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“Love for the Sheep”, John 10:11-18 / April 21st, 2024 / Fourth Sunday of Easter / Hope Lutheran Church, Rev. Lucas Andre Albrecht

Text: John 10:11-16
Theme: “Love for the sheep”


Intr –  The Good Shepherd Sunday is always a deep, rich well we can draw from. Here are a couple of highlights I wanted to reflect about with you today thinking especially of our Gospel reading.[1]

1 – The hired hand 

The first thing I bring up is the hired hand mentioned by Jesus. In ancient times, shepherds often hired assistants or workers to help them care for their flocks. These hired hands were responsible for tasks such as leading the sheep to pasture, guarding them from predators, and ensuring their general well-being. However, unlike the shepherd who has a personal relationship with the sheep and a vested interest in their welfare, the hired hand is primarily motivated by financial gain. They may not have the same level of dedication or willingness to sacrifice for the sheep as the shepherd does. When danger comes, such as a wolf attacking the flock, the hired hand might flee to save themselves, abandoning the sheep to harm.

The hired hand is looking after the sheep only for money.. He is there for the money, not for the sheep. Have you ever worked in a job like that? You are just for the money, not for the job, for self-realization, for personal growth. There we can get a grasp of how this hired hand looked like here. How different our attitude is when we work in a job we really like, in the calling of our life, and not just as a hired hand, which doesn’t love the sheep; he possibly doesn’t even like them. Therefore, his care goes as far as it is not a problem for him.

Not surprisingly, the hired hand flees and abandons the sheep.  He doesn’t care for them; he cares for himself. Jesus is conveying an important message to the religious leaders of that time, and our time, if they think they are on the right side of leadership when they are in the business of tending to sheep because of the profits it can generate for them, whether materially or spiritually.[2]

 2 – The loving hand

 A second reflection from the text: Jesus says He is The Good Shepherd.[3]  He is not a hired hand. He is the loving hand. Let’s recap the context: the religious leaders of the time wouldn’t accept Jesus as the Messiah, the Saviour, the Leader of the flock. Here’s what we hear from the context, John 9:20-22, right after Jesus heals a blind man. His parents say:  “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.  Bottom line: if you believe in Him, you will get cancelled.

Now, listen to what Jesus attaches to the Good Shepherd truth: He lays down his life for the sheep.  How many shepherds would give their life for the sheep? What Jesus is implying here is that only one would do. Shepherds look after sheep, but I don’t think they give their life for them, let alone for only one – like Jesus mentions in the parable of the lost sheep. If that poses a life-threatening situation for a regular shepherd, the shepherd will probably be content with the 99 left.

        The Good Shepherd, however, lays down his life for the sheep. Jesus repeats 2 times He is the GS and nothing less than 5 times He lays down His life.  Two things stand out here:

_He was showing the Pharisees and Jewish leaders why He is indeed the Good Shepherd, the promised Messiah, the Saviour.
_He shows the main reason we call him GS. This is not because He gives us a house, or money, or family, or health. The main reason is because He laid down His life for us when we were still sinners. Like no one would or will do; only Him.[4] Jesus was not angling for chairman of the synagogue, the High Priest in the next term or even the powerful King who would deliver Israel in a political way. He is the Good Shepherd, who is willing to, and will, lay down His life for the sheep.

3 – The loving voice

Another highlight of Christ’s speech is the “Voice recognition system” that He says each sheep is provided with.  We are now familiar with speech recognition systems everywhere. They do as you tell them. For example, you can command your phone to fetch a contact and call them. Someone from the family, a friend, your physician; your lawyers. It’ll obey you just by listening to your voice. The problem would be if for any reason it wouldn’t recognize our voice precisely and call up the wrong number. You need a counsel of a friend and it calls your bank manager. You need an urgent doctor’s appointment and it calls the Funeral home. You need to loan some money and it calls your boss’ house. If the speech recognition system doesn’t identify the voice command correctly it may cause you trouble.

The sheep identifies the voice of the GS – and only His. No fake or hired voices allowed. This extends to the Church as we preach and teach and study God’s Word week after week.  “The sheep as they listen to the preaching of the Church, as they listen to Christ’s under shepherds, the pastors, need to pay close attention if they are actually hearing the GS’s voice.” (Martin Luther). If not, they must come up to him and say: “Sorry, but we don’t recognize the voice of the Shepherd in your speech”. Here is the great responsibility of the ministry and of the Church. People need to recognize the voice of their Good Shepherd from the mouth of His under shepherds, from the teaching of the Church.[5]

4 – Love for the Sheep

            I am the Good Shepherd, says Jesus, who lays down His life for the sheep. This is Gospel; comfort; blessing. Where else in the Scripture do we find the verb to be so closely connected to Christ’s comfort, life and hope? Yes, in the Holy Supper. This is My body. The verb to be does not mean symbolize. Bread is the body, wine is the blood. In the same way, Christ surely is the Good Shepherd – not an illustration or a symbol of one. He, who is the GS, is present in the Sacrament for our comfort. Applying to us what His laying down of His life on the Cross has achieved – Forgiveness and new life.

Another aspect of how comforting it is to have a Good Shepherd. When Jesus, who says He is the Promised Messiah. Says he is a Shepherd and a Good one, this figure of speech itself is a slap in the face of the religious leaders. “In  Jesus’ day, “the term “Good Shepherd” would have been heard as a contradiction of terms. In Jesus’ day, shepherds were anything less good. They lived as nomads, grazing their sheep on other people’s land. They didn’t observe the Jewish food laws, they didn’t practice ritual cleansing, and they certainly didn’t attend synagogue on the Sabbath.  And so, for Jesus to identify himself as a shepherd is quite remarkable.”[6] Jesus is willing to identify with those the world despises – sometimes you and me. We know that He is willing to take on a task that the “pure” of our time despise – to welcome those who are “impure” to make them pure by forgiving and loving them.

The Psalm for today, Psalm 23, beautifully illustrates how the GS comforts us. It talks about Belonging to Him.[7] It addresses Care and Comfort[8]Who doesn’t like to receive care and comfort from a loving hand?  It verbalizes Goodness and mercy[9] We are reminded that in Christ we have God’s promises to our hearts.  Life – We still go through death in this life. The wages of sin is death. But the promise of God to all of us today, and always, is LIFE.

What is the impact of this teaching in our Christian life? Well, the Church exists because The Good Shepherd gathers His sheep. We are here because of this love, and to reflect on it. St. John is clear in his first epistle. We are here drawn up by the love of the GS to practice love of the sheep as well. The ones who are already here and the ones mentioned by Jesus, “I have other sheep who are not from this fold”. As a congregation of believers, we are called to love each other, to love our neighbour, to share the love of Christ with many. In many ways, in all possible ways.

Here’s a stewardship application of this text: Remember, the hired hand looks after sheep for the money. When the wolf comes, he will most certainly run away. The Church looks after money(or material belongings) for the sake of the sheep. We come here, we bring our offerings, and talents, and time – our whole life – because of the love of the GS, and the love for the sheep, and because we want it to be shared as far as we can go.[10]

Loving the sheep – is that easy? Not at all, for sure. Hence we see how important it is to be here in the House of the Lord, being fed by Word and Sacraments, and exercising the ability to love the sheep; also, having it present in our daily life. It is really hard. Like that line I read the other day: “Jesus loves you only because he doesn’t have live with you.” That rings somehow true when we realize we human beings are easy to like from a distance, but hard to like from up-close. We need Him. We need to be fortified by Him as we aim to keep acting in love toward one another, and to keep communicating His love to the sheep who are not from this fold, and that are yet to hear the Gospel of Hope. Because to us there’s no doubt whatsoever who the Messiah is, the King, the Leader, the Good Shepherd of our Souls: Jesus, the Christ.

After all, if this is too much information at once to be stored, think of this Bible lesson as broken down in 3 main paragraphs:

1 – Jesus and the Hired Hand
2 – Jesus The Good Shepherd
3 – Jesus and us

Conclusion – When  we read the context, we notice that John 10 is enshrined between chapter 9, where we see the Jews questioning Jesus’ authority, and John 10.31, where they pickup stones to throw at Him. That is, while the words of ch.10 are really comforting, they are also strong, unveiling a very important point about Jesus’ ministry and work. Also, it is worth taking notice here of something that is a constant in our lives: In the midst of turmoil, and difficult times we always have a comforting word from the mouth of our Saviour straight to our hearts. The Good Shepherd never leaves us alone; He walks and fights with and for us. Jesus’ words leave no room for doubt: He has always love for his sheep.


[1] Source referred to: Dr Vilson Scholz’s exegesis of John 10:11-16

[2] Jesus contrasts himself as the Good Shepherd who is willing to lay down his life for the sheep with the hired hand who cares only for personal gain and self-preservation. This analogy highlights Jesus’s sacrificial love and commitment to his followers, contrasting it with the behavior of those who are merely fulfilling a duty or seeking their own interests.

[3] Many Bible translations have “The Good Shepherd” as the title right from the beginning of the chapter, whereas until this verse Jesus is talking only about “The shepherd”. The Good Shepherd is introduced only from v.11 on.

[4] Here we can understand how powerful – and also the pain in the neck – that Jesus’ words used to be to them. Would the so-called leaders of the people be willing to lay down their life for the sheep? For many for them? For several? For only one? Jesus was – and only Him, the Good Shepherd,.

[5] Also, here we see another great responsibility of the Ministry: the under shepherd gathers sheep, he doesn’t scatter them. The one who does this is the hired hand – which does not love them.

[6] It goes along with his willingness to befriend the outcast, touch the leper and eat with tax collectors and sinners. It speaks of Jesus’ humility, to become one of us to redeem us from our sinful nature and give us the grace to become more like him.” (“Good Shepherd and hired hands” – )

[7] We all like to have the sense of belonging; to our family history, to our Church, to a club, to a group of friends that share a common interest. From Psalm 23 we learn that “The Lord is my Shepherd”, which means that by faith we are His sheep. We belong to him

[8] The still waters and green pastures the Shepherd provides us with, how He anoints our head with oil, how He prepares a table with an overflowing cup. He cares about us.

[9] In these rough and complicated times we live in, it is reassuring to hear Psalm 23 promising us that “Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”.

[10] Now, does the laying down of life and the love for the sheep apply to the Church, to the pastors, to the congregation as well? Yes, it does. Whereas we cannot say that John says it here, he does it later (in his today’s epistle.) He connects Christ laying down his life to the congregational life, when if needed one gives the life for the other (we know from History how many times it has happened). That is, the congregation, the Church, is also called to show and to live the love for the sheep. So, we could also say, if someone is attending church, even though enrolled as a member, or outwardly posing as a Christian, or even as a minister, and they don’t love the sheep, they are there for reason other than the Love of the GS and the love for the sheep; whatever their reasons may be, they seem more on the hired hand side.



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