Divine Service ~ April 15, 2018 ~ The Third Sunday of Easter (Misericordia Domini)
The Good Shepherd Cares for His Sheep
Our Lord Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11–16). He is not like the hireling, who cares nothing for the sheep and only for himself, who flees when he sees the wolf coming. Rather, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who seeks out His scattered sheep to deliver them (Ezek. 34:11–16). He gathers them and feeds them in rich pasture. He binds up the broken and strengthens the sick. He lays down His life for wandering and wayward sheep. On the cross, Christ bore in His body the attacks of the predators of sin and death and the devil for you that you might be saved. He now lives to restore your soul in the still waters of baptism, to lead you in the paths of righteousness by the voice of His Gospel, to prepare the table of His holy supper before you, that you may dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23). “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).
Misericordia Domini means “the goodness of the Lord.” These are words that end the Historic Introit (meaning, “entrance;” a Psalm or verse sung as the pastor entered the church) for the day, Psalm 33:5. In Latin, verse 5 ends “misericordia Domini plena est terra”—“the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” Psalm 33 proclaims the joy and awe of the Christian at the miraculous grandeur of the creative and redemptive acts of Our Lord. Misericordia Domini is frequently called “Good Shepherd Sunday” because the Gospel reading is John 10:11-16, where our Lord identifies Himself as our Good Shepherd. St. Gregory the Great once said, ““The Good Shepherd has laid down his life for his sheep in order to change his body and blood into a sacrament for us, and to satisfy the sheep he had redeemed with his own body as food.” Christ as our Shepherd is also the theme of the Old Testament (Ezekiel 34.11 -16) and the Epistle (1 Peter 2.21-25).
The paradox of Christ is that he is both Lamb and Shepherd. He saves his flock, by shedding his blood as the Lamb sacrificed for sin. This is the Good Shepherd we needed: God in the flesh, sacrificed for our atonement. But now, washed in his blood, the white robed host is led by the Shepherd-Lamb to the springs of living water and a life where everything that once was wrong is made right forever.