14 June 2008

The Compassion of the Good Shepherd

Jesus comes to you with divine compassion. It is that which moves Him toward you, to help you, to heal you, to give you life. It is by His Word that He does so, especially by the preaching of His Gospel.

Without that preaching, you are lost and helpless, troubled and tossed about, a sheep with no shepherd: prey to every predator that comes along seeking to destroy you.

It’s true. You need the preaching of the Gospel above all else, irrespective of your health or wealth or position.

Your Father in heaven can and will take care of your temporal bodily needs: a place to live, clothes to wear and food to eat. The fact that you worry and fret, and work and agonize about those earthly concerns, as though you need to (or even could) provide them for yourself, goes to show the deeper disease of your heart and soul, the leprosy of your sin, the death and damnation of your unbelief.

What you really need, if you are to live; if you are to be a child of God; if you are to have a home forever in His Kingdom; if you are not to be found naked and ashamed, but clothed and righteous and holy — what you need is the preaching of the Gospel

Thus, with divine compassion, Jesus calls and sends some of His disciples to be Ministers of His Gospel. He sends them with His own authority, in His Name, to speak as He speaks and to do as He does.

Those men whom Jesus sends preach and teach and cast out demons, and heal diseases, and raise the dead — not outwardly for a limited time, but inwardly and forever, for both body and soul.

The authority with which they are sent is the authority of the Gospel — of the Cross and Resurrection — the authority of the forgiveness of sins. Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation. Without forgiveness, there is death.

In and with the preaching of this Gospel, the forgiveness of sins, the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. Here it is for you, here and now: heaven on earth. It is freely given to be freely received in faith. Freely by faith is the only way worthily to receive it (that person is truly worthy who believes these words).

Those who receive this preaching of the Gospel in faith, receive the blessing of divine Peace, such as the world can never give and you could never have apart from the Cross of Christ.

This preaching of the Gospel is your best and only hope. Without it, you die. To reject it is more dangerous and damnable than the perverse wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah.

When the called and ordained servant of the Word comes to you and speaks to you in the Name and stead of Christ Jesus, by His divine command and with His divine authority, you are presented with the most decisive choice you could ever be given. Not just a matter of life and death, but of heaven or hell.

When a preacher of the Gospel is rejected, and his preaching of the Word of Christ is refused, it is Christ Himself, and God the Father and the Holy Spirit and the Kingdom of heaven that are rejected and refused.

When the preacher of the Gospel is driven out and thus shakes the dust of that place off his feet, it is entered as evidence against that place in the judgment. What such a place deserves is fire and brimstone forever.

Yet, what the preacher of the Gospel suffers for the sake of Christ is itself a confession, a witness, a proclamation of the Gospel of the Cross.

If you have been a sheep without a shepherd, the shepherds who are sent to you are sent as sheep in the midst of wolves; even as the great Good Shepherd who sends them becomes a Sheep led to the slaughter, the Passover Lamb of God, sacrificed for the atonement of the world.

He is handed over to be scourged. He is hauled before governors and kings. He is mocked and scorned and put to death upon the Cross. And this, His Cross and Passion, is the testimony of the Gospel — even to the ends of the earth. That the lost sheep of every tongue and tribe and nation may be restored to the true House of Israel, which is the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the very Kingdom of heaven.

It is to this that the compassion of Christ, the Son of God, moves Him — for you, and for all. For those who reject or receive Him, He does it. That one and all may be redeemed and justified and reconciled and sanctified, not by gold or silver, but through His own blood (the same blood that is poured out for you, for the forgiveness of sins, in the Holy Communion).

So long as it is day, until that night comes when no man can work — until that great and terrible day of judgment comes — the Good Shepherd continues to come, preaching and sending His shepherds to preach. To give freely what cannot be bought. To speak and bestow His blessing of Peace and rest. To announce, and by announcing to bring, the Kingdom of heaven into your midst.

This Gospel is true, whether you believe it or not; whether you receive it or reject it. It is true, either way, without any contingencies. But the Lord would have you receive it in faith. It is for you. Because He has compassion for you.

There will come a day of reckoning, for you as surely as for Sodom and Gomorrah. Hasten, therefore, to be found in Christ Jesus and to be at peace with God in Him. Hear and heed His Word of the Gospel while it is spoken to you. Receive it worthily, and do not despise it, lest it be taken from you. Behold, now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation.

Dear little lambs and sheep, do not despair. Your Shepherd sees you, and He loves you; He does not leave you distressed and dispirited. Here He is at hand to shelter you with His Cross and to nourish you with His own flesh and blood. He has not cast you away nor taken His Spirit from you, but by His grace He counts you worthy to receive His Peace. All of your sins are forgiven.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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