April 17, 2016
Text: Acts 9:36-43
The Lamb at the Center of the ThroneIf you were asked to choose a word to describe your relationship with God in everyday terms,what would that be? Although there are many examples given in the bible- perhaps none is morerecognized than that of a shepherd and his sheep. God says that we are like sheep. Not the mostflattering comparison. Sheep are known to do stupid things- like wander away and get in trouble.Sheep need someone to take care of them- sheep need a shepherd. The good news is that we havea good shepherd in Christ Jesus and we are his sheep.John had a revelation of heaven- and in it he saw the Lamb at the center of the throne who is ourshepherd. But how can Jesus be both a lamb and a shepherd? I want to spend the next fewminutes talking about what it means to have Jesus as our good shepherd and why it is importantfor us to recognize Jesus to be the Lamb of God for us. Pray.The image of a shepherd and his sheep would have been engrained in the minds of those livingduring Old Testament days. To be a shepherd was to know everything there is to know aboutsheep. Sheep provided them with food and wool for clothing and their wealth was measured bythe size of their flocks. But there was more to being a shepherd than just numbers on a ledgersheet. It was a mutual relationship. The good shepherd lived among his sheep- cared for them-guided them to green pastures and still waters and was willing to protect them with his own lifeif need be.When they read from the prophets that God would feed his flock like a shepherd, it would haveresonated in their hearts with thanksgiving and a renewed trust in God who is faithful to hisword. And when it said that all we like sheep have gone astray, it would have been a soberingreminder of our rebellious ways.For the sheep-whether they realized it or not- the shepherd was their only hope of survival. Ontheir own without a good shepherd- they would soon be hopelessly lost and food for lions. FromI Peter, we are warned to be watchful- for the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seekingsomeone to devour. A prowling lion sneaks up on it’s prey quietly so as not to be detected, until itis too late. But there is safety close to the good shepherd.Lions seek out the vulnerable- the weak and the young- and those who have gotten separatedfrom the herd for one reason or another and when the bible tells us that the devil uses the sametactics, it brings home the importance of being in fellowship with fellow believers. People usethe excuse that they can worship God anywhere- that they don’t have to go to church to read thebible and pray- and of course, they would be right. But a lamb wondering off on their own caneat grass and drink water and enjoy the sunshine alone- too- but he is more apt to become a mealfor a lion.e
It is imperative then, that we follow close to the shepherd and learn to trust and follow at an earlyage. But how does a young lamb- a young person- even a baby- learn to do that? I think it firstmust be learned it from its parents and the rest of the flock- and through following it’s mom andthe rest of the flock, it will learn by example to trust the shepherd as his own.This morning, Eli was baptized. It was God making a promise to Eli that he would be a faithfulshepherd to him. It was a covenant between God and Eli. If you remember- a covenant, is ashared responsibility. His parents, Dallas and Marissa, along with his sponsors, Molly and Justinand Cara promised to teach Eli to trust Jesus as he grows up. But they also stood in front of thiscongregation- the flock- and we as the flock have also been given the shared responsibility toteach him what it means to trust Jesus the good shepherd with our actions and with words if needbe.And as he grows in years, going to church, reading the bible as a family, hearing of thefaithfulness of Jesus in his parents and families lives through the everyday struggles and joys oflife-and see the active faith of the body of Christ, he too will begin to trust Jesus to be hisshepherd as his own.The picture of a shepherd holding a lamb surrounded by the trusting eyes of the flock was notjust a cute picture op- but a picture of real life and all it’s struggles and joys- that Jesus the goodshepherd would never hurt them, but guard and protect and lay down his life for them if need be.Having said all that, it is relatively easy for us to at least begin to understand what it means tohave Jesus as our good shepherd- but a lamb? How can God be a shepherd and a lamb at thesame time?To help us understand that- we need to begin with the book of Hebrews where it states thatwithout the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness of sins. If we think that is a cruel andunreasonable punishment-then we do not realize the seriousness of our sins. The bibleemphatically states that the wages of sin is death. Thankfully, because of God’s great mercy andgrace, God has offered a substitute for us to die in our place. From the very beginning whenAdam and Eve first sinned, God substituted their death with that of an innocent animal andcovered their shame with its skin.From then on, throughout the Old Testament, God’s people were instructed to offer burntofferings to God in their place. And a lamb without blemish was one of the primary animalsdesignated to be sacrificed. It was gory and without mercy. They would have heard the bleatingof the lamb and seen the life go out of it as the blood ran down the sides of the altar and theywould have been reminded that it should be their blood- and they worshipped God for Hisprovision of mercy and grace. But it was not a perfect sacrifice-and needed to be done over andover again- year after year.And then one day-when John the Baptist saw Jesus approaching, he said: “Behold- the Lamb ofGod who takes away the sins of the world.” The shepherd had become the perfect lamb of God totake our place and die a perfect death once and for all.e
The world does not understand how and why a God of power and glory would stoop to becomeone of us-and be identified as a lamb. But God has chosen what is considered foolishness to theworld to show us his power- even a lamb on a cross.We just finished the season of Lent. We were reminded of the suffering and death of Jesus- howhe was tortured and abused and nailed to a cross to die. The prophet Isaiah described Jesus deathlike that of a sheep being led to slaughter. And as he hung there in our place, his blood ran downthe cross in payment for our sin.Max Lucato, coined the phrase that speaks to my heart that says: “God’s grace runs downhill.” Itis a reminder that there is no place that God’s love and grace cannot find us- running downhill tomeet us where we are- just as we are.The Good shepherd is calling you and I this morning to trust him and follow him. He is callingus to the foot of the cross to be reminded that we are saved by grace through faith alone and notanything we have done lest we should boast. He calls us to the empty tomb to remind us thatdeath has been defeated once and for all so that no matter what we may encounter in life- it nolonger has any power over us.And He calls us to come follow him through life-assured that he will never leave us or forsakeus-traveling together as part of the body of Christ-fellow believers and sheep of his pasture withboldness by grace.Savior like a shepherd lead us. The Lamb is in the center of the throne. In Jesus name, Amen.