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John 10:12-16 Many wrong, erroneous ideas prevail about Christ and His Church; a. about Christ: the Rationalists call and hold Him merely as a virtuous teacher and role model in life and suffering. The Roman Church makes Him into a strict judge. Self-righteous ones indeed call Him their Savior, but make Him into a mere stopgap; the one in that they, when they have come to the knowledge of their sins, first want to better themselves before they will be a believer; the others in that they actually seek to gain heaven by their external works, but where they are not perfect or would have here and there lacked something or sinned, instead comfort themselves in Christ's suffering and death. b. on the Church: the Roman Church teaches, they, the visible fellowship of all who obey and confess the pope as Christ's representative, are the Church, their characteristics, the strong external unity, power, wealth, splendor of the church and church services, age, etc.; the papistic Lutherans and defenders of the State Church declare the Church as a visible kingdom, wherein pastors are the spiritual authority, the laity the subjects, etc.; the Rationalists call Church the visible fellowship of all the baptized and the kingdom of truth, free inquiry and rational, cheerful enjoyment of life; finally the Church for the self-righteous is only the external fellowship of those who externally adhere to the Divine Service and distinguish themselves from the raw bunch of unbelievers through external works of Christians, who no longer baptize children, confirm, nor allow Christian burial for their dead. Scripture, our Gospel among other things, teaches us something completely different. Shepherd and sheep, a lovely picture of Christ and his Church. It shows us namely: 1. what Christ actually is in His Church; a. Christ is the Savior of His Church. He says: I am the Good Shepherd because I lay down My life for My sheep - therefore He is not the model of virtue, but the Redeemer Who acquired the sheep for Himself through suffering and death; all mankind were from the floodplains of paradise in the wilderness of this sinful world through sin, indeed, entered into the kingdom of the devil, the infernal wolf, defenseless, helpless in its power, under God's curse in it, no model of virtue helped there, but only a divine work of redemption; b. Christ is truly the Good Shepherd of His redeemed, because He has α. led the lost into the kingdom of God through the friendly Shepherd's voice of the Gospel; β. He knows His own, i.e., He knows and loves those as His own, knows all their affliction, need, desires and most tenderly provides for them, protects them1, the more wretched a lamb, the more tender and concerned He is; therefore He is no strict and hard judge, as the Romanists blaspheme; γ. He gathers His redeemed until Judgment Day from
Jews and Gentiles (I must bring them also). O, a perfect Savior and a Good Shepherd! But He alone; He tolerates no other over and among His flock; pastors are not lords, but servants of His flock; 2. what is His Church on earth, a. the unseen fellowship of all true believers, concealed in the external visible crowd of those who hold to God's Word and Sacrament, therefore, α. those who know their sad forlorn state with remorse and sorrow; those who cannot be satisfied with a "stopgap", as they know Christ as a righteous Savior, so also know themselves as righteous, great damnable sinners who are not able to help themselves; β. those who apply the death and resurrection of Christ to themselves, as happened to them for good, who are reconciled with God through faith and become blessed children of God; who hold themselves not as heroes of virtue, but as miserable hospital guests who faithfully daily apply in the blood of their heavenly Physician the only, but sure cure for all their damages of sin. These believers are the unseen kingdom, the Church of Jesus, of the Good Shepherd, for their faith is hidden in the heart, only God and they know2; b. the community of those who are only guided by the shepherding voice of Christ; as sheep know the voice of their shepherd and distinguish from the voice of strangers, so true lambs of Christ know the voice of the Shepherd, His Gospel3, and "am known by My own", they alone follow this voice, but flee from the voice of the stranger; they tolerate no human authority over them, no human wisdom, no external splendor and power offers it; as all of them, high or low, learned or simple-minded, are Christ's sheep - are brothers, so they all recognize only one Shepherd over them, Christ, and only His Word and this alone is their comfort and their salvation; their going to church, use of the sacrament, etc., is no meritorious work for them, but as a sheep grazing on green pastures, thus a spiritual eating and drinking of their soul to preserve them in a new giving of spiritual life. Whoever will serve Christ for his salvation with going to church is still not in Christ's holy flock; c. the community of those whose way of life is led according to the example of the Good Shepherd.4 A lamb of Christ grazes his soul no more on the husks of this Godalienated world; that is why the Church is the communion of saints in faith and in life. Otto Hanser
2 Timothy 2:9; Luke 17:20-21. John 10:14. 4 Cf. John 10:27 and 1 Peter 2:21.