4 Easter Year B                                                                                 4/21/2024

Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18

Rev. Mark A. Lafler


Our readings today from Holy Scripture really bring into focus the word and the vocation of a shepherd.


Jesus uses the imagery a lot during his ministry and… it’s no wonder…


It was a part of his heritage and culture.

Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel, was the keeper of great flocks.

Many years later… Moses was tending the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro, when God called him.

And still many more years… David was a shepherd boy called in from the fields to be the King of Israel.


The imagery of the shepherd was also upon the literature of the day.

The Hebrew poem of Psalm 23 was read today.

It is frequently referred to as the shepherd psalm.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside still waters.



When the prophet Isaiah spoke of the coming of the Messiah he worded it by saying:

He will feed his flock like a shepherd!

He will gather his lambs into his arms. (Isaiah 40:11)

The tradition of the shepherd was very much a part of the heritage of Jesus.


This picture comes more clearly into focus in the New Testament.

During his ministry, Jesus told a story about a shepherd who had 100 sheep, but one of them went astray.

Generally, in our way of thinking, he still had 99…

to go through the effort for the one would be counter-productive…

but that was not the thinking of this shepherd.

He left the 99 to go in search of that one lost sheep.


Later, when Jesus was speaking to a large crowd of people,

The Gospel of Mark tells us that he had compassion upon them because they were “as sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34)


Throughout the Judeo-Christian faith… the image of the shepherd has been stamped upon our thinking.


In our Gospel reading for this morning Jesus again taps into this imagery when he refers to himself as the Good Shepherd.


Let’s take a look this morning and examine what he had in mind when he described himself as the Good Shepherd.


First, we have a shepherd that is a genuine shepherd.

In our Gospel, Jesus compares the real… genuine shepherd with hired help.

The real shepherd owns the sheep.

The hired help does not own the sheep.

The real shepherd sees the wolf coming and protects the sheep.

The hired help also sees the wolf… but runs away.

What Christ is saying here is that he cares for his sheep.

No matter what you are going through… Jesus cares for you.

He is the real thing…

He is the messiah…

The Good Shepherd.


Second, the Good Shepherd knows his sheep.

Jesus said: I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.

Jesus knows who his sheep are… his followers… his people.

He not only cares for them… but he knows them.

He knows their needs… He is the Good Shepherd.

And His sheep know him.

If you know Jesus…

If you have received Christ into your life…

You are a child of God…

A sheep of his fold.


Third, the Good Shepherd also includes other sheep.

Jesus said: I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. 

So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Jesus not only has sheep in his own fold…

but the Good Shepherd has sheep that are outside the fold.

These outside sheep are going to be brought in…

they are being called.

They will hear the Good Shepherd’s voice and listen.


You see Christ doesn’t have people here and people there…

he is not trying to build all these separate factions of people…

arguing with each other.

God throughout the scriptures is about building a people for his name.

One people group… a people of God.

The children of God.

One people.  One flock.

Who live according to the will of The Good Shepherd.

Jesus said: So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Not all sorts of shepherds…

Some kind of… all roads lead to one… kind-of-thing.

But one flock under one shepherd.

The people of God under the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ.


So, there are four take-a-ways from our Gospel reading.

First, Jesus is the genuine shepherd.

Second, Jesus knows his sheep.

Third, Jesus is calling sheep from outside the fold.

And finally, …


Fourth, the shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.

This little phrase lay down my life is repeated five times in this little section of scripture.



Jesus is clear that the main point is the laying down of his life…

for the sake of the sheep.

This laying down his life is his death.

The cross.


Jesus gave his own life up so that those in his fold will be saved from their sins.

Jesus gave his own life up so those that are outside of his fold will hear his voice and follow him… and be saved from their sins.


Jesus gave up his life on the cross for us…

For the life of the world…

For the life of his people.


And when we come to him…

Humbling ourselves…

Asking the Good Shepherd to forgive us our sins…

We are changed by that goodness… that kindness…

by this act of grace…

This laying down of his life on the cross.

We are transformed by the power of His Spirit.

As we become like him… in the laying down of our own lives.

And in this way… as Jesus laid down his life for his sheep…

So, we too are to follow.

To be a disciple of Jesus… is to become like Jesus.


His disciple John, who wrote a letter to the early churches…

(It was our second reading today).

He picks up on this.

He wrote:

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.


Or as it is written in The Message paraphrase:

This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves.


As Christians… as the people of God… we are to live primarily for the people around us… for the life of the world.





We are not to dominate people or take advantage of people.

We are not to use people or alienate people.

We are to love people regardless of their race…

regardless of their ethnicity…

regardless of their sins…

regardless of their differences with us.


The late Dutch Catholic Priest, Henri Nouwen wrote:

For Jesus, there are no countries to be conquered, no ideologies to be imposed, no people to be dominated. There are only children, women and men to be loved.


Our calling… as followers of Jesus… is to love one another.

As St. John wrote:

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.


We have a Good Shepherd.

We follow a Good Shepherd.

Let us live in the same manner Christ has taught us.

Not for ourselves…

But laying down our lives… for others.