gives his Apostles his Word. By his Word, by the preaching of Christ crucified, Jesus is gathering his church.
So here we are: his flock! No lamb chooses himself into the flock. Jesus chooses; Jesus gathers; he cares for; he keeps.
We don’t get ourselves into the flock; we don’t keep ourselves in the flock; we don’t feed and water ourselves; we don’t protect ourselves from wolves. That’s not the way this sheep-shepherd thing works.
It’s the Shepherd. It’s Jesus. It’s all him. If we claim other than that, if we think we are the sheep taking care of ourselves, we’re claiming to be other than sheep belonging to Jesus.
To see how Jesus does his shepherding job, take a look at Paul, who, at the time, was called Saul. Acts 9:1:
But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
To the Church, to Jesus’ flock, Saul is a wolf.
We remember him helping stone Stephen to death. That’s a few chapters back. Now Saul is traveling to Damascus, and if he’s successful, many other Christian families will be picked up by Saul and given the Stephen treatment.
Paul is going after people, after families, whom Jesus calls his sheep.
At this point of Saul traveling to Damascus, Jesus is ascended to Heaven. What will Jesus do to protect his sheep from Saul? Maybe drop a rock on him? Strike him with leprosy? Send a hungry lion or hit him with a bolt of lightning? The sheep need protecting.
The word pastor is just the Latin word for shepherd. Here’s how Jesus is the shepherd, the pastor, Acts 9:3:
Now as [Saul] went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from Heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
Jesus is the Church’s shepherd.
In shepherding his church, he will set Saul to be an undershepherd.
He will give Saul a new name: Paul. He will tell Paul what to do to care for his sheep. He will send Paul far north to nations and cities such as Ephesus and Corinth and Athens and Rome.
He will stand Paul in front of the same Christians Paul had been imprisoning, persecuting, and murdering, and from Paul’s mouth the Lord will be giving these people he loves the preaching that will save them.
From Paul’s mouth, from which they once heard threats, they will now hear the Word of Christ crucified and the preaching that the sinner is justified before the Throne in Heaven.
From Paul’s mouth, these Christians will be hearing the word giving them the gift of repentance and the forgiveness of sins.
From Paul’s hands, the same hands that held the coats of those throwing rocks to kill St. Stephen, from these same hands these Christians will be receiving the Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of all their sin.
This is Jesus gathering sheep into his Church, feeding them with his Word of Gospel, protecting them from the accusations of the evil one.
His church, his sheepfold? It’s you and me, it’s our families. It’s all those Jesus calls to his Name and gathers to his Table.
He does it by the voice of a man—a sinful man such as Paul, or Peter, or Doubting Thomas, or any of the pastors the Apostles ordained and sent forth, pastors such as Timothy and Titus.
By these voices—voices sinful according to the flesh, but holy according to the Word of Jesus—by these human voices Jesus is shepherding his sheep. We’re his sheep. His Word is for us.
A pastor is set in front of the sheep. Pastor, simply the Latin word for shepherd.
But Jesus is the Shepherd. Only Jesus. The pastor is the undershepherd. The pastor himself has no words worth hearing, no words to cleanse the sheep, to forgive their sin, to justify them before the Father.
But Jesus does. And by his Apostles he set pastors—Scripture also calls them also servants or ministers, and teachers and preachers—by his Apostles Jesus sets the pastor to preach his Word to the Sheep. By this preaching he justifies his sheep.
No other Word will do. No other Word will forgive sins, will cleanse the conscience, bestow the heart of faith, only the Word of justification, the word of Christ crucified.
That’s the way Jesus does it. Through the preaching of the justification.
Not by the teaching of a list of rules or methods, nor by motivational talks leading to a more Christian life (whatever that would mean), but by the preaching of Christ crucified.
Can you be that sheep? The Lamb who is cleansed by the word of forgiveness? The sheep justified by preaching? A member of the flock continually gathered to the Name of Jesus by to hear his Gospel?
You are that sheep! He is your shepherd. Your Baptism says no less. The promise of the Gospel leaves no doubt. The Body and Blood he gathers you to binds you to him. You are that sheep. You are justified by his Word. He is your shepherd.
In the Name of Jesus.