Christ is risen!
He has risen indeed!
In vacation Bible school we studied the ways Jesus used the words, "I am." I am the life. I am the vine. I am the door. And, in our text for today, I am the Good Shepherd. We have also talked about the importance of the shepherd of sheep in the culture of Israel. Moses, the greatest prophet of the Old Testament, was a shepherd. David, the greatest king of Israel, was a shepherd. Also, the Messiah, the promised Savior, is a shepherd.
"I am the good shepherd and I know my sheep, and mine know me." I have not seen this phenomenon in Venezuela, but in other countries where there are sheep herders, they often use the same road to move their sheep to other pastures. All the shepherds and their sheep are mixed on the road. The sheep are not so smart, but they recognize the voice of their own shepherd. So, when the time comes to divide the sheep, a shepherd shouts, "Let’s go!" And his sheep just follow him because they know that their own shepherd cares for and protects them.
When Jesus says, "I am the Good Shepherd," it means that He cares for and protects us. In the epistle as well (1 Peter 2: 21-25) St. Peter says that Christ is the "Shepherd and Bishop of our souls." The word, bishop, is derived from the Greek, ἐπίσκοπος, which means supervisor or guide.
In the Our Father, we ask "Give us today our daily bread", so we can trust Jesus to take care of and protect us in our material needs. Also, we pray: "Leas us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." Jesus is our Shepherd in spiritual things.
The mission of Christ was the salvation of souls above all. He took the form of a man to live among us, suffer and die on the cross and rise again on the third day. He ascended into the heavens to rule the universe next to the Father and one day he will return to gather His sheep in his flocks forever.
But, we can recognize His voice in this world and follow the path to Him. What is the voice of Christ in this world?
In the Old Testament, the prophets spoke of the people of Israel as the sheep of God. In our reading of the Old Testament (Ezekiel 34: 11-16), "“For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day when his sheep have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.”
The Lord promised the Israelites to seek them out in exile and restore them to the Promised Land. Also, the Good Shepherd said in our gospel, "I also have other sheep that are not of this fold, those I also must bring, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, and one shepherd." He said this to the twelve apostles, representatives of the 12 tribes of Israel. The other sheep are those of all the tribes, races and nations that can recognize the voice of their Shepherd. In the book of Revelation, St. John himself saw a great multitude of all the nations around the throne of Christ. In Acts, Saint Peter said that now the Lord accepts people from all nations.
Now the people of God is the church, all believers in Christ, heirs of God's promises to Israel. The apostles were not only representatives of Israel, they were also representatives of the church. The mission of the church is to look for the scattered sheep and gather them in their folds and take care of them until the second coming of the Lord.
The voice of Christ in this world today is the written Word, preached by the church, in all parts of the world. All the books of the Old and New Testaments point to Christ and Jesus himself preached this message of forgiveness and salvation.
The lost sheep of this world are those who have to hear the Word of God, because they have no purpose and hope in this life, nor the hope of eternal life. They respond to the proclamation of the gospel with joy. The proclamation is the work of the church and in this work we have our hope and the peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.
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