The Lamb is the Shepherd
Topic: Biblical Verse: Revelation 7:9–7:17
The Fourth Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday)
April 20-21, 2013
“The Lamb is the Shepherd”
The eyes of our nation were fixed on Boston this past week with the Boston Marathon bombing on Patriot Day – Monday, April 15. This has left a mark not only on the city and people of Boston, but on us all. Certainly we continue to pray for the families of those whose lives were lost in this senseless act of violence, as well as the many injured. Even as we watched events unfold on Friday evening that led to the capture of the second suspect, we pray that justice may indeed be served so that what we often take for granted – security and peace in daily life – may be restored. And even as we have the people of Boston on our hearts and minds, we think also of that small community of West, Texas, where a horrendous explosion occurred this past week. Of course, the real heroes in both places are the first responders: police officers, fire fighters, paramedics, and many others who put themselves in harm’s way to help. But there are other heroes – some known and some not – who stepped in to help where help was needed. As a result of the bombing in Boston, one man in a wheelchair sustained terrible leg injuries. Coming to his aid was Carlos Arredondo, a Costa Rican immigrant who lost his son fighting in Iraq. Wearing a distinctive cowboy hat, Arredondo ran in and out of the crowds to help the injured, gaining the nickname “Boston Cowboy.” There is the unnamed man in a red T-shirt and baseball hat, leaning over a visibly injured woman lying on the ground as a photograph was taken of the scene. Firefighter James Ploude was photographed running through the crowds with an injured woman in his arms (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57579865/stories-of-kindness-amid-tragedy-in-boston-marathon-bombing). One image posted was of a handwritten note quoting Mr. Rogers, the now deceased children’s TV show host, who once said: “When I was a boy and would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world” (Ibid). These helpers, who are really heroes, are shepherds. Binding up wounds, giving comfort, carrying the injured, protecting and shielding – they serve not only those in need, they embody him who is our Good Shepherd.
The Fourth Sunday of Easter is often called Good Shepherd Sunday, and for good reason: the Scripture lessons, the music and hymns, the prayers – everything on this day revolves around that beloved image of our crucified and risen Savior who is our Good Shepherd. He is the One who has laid down his life for the sake of his sheep (John 10:15). But in today’s Epistle lesson (Revelation 7:9-17), there is curious thing that we are told: “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd…” (Revelation 7:17). The Lamb is the Shepherd! And this is the theme for the message today. May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word, for Jesus’ sake.
We look at the world around us – places like Boston and West, Texas – and many other places where there is pain, suffering, broken hearts and lives, and we may wonder if that Lamb who is the Shepherd in the midst of the throne in heaven is in our midst here on earth. Sometimes it seems that the Lamb-Shepherd is absent, even unaware, of what’s going on in this messed up world. But is that really true? Jesus is both the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). The image of this on the plaque above the Baptismal altar is a silent witness and constant reminder to us all whenever we enter into the house of the Lord. Jesus is also our Good Shepherd, but he did not promise that our life would be without pain and heartache. He did not promise us that in following him our pathway would be easy or trouble-free. What he does promise is what we read together in the words of that beloved psalm of the Good Shepherd, Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” That makes all the difference in the world when we’re facing trouble, crisis – even death itself – in our own lives. To have someone come along side us who can be strong when we are not, who can give us courage and hope – this is huge. And this is what Jesus does for us. He who is both Lamb and Shepherd promises to be with us always, even in the midst of the pain and suffering, even in the midst of our broken lives. He promises to be with us even to the end of the world (Matthew 28:20). He promises never to leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5; Deuteronomy 31:6).
As one theologian has put it: “Lambs do not sit on thrones. Nor do they act as shepherds to the flock. In Israel – and in the Near East generally – the tradition was indeed to call the kings and leaders of the people ‘shepherds’ and thereby to call the people ‘flock.’ But what is meant that the lamb is the shepherd? It is, of course, the truth about Jesus that is so spoken. He is made a weak and finally a slain man. A nothing. Yet this very one knows his own, calls them by name, will allow no snatching out of the flock. One who is no king at all is the only king. One who is no shepherd is the good shepherd for all the peoples. It is the resurrection of the crucified one which is spoken by these images. In his ‘knowing us,’ that is his being in the midst of our agony, knowing it by sharing it, we are placed irrevocably in God’s hand. But how shall we know that? [Come to the table. Eat and drink. In the address of the body and blood to you], hear the shepherd’s voice calling you by name, knowing you and your need. Here is the end of hunger and thirst, the beginning of the wiping away of all tears, the flowing of the spring of life-giving waters” (Gordon Lathrop, p. 88 in An Easter Sourcebook: Liturgy Training Publications, 1988).
That image of triumphant victory and unparalleled joy in today’s Epistle lesson forms the basis of our Easter hymn of praise, “This is the feast of victory.” We sing it each Sunday in this Easter season, and the very words we sing in that beautiful song are rooted right here in John’s vision from Revelation. By the grace of him who is both Lamb and Shepherd, we look forward to that day when we, too, shall join that “great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in [our] hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9-10). Gathered with our Hispanic brothers and sisters, our Ethiopian brothers and sisters, and fellow believers whom we will never meet this side of heaven, we look forward to that great day when sorrow and sighing shall flee away (Isaiah 35:10), when death shall be no more, and there shall be no mourning or crying or pain, for these former things have passed away (Revelation 21:4). My friends, the best is yet to be. All this through Christ Jesus, the Lamb who is our Good Shepherd. Amen.