Trust the Easter Gifts of the Good Shepherd

May 8, 2022

Pastor John Hering

Revelation 7:9-17

Revelation 7:9-17

After these things I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing in front of the throne and of the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and with palm branches in their hands. 10 They called out with a loud voice and said: Salvation comes from our God, who sits on the throne, and from the Lamb.

11 All the angels stood around the throne, the elders, and the four living creatures. They fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, 12 saying: Amen. Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and might belong to our God forever and ever. Amen.

13 One of the elders spoke to me and said, “These people dressed in white robes, who are they and where did they come from?”

And I answered him, “Sir, you know.”

14 And he said to me: These are the ones who are coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15Because of this they are in front of the throne of God, and they serve him day and night in his temple. He who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. 16 They will never be hungry or thirsty ever again. The sun will never beat upon them, nor will any scorching heat, 17for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd. He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

There are days in our life when we get that sinking down feeling.  When that happens our thoughts may turn to the reasons why we are feeling this way.   There are major causes that cause mental problems for people.  It might be childhood abuse, trauma, neglect, social loneliness, discrimination, debt, the death of a loved one, poor health, unemployment, drug or alcohol abuse, bullying, military combat, or even the victim of violent crimes.  There are also minor causes of mental problems for people that include work, diet, lack of sleep, or just trying to balance the schedule.  When you are having those days with the feeling of sinking down, it would be a good day to remember Good Shepherd Sunday.  Here’s why.

The Good Shepherd brings us Easter Gifts.  It might be strange to hear me ask you, “What do you want for Easter?”  But, what we want and what we need from Easter might be quite different.  It might also sound strange to you that I’m asking you what you want for Easter, because Easter was 4 weeks ago.  But, remember, while most consider Easter to be a day, it is really a season.  After today, we have three more Sundays in the Easter season.  And while we may not give each other gifts for Easter, God has given Easter gifts to us.  These Easter gifts are God’s solution for the days when we feel like we’re sinking down.  Yes, today

Trust the Easter Gifts of the Good Shepherd

Because the Shepherd is Our Lamb

If I gave you a piece of paper and asked you to write down what you wanted I would think it wouldn’t take you but a second to start writing down stuff.  You might write down things like clothes, a good night’s sleep, warmer temperatures, and a balanced bank account?   But, what would you write down if I asked you what you needed?  This is what Google says you need:  

  1. Speed and Convenience with friendly and personal interaction!   
  2. Things Done For You.  Because while we know things need to get done, people today don’t want to do it themselves or they don’t know how. 
  3. An Awesome Experience – and the status (of all the waiting lists, do you know the one the richest people have signed up for?  To travel in space when it becomes fully commercialized!  They like to have done something others haven’t and even brag about it. 
  4. Access!  Why do you think people pay big bucks to attend a politician’s fund-raising dinner or people purchase backstage tickets?   This is a biggie in today’s communication world, to cut through all the undependable avenues and get the information straight from the horses’ mouth.  

But, Google never mentioned what all people need the most — BLOOD!

This is not blood for a transfusion, but blood to cleanse.  This is because the curse of sin can only be cleansed by the life-blood being poured out or shed for you on the cross.   So, here’s the problem.  Ask someone what they need and rarely will you ever get this answer:  All I need is blood!  In fact, I gave you the chance to give that answer just a few moments ago and I would rather doubt that any of you wrote down “blood” as one of your needs.  Why do you suppose this is?  Because the only people who need blood are the ones having operations.  Do you recognize how easily it is to be tempted to forget how desperately we need the blood of Jesus shed for us on the cross?  I would argue it has happened right here.  When we moved into this church building and the offense of Jesus on the cross filled the hearts and minds of people it led to discussions and Bible study.  But, today, how many of us walked into church and hardly gave it a second thought that we have such a sight right in front of us?  There is pictured for us the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  Yes, it would do us good to remember that the Good Shepherd is Our Lamb.  For It is the blood of the Lamb of God that is God’s Easter Gift to You!

You know the times when this proclamation from Jesus is so important for you.  There are so many times when our lives reflect the words of Psalm 88.  As you listen to these words ask yourself if the psalmist is reflecting on his thoughts based on fact or his emotions based on feelings:

14 Why, Lord, do you reject my soul?  Why do you hide your face from me? 15 I have been afflicted and I have been close to death since my youth.  I have endured your terrors. I am in despair.  16 Your rage has swept over me.  Your terrors have destroyed me. 17 All day long they surround me like water. They have battered me completely. 18 You have distanced my loved one and friend from me. My only friend is darkness.”  

Psalm 88:14-18

When you think about a person who is mentally healthy, you think of a person who is listening to the truth and dealing with facts.  When people become mentally unhealthy it is often because they are listening to fear, hopelessness, pain and come from emotions.  Then add to our mental state our daily sins against God of greed, hate, lust and stubbornness to neighbors, friends and family.  With a world filled with people like this, with people just like you and me, what would you expect to see around the Throne of God in heaven? Certainly not this!

After these things I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing in front of the throne and of the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and with palm branches in their hands. 10 They called out with a loud voice and said:  Salvation comes from our God, who sits on the throne, and from the Lamb.” 

Revelation 7:9-10

These people are before the throne of God because the Good Shepherd is Our Lamb.  Jesus took our place on the cross and paid for the sins of the whole world.  Trust in the Easter Gifts from our Good Shepherd who is our Lamb!  We trust in those Easter promises because we know what the elder knew who talked to John in this vision in Revelation. 

13 One of the elders spoke to me and said, “These people dressed in white robes, who are they and where did they come from?”  And I answered him, “Sir, you know.”  14 And he said to me:  These are the ones who are coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Because of this they are in front of the throne of God, and they serve him day and night in his temple. He who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.”

Revelation 7:13-15

Our salvation rests secure in Jesus, too. Jesus is the Lamb who supplies the sacrificial blood of perfection and power in order to redeem us from the curse of sin, the power of death and the attacks of the devil. Meanwhile, we are living in a world surrounded by temptations, with Satan and his demons working to destroy our faith.  That’s why we Trust the Easter Gifts from the Good shepherd who is our Lamb.  And

Because the Lamb is Our Shepherd.

It was at the end of Jesus’ ministry when he spoke the following words to the crowds.  So Jesus said again, “Amen, Amen, I tell you: I am the door for the sheep.  11 “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:7, 11). These crowds had already heard Jesus say that they were children of the devil (John 8) who did not listen to God because they were not children of God.  How is Jesus both the door/gate and the Good Shepherd?  Well, next year if you go with me, God willing, on our holy land tour we could ask this question of the shepherds near Bethlehem.  They will tell us that the shepherds would build little pens with rocks and sharp sticks to ward off attacks by wild animals.  And then leave a little opening through which the sheep could enter and be safe for the night.  Then the shepherd would lie down in that entrance in order to be the door for the sheep.

Does this picture help you to realize why it is so important for Jesus to be our Good Shepherd?  If we are going to live with a calm life and “Be Still My Soul” we need the Good Shepherd.  Don’t be fooled by the American way.  You know, the “Do it yourself; pull yourself up by your bootstraps, tackle any problem,” kind of people.  But, what happens when we realize we can’t go it alone?  That we don’t know it all?  That we need a caring, guiding Shepherd for our lives? What happens is that what we want next falls in line with what we need next.  First, we need the blood of the Lamb to have life forever.  Next, we need a guide & protection to cope with life now. And where do we get our guidance?  From the Good Shepherd.  This is our extra-ordinary Good Shepherd who said, “I lay down my life only to take it up again.” (John 10:17).  God’s Great Easter Gift is that our Shepherd did not stay dead but came back to life to be our loving, living Shepherd!  Listen to how the Lord Jesus reveals this picture to St. John in Revelation:

15 Because of this they are in front of the throne of God, and they serve him day and night in his temple. He who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. 16 They will never be hungry or thirsty ever again. The sun will never beat upon them, nor will any scorching heat, 17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd. He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” 

Revelation 7:15-17

I love this dream, because God can make anything happen in a dream.  Jesus here is both our Lamb and our Shepherd.  He is both the gate (the Way the Truth and the Life) and he is the goal of going through the gate—to be with Jesus in heaven forever!   These are the wonderful Easter Gifts in which we place our Trust from the Shepherd who is the Lamb and the Lamb who is the Good Shepherd.

So, what sort of things do you want in life?  What do you need?  What we all need are the Easter Gifts from the Good Shepherd.  These are the gifts that pick us up when we have that sinking down feeling.  When we have those difficult days of trauma, neglect, loneliness, debt, death of a loved one, poor health bullying or military PTSD.  When these days come we need to have our thoughts founded on the Gifts of Easter—Jesus is the Good Shepherd who is Our Lamb, and the Lamb who is our Good Shepherd.  Focus on the facts and truth of Jesus, not the pain, loss, lies and emotions of life.  Trust in the Easter Gifts you have in Jesus—the Lamb and Good Shepherd.  Amen.

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