Good Shepherd Sunday Sermon
“Jesus: The Shepherd and Bishop of our Souls”
April 10, 2005
“For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:25
“What punishment so strange is suffered
yonder! The Shepherd dies
for sheep that loved to wander.”
So we sing and confess. All
that our Good Shepherd says and does for us, His sheep, is centered in
that supreme act of sacrificial love.
As the prophet Isaiah put it:
The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep.
This giving is not merely the giving of a fine moral example.
It is more than the giving of His devotion and care.
It is the giving up of His life as a sacrifice on the cross to
bear the griefs, sorrows, transgressions, and iniquities of us all. The pastoral scenes are quite pretty, with the lush green
grass and the pure blue pools of water.
Jesus is pictured as a shepherd carrying a lamb in His arms with
other lambs and sheep following close by.
But this beautiful picture should not obscure for us the
foundation upon which it must rest.
That foundation is the crucifixion of Jesus where He did battle
against the devil. It was as Jesus was suffering as the spotless Lamb of God
that He was disarming the devil of his terrible power over God’s
children. By bearing our
sins in His own body on the tree Jesus rescued us from the hell we so
This is the Jesus we call our Good Shepherd.
Jesus is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.
He speaks to us and by His voice He guides us to eternal life.
Shepherds feed sheep. The
sheep belong to a flock. Jesus
is the Shepherd and Bishop of His flock.
His flock is His holy Christian Church.
It is comprised of all those and only those who hear His voice.
He knows His sheep and His sheep know Him. This hearing of the Shepherd’s voice and this knowing of
the Shepherd is called faith. Faith
hears. It depends on what
it hears. It rests secure
in the voice of the Shepherd because it trusts that voice.
That voice will keep the sheep safe and sound. That voice is the pure gospel.
The sheep of the Good Shepherd follow that voice.
They go to where the gospel is proclaimed and they listen to it
in humble faith. They
believe Jesus’ words and through this faith they receive what the
The pasture for Christ’s flock is the gospel and
sacraments. If you want to
find the flock that belongs to the Good Shepherd you must look to where
the gospel is purely preached and the sacraments are rightly
administered because the gospel and the sacraments are the voice of the
Good Shepherd. This is the
voice that invites guilty sinners to place their sins on Jesus who
suffered for them. The
voice of the gospel and the sacraments of Christ is not a voice of
rebuke that berates us for our folly in getting lost.
It is not a voice of judgment that lays on us a penalty for doing
wrong. It is a voice of
peace. It tells us that for
the sake of the Good Shepherd suffering and dying for us all our sins
are forgiven and eternal life is ours.
It is a voice that gently guides us to the cross to witness there
the removal of our burden of guilt and sin.
Then it guides us to the open tomb and shows us that Christ is
risen with eternal life to give. Then
it shows us the open door to heaven.
There in heaven is our Savior, preparing a place of pure joy and
love for us all. But He is
not locked up in heaven to be far away from us.
He is present with us here on earth in the words of the gospel we
hear. They are His words.
He joins Himself to us in our baptism.
He feeds us with His own body and blood in the Supper.
The voice of the Good Shepherd never fails to guide us on the
paths of righteousness for that voice constantly clothes us in the very
righteousness of Christ Himself.
Jesus is our Shepherd.
The word shepherd and the word pastor mean the same thing.
We usually use the word pastor to identify the one who preaches
the gospel and administers the sacraments in the stead and by the
command of the Good Pastor, Jesus.
But Jesus is always the true pastor of His church.
The men who speak in His name and by His authority are only
Jesus is the Pastor and Bishop of our souls.
A bishop is a pastor. Nowadays
folks think that a bishop is a pastor with greater authority or rank
than an ordinary pastor. A
bishop is thought to be a pastor of pastors who holds his office within
the hierarchy of his church. In
the Bible this is not so. In
the Bible a bishop is just another name for a pastor.
The word pastor brings out his duty to feed the sheep with
God’s word and sacraments. The
word bishop or overseer brings out his duty to watch over the flock and
to protect it from wolves. A
pastor is a bishop and a bishop is a pastor and Jesus is the true pastor
and bishop of our souls.
Our human pastors are true pastors and bishops only
insofar as they speak faithfully to us the words of Christ. When they speak or teach or preach another gospel they are to
be shunned and avoided. We
may not determine the faithfulness of our pastors by how popular they
are. The gospel is and has
always been an offense to human pride and faithful pastors will
regularly preach what causes offense.
We must determine the faithfulness of our pastors by examining
their doctrine and judging it in the light of the Holy Scriptures.
This is one reason why we stress the thorough grounding of every
Christian in the pure and wholesome teaching of God’s word.
This is why we have creeds, catechisms, and confessions that
faithfully set forth the teaching of God’s word.
This is why we require children to commit to memory the
Catechism. The sheep must
never presume to judge their Shepherd and Bishop Jesus, but they must
make sure that their pastors are faithful to the teaching of Jesus.
Jesus Himself warns of hirelings who run away when the wolf
attacks. We must have
pastors who not only preach the pure gospel but also oppose all false
Rarely have we witnessed such an outpouring of
affection and expressions of admiration as we have seen recently with
the death of Pope John Paul II. And
there is good reason for this. Pope
John Paul II identified, not only with the people of his native Poland,
but with everyone who suffered under the yoke of Communist oppression as
he played a vital role in the eventual fall of the Soviet Empire.
He spoke out in defense of the unborn and the infirm, opposing
both abortion and euthanasia. He
stood firm against the ordination of women to the priesthood and upheld
the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman.
For all of these things he should be commended.
But in the midst of the overwhelming adulation this
pope has received from millions around the world – and not just Roman
Catholics – it is important that we speak a sober word of truth from
the Holy Scriptures concerning Pope John Paul II and the office he held. We read in paragraph 882 from the Catechism of the Catholic
This is false. The
pope is not the pastor of the entire Church.
Jesus is. Jesus
alone is the Pastor and Bishop of the entire Church.
Jesus alone is the Pastor and Bishop of every individual
Christian’s soul. When
the pope claims to be the pastor of the entire Church and lays claim to
“full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church” he
attacks the gospel by which sinners are saved.
For the only authority or power any pastor has is the authority
or power of the keys that Christ has given to the entire Church.
That is the authority to preach and teach God’s word, both law
and gospel, and to administer the sacraments of Christ according to His
institution. To lay claim
to any other authority is to set oneself above Christ Himself and to
deceive people in Christ’s name.
Every pastor of the Church must have the same authority because
there is no churchly authority above and beyond the word of Christ that
sets sinners free by His blood. The
papal claims contradict the gospel of justification by faith alone.
Pope John Paul II persisted in teaching false
doctrine until the day he died and his chief theological advisor,
Cardinal Ratzinger, continued John Paul’s false teaching in his eulogy
at the pope’s funeral. Ratzinger
concluded his eulogy with these words:
We can be sure that our
beloved Pope is standing today at the window of the Father’s house,
that he sees us and blesses us. Yes, bless us, Holy Father. We entrust
your dear soul to the Mother of God, your Mother, who guided you each
day and who will guide you now to the eternal glory of her Son, our Lord
Jesus Christ. Amen.”
But this is false.
We do not look to Mary to guide us.
Jesus alone is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.
We need no pope, no clerical hierarchy, no College of Cardinals,
no invocations to Mother Mary, no sacrifices of the Mass, or anything
else above and beyond the pure gospel and sacraments of our Lord Jesus.
We need only the voice of our Shepherd and Bishop Jesus.
We need His washing of baptism by which we die to sin and live
for righteousness. We need
His words of gospel that bring to us forgiveness flowing from the blood
He shed for us on the cross once and for all.
We need Christ’s words that keep giving to us forgiveness in
our sinful need. We need
the body and blood of Christ given and shed for the forgiveness of our
And our Good Shepherd meets our needs. He defends us from the false doctrine of the wolf, even when it comes wrapped in packages of beautiful looking human sanctity. We were lost. We were stuck in the mire of our own making. We were caught in our own sins and because of our devotion to ourselves and our wants and our sins we were powerless to set ourselves free. But Christ, our Shepherd and Bishop, has the power to set us free and to keep us free. This, we pray, He will continue to do as He defends us from all false teaching that will entrap our souls and as He guides us into the rich pastures of His word, and from there to eternal life in heaven.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus