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“Jesus: Lamb and Shepherd”
Revelation 7:17


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Fourth Sunday of Easter—April 21, 2013

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Sometimes in a movie, one star will play two or more different roles.  In both the original and remake of “The Parent Trap,” with the help of trick photography the twin girls were actually played by the same star.  The ultimate example is the 1965 movie “The Family Jewels,” in which all by himself the comedian Jerry Lewis was almost the entire cast, playing seven different roles.

In today’s Epistle Reading from Revelation the Apostle John sees a vision of heaven, and in this vision Jesus has two different, starring roles: “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd.”  But, this double role that Jesus plays isn’t an illusion.  For, Jesus really is both the Lamb and the Shepherd of God’s people.  So, the title for the story of our salvation could be, “Jesus: Lamb and Shepherd.”

We need a Lamb because of our sin.  A few moments ago, using the words of the Apostle John, we confessed, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  Because God is holy, in his sight every sin you commit is a capital offense, deserving of death and eternal damnation in hell.  Because God is just, he cannot simply overlook our sins, and let us escape from the death and damnation we deserve.  In order for you to be forgiven, in order for you to get into heaven, the price for your sins had to be paid.

The Good News is that God is not only holy, God is not only just, he is also merciful.  And because God is merciful, his love found a way to pay for all your sins, for you, so that you will escape death and damnation and receive the gift of eternal life in heaven.  John the Baptist proclaims the only way of salvation when he points to Jesus and declares, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

In the Old Testament, God commanded that lambs be sacrificed as sin offerings.  Over the centuries a ritual was repeated at the Temple every morning and evening as a lamb was sacrificed for the sins of the people.  And each year at Passover tens of thousands of lambs were offered.  But, all those Old Testament sacrifices were only a preview like you see before a movie, just a peek at the real coming attraction, pointing God’s people of old forward with anticipation to the ultimate sacrifice that was to come.  “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

Today’s Scripture readings beautifully describe how as the Lamb of God Jesus sacrificed himself for your salvation.   In the Book of Acts the Apostle Paul describes all who trust in Jesus as, “the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”  Revelation says of those in heaven, “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”   And Jesus proclaims in the Gospel Reading, “I lay down my life—only to take it up again.”

The sacrifice of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection actually accomplished for you what all those ancient sacrificial lambs only symbolized: cleansing you from all your sins.  As Paul says in 1st Corinthians and Ephesians, “Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. . . In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

“For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd.”  Jesus plays two roles in the story of our salvation.  We need a Lamb because of our sin.  And we also need a Good Shepherd, to gently guide us, through all the struggles and snares of this life, with him into eternal life.  In the story of our salvation Jesus plays both these roles, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and the Good Shepherd of God’s people.  “I am the Good Shepherd,” he says in today’s Gospel Reading.  “I know my sheep . . .”

Your Good Shepherd knows you.  He knows your hopes and dreams, your frustrations and fears.  He knows the grief, pain, and loneliness that often overwhelm you. When you get lost your Good Shepherd never forsakes you, but he seeks you out and restores you. He hears your bleating cries and rescues you.  Isaiah beautifully describes the tender love of your Good Shepherd: “He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.”

“Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.           The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”  Do not fear, your Good Shepherd will lead you, through the valley of the shadow of death, to the eternal green pastures and springs of living water.   

“These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. . .  For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

“Jesus: Lamb and Shepherd.”

Amen.

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