The Second Sunday after Easter                   Holy Communion         05 May 2019 A.D

The Second Sunday after Easter                   Holy Communion         05 May 2019 A.D.

                    The Epistle: I Peter 2:19-25                      The Gospel: John 10:11-16

                                       Almighty God, who hast given thine only Son to be
                                       unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an ensample
                                       of godly life; Give us grace that we may always most
                                       thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit, and also
                                       daily endeavor ourselves to follow the blessed steps of
                                       his most holy life; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ
                                        our Lord.                                                       Amen. 

                                                         “Keeping Sheep”

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.         ~Isaiah 53:6 

    A number of years after Jesus earthly ministry, Peter will pen several letters. In them he will reflect on what it meant to be a follower of Christ Jesus.  He will use his own life story as an object lesson to doing what is right, especially when it pertains to living for the Lord.

Remember right after Jesus was arrested, the disciples ran away. Yes Peter did follow Jesus into the area where he would later be tried, but before the first rooster crows, Peter will have denied Christ, three times as Christ predicted Peter would. Peter will also run away.   So now after Jesus has come back from the dead, having conquered Death, he will give his final lessons of his earthly ministry to his disciples.  He will gather his followers around and calm them, giving them the Peace that passes understanding. He will teach them and prepare them for the coming fury of Satan.  Satan knows that he is defeated, but he will not go down without trying to take others with him.  He will do his best for the next several millennium to destroy what Christ left behind here on earth, continuing to this day, spreading chaos and hopelessness to all who deny Christ. 
Notice how Peter in his first letter makes reference to at least three Old Testament passages. “Who did not sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” {Isa.53:9}.
Then another O.T. reference. “ whose stripes ye were healed.” {Isa.53:5} . And finally the passage from Isaiah 53:6. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
The whole 53rd chapter of Isaiah is the plan of salvation. We can read that and understand that we do not seek God, He seeks us. We run the other way or as verse six reads ‘turn to our own way’. 
Why do we do this ?  Because as David wrote, we are born into sin. So we must ask Jesus to cleanse us and make us clean. We must ask Jesus to save us from our sins, we must ask Jesus to come into our life and make us free. Only he can. His death on the Cross has made our salvation possible.  Seek Jesus today if you doubt that you are saved. Ask him to come into your heart to heal you of this sin that caused him to go to the cross instead of you.
Let us now look at our Gospel reading.
 We see that Jesus is telling his to be wary of those leaders of the church who will not protect the church.
 The illustration of the Good Shepherd and the Wolf is not a cautionary tale. It is the Truth of which Jesus tells, a time coming when those who have been charged with protecting the flock {church} will run. When there is any controversy, those who are supposed to protect will flee.
Let’s read this and see what Jesus is saying to the Jewish-Christians and later to the Gentile-Christians.
11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

 In this passage from the tenth chapter of St. John we learn that the man, the one who tries to enter the area where the sheep are safe, is a thief and a robber.  One who wants to deny and take away that which Christ has given us, our salvation.  This is all part of the fight that Satan is engaged in.  Because this parable was spoken several weeks before Jesus went to Jerusalem for the last time, many did not understand what he meant by passages such as “ I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  His followers can now understand what he meant.  Look at the verses 17 and 18.  “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”   Interesting note as we study this passage of John’s gospel,
we even see a prophecy that pertains to non Hebrew believers.  Notice what Jesus says in verse 16.  “ I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”  
 Jesus is referring to non Hebrew believers here.   
This is where the Great Commission comes into play. “Go ye therefore into the world making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit.. and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, and surely I will be with you always to the very end of the age.”

It is now clear what he meant, now that the disciples are talking to Jesus, after his resurrection.
 During the forty days that Jesus lingers on earth after Easter, there will be some four to five hundred witness who knew him before his death on the cross, they now attest to his being alive.  This will be so convincing that these people will be willing to give up their own lives when they are confronted and forced to choose between Christ and other choices.  The Hebrew authorities will try to force these early believers to abandon the faith they now have, they will be threatened with death, shame, being cast out of the synagogue and all manner of trouble.  But they will not give up their belief in the Risen Savior.  This willingness to give up their life rather than convert will actually cause the Church to grow over the early years of persecution.  Many a pagan will come to the Lord after witnessing believers willingly giving up their lives for this Risen Savior.   Death in the pagan world was to be feared and all omens or signs that pointed to death were to be avoided. 

 Even the Hebrew people wrote and spoke angrily about death.  David wrote many a time about being dead and not being remembered. He does not like the idea of death.  So when these new believers came along and did not fear death, it will cause people to take notice.  “ Surely there must be something about these people that causes them to willingly go to their deaths.”
We must learn from those who have gone before us.  We must read, digest, and use the Word of God, the Bible.  We must follow Jesus, because He is the good shepherd, he will not lead us astray, he will not fail us.  Let us follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.
Let us pray:

 O ALMIGHTY God, look mercifully upon the world which thou hast redeemed by the blood of thy dear Son, and incline the hearts of many to dedicate themselves to the sacred ministry of thy Church; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.                        Amen.

ALMIGHTY God, we beseech thee, with thy gracious favour, to behold our universities, colleges, and schools, that knowledge may be increased among us, and all good learning flourish and abound; bless all who teach and all who learn; and grant that in humility of heart they may ever look unto thee, who art the fountain of all wisdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord: And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be amongst you , and remain with you always.   Amen