Worship Helps for Easter 4

The Peace of the Risen Christ

Fear is often an unwelcome visitor in our lives. Whether it is being afraid of the cancer that is robbing us of years with our loved ones, or it is being afraid of the unseen predators who may stalk our children when they are playing in the front yard, or it is being afraid of the bank repossessing our house – fear corrodes our confidence in God’s authority over our lives.

Fear sucks the life out the soul.

Fear paralyzes us in place.

Fear causes us to cower in fear.

The disciples were afraid. They had seen Jesus arrested in Gethsemane. They had heard about the kangaroo court Jesus was subjected to endure. They had listened to John’s recounting of Jesus’ death on Golgotha’s hill.

Now the disciples thought the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman soldiers might be coming for them. So they hid themselves behind a locked door on Easter evening.

Just then Jesus appears among them. The first thing He says is, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19).

Peace is the opposite of fear.

Peace is the absence of fear.

Peace is the replacement for fear.

At Epiphany Lutheran Church we have two new Easter paintings. They were created to appear like the stained glass windows we have throughout our church. I discussed the first painting last week. The second painting portrays the peace of the risen Jesus.

The sealed tomb could not keep the dead Jesus within its walls. The locked door could not keep the risen Jesus out of the room.

Before the disciples were afraid because Jesus was dead. Now they were afraid because Jesus was alive! St. Luke reports that Jesus said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?” In order to calm their fears and provide certainty for whom He was, Jesus then showed them His hands and feet. He appealed to them to touch the wounds that proved the authenticity of His Person and reality of His crucifixion and resurrection. (If you look closely, you can even see a hint of light coming through the wound on Jesus' right hand.)

There is a plate of fish in the painting because, though they somewhat believed, they were still bewildered and confused. In order to confirm that He wasn’t a ghost, Jesus asked them for a fish to eat.

In order to drive the fear far them their hearts and fill them with peace, Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). The breath of Jesus and the wind of the Holy Spirit are represented by the wafting wisp of smoke from the lamp near Jesus’ right hand.

The image of the resurrected Christ with His beloved disciples on Easter evening is a firm statement that they could now relax … and so can we.

Fear may fill our world, but it doesn’t have to fill our hearts! Hysteria is not from God! Panic is a tool of the devil! That’s why St. Peter, who saw the risen Christ that Easter evening wrote decades later: “Cast all your anxiety on [Christ] because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Of course, Peter’s plan doesn’t make any sense at all if the crucified and buried Jesus had stayed buried. A dead Messiah is no Messiah.

But a risen Christ invites us to cast all our anxieties on Him!

A risen Christ has conquered death!

A risen Christ has crushed sin!

A risen Christ has defeated the devil!

And that all means that a risen Christ can easily handle our fears, too!

Worship Theme: Good Shepherd Sunday. The image of shepherd and sheep are certainly familiar to modern Christians, but do those concepts resonate as deeply for us as they did for the people of God 2000 years ago?  “In such a landscape as Judea, where a day’s pasture is thinly scattered over an unfenced tract of country, covered with delusive paths, frequented by wild beasts, and rolling off into the desert, the shepherd and his character are indispensable.  On some high moor, across which at night the hyenas howl, when you meet him, sleepless, farsighted, weather-beaten, armed, leaning on his staff, and looking out over his scattered sheep, every one of them on his heart, you understand why the shepherd of Judea sprang to the front in his people’s history; why they gave his name to their kings; why Christ took him as the type of self-sacrifice.” (George Smith) On Good Shepherd Sunday we see how sharp the contrast is between true shepherds and false shepherds. All is determined by their relationship to Christ, the only gate for the sheep.

Old Testament: 1 Samuel 17:34-37 But David said to Saul, "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." Saul said to David, "Go, and the LORD be with you."

1. How does the shepherd David remind you of your Good Shepherd?

Epistle: Hebrews 13:20-21 May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

2. What makes Jesus uniquely capable to be the one gate for the sheep? What is the result of us grasping the Easter miracle?

Gospel: John 10:1-10 "I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. 7 Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

3. What is the relationship of the shepherd to his sheep?

4. What does Jesus mean by likening himself to a gate for the sheep?

1. Long before he was the royal shepherd of the kingdom of Israel, David shepherded his father’s flock in the wild country. He let no danger stop him from caring for his sheep. No law required a shepherd to fight lion and bear for the sake of the sheep. In fact, David’s words here and Christ’s in John 10 are all the more striking because Rabbinic law made it clear that a shepherd was not called upon to expose his own life for the safety of his flock. David, a good shepherd, knew what he spoke of when he extoled the comfort of the Shepherd’s rod and staff in Psalm 23. See his words fulfilled in great David’s greater Son!

2. Only one gate leads to life eternal, because only Christ provided the blood of the eternal covenant. As we sheep stand looking back at the Easter miracle, we are empowered and equipped to follow our Shepherd wherever he may lead.

3. Because of the hours of tender care, the shepherd would know each of his sheep by name.  The shepherd knows the distinct personality of each.  The sheep, on the other hand, would recognize the shepherd's voice as he calls them by name. The sheep follow because they know the voice of the shepherd while wary of the strangers'.

4. Jesus himself is the gate through which the shepherds must enter to get to their sheep.  He is the one through whom the sheep must go in order to find good pasture.  All who are truly shepherds (pastors, teachers and staff ministers) are those who believe in him as their Savior and guide their sheep only by means of his Word.

In the three-year cycle of readings, Good Shepherd Sunday draws its Gospel lessons from successive readings of John 10. In this lesson, Christ only infers that he is the Good Shepherd. Rather, the great “I am” statement that sets the direction for this Sunday is “I am the gate for the sheep.” The preceding context of this lesson is crucial. After Jesus healed the man born blind, the Pharisees interrogated the man and his family about the healing. The Pharisees had already rejected Jesus as the Christ and were expelling from the synagogue anyone who confessed Christ. After throwing the man out of the synagogue, they verbally accost Jesus. This lesson is his answer to them. Jesus’ “I am” statements highlight the exclusivity of the Christian message. Christ is Savior, and there is no other! Jesus is the only gate for the sheep, and there is no other! When a man approaches the sheep, one only needs to see how he enters the pen. Does he use the gate, i.e., does he confess Christ as Savior? True shepherds use the gate, preach Christ, and love the sheep. False shepherds refuse the gate, reject Christ, and destroy the flock.

Putting your faith into action
Are we able to put a price on the life Jesus has enabled us to have by way of his death and resurrection? He has given us such a life with one of the outcomes being we want to share this life with others. There are many entities, some using the name of Jesus, trying to get into our wallet. It is easy to understand how people like us can become wary of the money talk that takes place inside and outside of the church. A way to help us be faithful and wise managers of our God-given resources is to make sure what we are supporting is going to promote the gospel in its truth and purity. Continue to listen for the voice of our Savior as he speaks to us through the Scriptures. Continue to support efforts to have his voice in the ears of many.

A reading from the Book of Concord for the Fourth Sunday of Easter
46] Secondly, as to the execution of the office of Christ, the person does not act and work in, with, through, or according to only one nature, but in, according to, with, and through both natures, or, as the Council of Chalcedon expresses it, one nature operates in communion with the other what is a property of each. 47] Therefore Christ is our Mediator, Redeemer, King, High Priest, Head, Shepherd, etc., not according to one nature only, whether it be the divine or the human, but according to both natures, as this doctrine has been treated more fully in other places. – Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article VIII: The Person of Christ (paragraphs 46-47)

Hymns: 515; 375; 599; 315; 536

1  The King of love my shepherd is, Whose goodness fails me never;
I nothing lack if I am his, And he is mine forever.

2  Where streams of living water flow, My Savior gently leads me;
And where the verdant pastures grow, With food celestial feeds me.

3  Confused and foolish oft I strayed, But yet in love he sought me
And on his shoulder gently laid And home, rejoicing, brought me.

4  In death’s dark vale I fear no ill With you, dear Lord, beside me;
Your rod and staff my comfort still, Your cross before to guide me.

5  You spread a table in my sight, A banquet here bestowing;
Your oil of welcome, my delight; My cup is overflowing!

6  And so through all the length of days Your goodness fails me never.
Good Shepherd, may I sing your praise Within your house forever!

Text: Henry W. Baker, 1821–77, alt.


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