Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Ez 37:21-28; Ps: Jer 31:10,11,12; Jn 11:45-56?
“Like a shepherd.”

So how does a shepherd guard his flock? The Good Shepherd, a title the Lord Jesus gives himself in the gospel, lays down his life for his flock. He literally places his body in the opening of the fence to keep out anyone who is a danger to the flock. In his permissive will, the LORD allowed Israel to be scattered among the nations. Sin and disobedience on the part of the kings and the people resulted in political division and national instability. The Kingdom of Israel was split in two. The Northern Kingdom decided to worship idols, and Judah was not much more faithful. Such divisiveness left the land weak and the people could not defend themselves against expanding empires from the East. However, the LORD himself is the Shepherd of his flock—no matter how unfaithful and greedy the other shepherds have been—the LORD ransoms and redeems his people. All the exiles shall come home to the LORD and stream forth into the LORD’s blessings as they mount the heights of Zion. They will enjoy all the promised blessings: the grain, the wine, the oil, the sheep, and the oxen. They shall not want! Indeed, all the virgins will make merry and dance—both young men and old as well! For the LORD turns their mourning into joy, and the LORD will console and gladden them after their sorrows. The Prophet, Ezekiel, gives voice to the hope upon which the exiles survive. The voice of the LORD makes the promise to set up his sanctuary among the People, to rebuild His Temple. This same hope, for the blessings that only the Messiah can bring, is found in the crowds who wonder if the Lord Jesus will show up at the Temple and join in the great feast of Passover.

This Good Shepherd draws his people with bonds of love and deep affection. The gods of the nations cannot hold them in place; the wealth earned during their exile cannot turn them away from the summons to come home. Finally, this movement will reunite the two kingdoms. The LORD abhorred the violence of division among his flock. He never desired them to split and be exiled—subject to a foreign government and many false gods. In their return home they must abandon their defilement—all their idols, all their abominations and all their transgressions. Whatever they thought or however they behaved to impress their captors, or just get along, all the compromises of captivity had to be abandoned. The LORD alone wants to deliver them and cleanse them from all their sins of apostasy. The LORD himself wants to purify their hearts and actions so that they can be his people and the LORD can again be their God. The LORD will be gloriously triumphant through his Servant David. The True Son of David the Lord Jesus Christ will be the prince of peace. He will be shepherd for all the people. Then they shall live by his statutes and carefully observe divine decrees. All his promises made to the Patriarchs will be fulfilled. Indeed, the LORD will make with his people a New Covenant, and He shall put his sanctuary among them forever. Indeed, His dwelling will be among His people always. All the nations will see the glorious sign of the LORD’s triumph and the holiness of Israel will attract all people to climb the heights of Zion. All these promises the LORD fulfills in Christ, the Good Shepherd and in his Body the Church who is the living sanctuary of the Christ Our Lord and God.
The signs are complete, save for one. This is the seventh sign in Saint John’s Book of Signs. The seventh sign is the resurrection of Lazareth. This friend of the Lord and his sisters Martha and Mary have become a public threat or a public relations problem for the leaders of the Jews. Now he has gone too far. All these signs and wonders are bound to arouse the suspicion of the Empire and then they will take away our land and our nation. Caiaphas, serving as high priest that year, speaks in words of prophecy that he does not understand. The irony of Saint John’s gospel is becoming so focused and powerful. Caiaphas prophesied that the Lord Jesus was about to die or the nation and for all the dispersed children of God throughout the world. This high-powered conference among the people of power concludes with a decision to find a way to kill the Lord Jesus. The One who gives life must die, for the sake of the nation. The Good Shepherd is to be slaughtered like a lamb of sacrifice, but he has no fear. He will be among his flock for the Passover in Jerusalem. He will make himself available as priest, altar, and sacrifice. He freely lays down his life, no one takes it from him. Like a shepherd his lays down his life for his flock, even those among the dispersion. Indeed, he cannot not come to the feast. He is the feast; the Lord Jesus is the New Passover.