Sermon series: Foundations of Our Faith
Sometimes we can become so focused on the suffering of Jesus on the cross that we fail to see the intended outcome. The suffering of Christ led to redemption of mankind. The redeemed of Christ will reign with Him forever. This total picture gives us hope and courage.
Easter is about life that died to live again. It's about victory succumbing to defeat only to be victorious again. It's about a God who left heaven to live on earth to return to heaven again. It's about the Shepherd who became a Lamb who became a Shepherd again. Sound confusing? Let me see if I can make some sense out of it for you.
I. The Shepherd who rescues
Perhaps one of the strongest images in Scripture is that of God as a shepherd.
David, a shepherd, penned these references from the Psalms.
"The Lord is my shepherd" (Ps. 23:1).
"Then we, Your people, the sheep of Your pasture, will thank You forever" (Ps. 79:13).
"Listen, Shepherd of Israel, who leads Joseph like a flock" (Ps. 80:1).
"For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the sheep under his care" (Ps. 95:7).
One day as David was watching his sheep the idea came to him that God was like a shepherd. No flock ever grazed without a shepherd, and no shepherd was ever off duty. There were no fences or walls, so the shepherd had to remain ever watchful for straying sheep. The shepherd's presence was the sheep's assurance. When sheep wandered, the shepherd found them. When they fell, he carried them. When they were hurt, he healed them.
A. We humans are like sheep
Sheep are dumb. They need someone to guide them to the quiet waters to drink and to the pastures for their food. They need someone to guard and protect them when threatened and attacked. Ancient shepherds knew their sheep by name. And the sheep knew their shepherd's voice. Even if two shepherds called their flocks at the same time and the sheep were intermingled, they never followed the wrong one.
We aren't very smart sometimes. We do stupid things. We tend to be helpless. We are prone to attack from the evil lion that prowls around to devour us. We, too, get lost.
B. We need a shepherd
We need someone who knows the grief, pain, and loneliness that overwhelm us. We need someone who does not drive us, but gently leads us. We need someone who does not look down on us when we get lost, but looks for us instead. We need someone who hears our bleating cries and saves us. We need someone who does not scold us when we lag behind, but gathers us up in his arms and carries us next to his heart.
II. The Lamb who redeems
The Shepherd became a Lamb. Religion would say that a lamb should give up its life for the shepherd. The shepherd would bring his lamb to the sanctuary, lean with all his weight on the lamb's head, and confess his sin. The lamb would be slain and its blood would flow out - a life for a life.
A. Jesus is the Lamb
"Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). Jesus, the Good Shepherd, became a Lamb, sacrificing his life for our sin. The prophet Isaiah provided more detail:
(Read Isa. 53:4-7)
B. Jesus gives His life
Here's where the image changes and the story turns. Life dies. Victory is defeated. God is crucified. The Savior hangs on a cross. The Shepherd becomes a sacrificial Lamb. The word for "the lamb" means "a little pet lamb," the kind you wouldn't want to see slain for any reason. Jesus, like a little pet animal, spotless and pure, takes our place on the cross. His blood is spilled out for the forgiveness of our sin.
III. The Shepherd who reigns
Jesus did not stay on the cross. God died, but He rose again. The devil did not have the final say. Loss was thwarted. Victory reigned. The Lamb that was slain became the Shepherd again. That's the message of Easter. That's the hope of the world.
A. The Shepherd will make us holy
The apostle John in his Revelation speaks of this image change. John views a wonderful scene in chapter 7. The saints in heaven are basking in the presence of the Savior. This picture assures us of His presence here and now. He's a Shepherd who reigns for all eternity, and His flock will reign with him. John says that his flock "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev. 7:14). They will be "before the throne of God, and they serve Him day and night in His sanctuary . . . no longer will they hunger; no longer will they thirst; no longer will the sun strike them, or any heat" (Rev. 7:15-16). Notice the image change. "Because the Lamb who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them; He will guide them to springs of living waters, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Rev. 7:17 HCSB).
B. The Shepherd will lead us home
We will be in the eternal green pastures, beside the living waters. We will be home. We will not be hungry or thirsty. We will not experience hurt or pain. All of our suffering and tears will be wiped away. On the other side in the great tomorrow, there will be no more sorrow, no more disappointment, no more losses, no more funerals, no more scars, no more guilt, no more cancer, no more failure, no more sadness, no more hatred, no more violence.
If Easter teaches us anything it teaches us to wait. On Friday Jesus hung on the cross. By all outward signs, it looked at if Satan had won. The Lamb had been slain. Easter reminds us that it may be Friday, but Sunday is coming. The Lamb that died would rise to live again as "the shepherd and guardian of your souls" (1 Pe. 2:25). In our present world, we will experience disappointment and discouragement, but hold on. Just wait. Today we may shed tears of defeat, but tomorrow we will shout the songs of victory. And it's because a Shepherd became a Lamb and became a Shepherd again.
He Took My Place: It was February 1941, in Auschwitz, Poland. Maxmillan Kolba was a Franciscan priest put in the infamous death camp for helping Jews escape Nazi terrorism. Months went by, and in desperation an escape took place. The camp rule was enforced. Ten people would be rounded up randomly and herded into a cell where they would die of starvation and exposure as a lesson against future escape attempts. Names were called.
A Polish Jew, Frandishek Gasovnachek, was called. He cried, "Wait, I have a wife and children!"
Kolba stepped forward and said, "I will take his place." Kolba was marched into the cell with nine others where he managed to live until August 14.
This story was chronicled on an NBC news special several years ago. Gasovnachek, by this time 82, was shown telling this story while tears streamed down his cheeks. A mobile camera followed him around his little white house to a marble monument carefully tended with flowers. The inscription read: IN MEMORY OF MAXIMILLAN KOLBA. HE DIED IN MY PLACE.
Every day Gasovnachek lived after 1941, he lived with the knowledge, "I live because someone died for me." Every year on August 14 he traveled to Auschwitz in memory of Kolba.
Thank You for Tomorrow: He was just a little fellow when his mother died. His father, in trying to be both mom and dad, had planned a picnic. The boy had never been on a picnic, so they made their plans, fixed the lunch, and packed the car for the picnic the next day.
When the boy went to bed he couldn't go to sleep. He tossed and turned, but his excitement got the best of him. Finally, he got out of bed, ran into the room where his father had already fallen asleep, and shook him.
His dad woke up. "What are you doing up? What's the matter?"
"I can't sleep," the boy explained.
"Why can't you sleep?"
"Daddy, I'm excited about tomorrow."
His father replied, "Well, son, I'm sure you are, and it's going to be a great day. But it won't be great if we don't get some sleep. So why don't you just run down the hall, get back in bed, and get a good night's rest."
The boy trudged off down the hall to his room and got into bed. Before long, sleep came - to the father, that is. It wasn't long thereafter that the little boy was back, pushing and shoving his father. Before his father opened his eyes, harsh words almost blurted out of his mouth, until he saw the expression on his son's face.
"What's the matter now, son?"
"Dad, I just wanted to thank you for tomorrow."