Christ the King Sunday – November 26, 2017
Pastor Don Ninmer – Ezekiel 34:11-16, 23, 24
“For this is what the Lord God says: I myself will seek the welfare of my flock and examine them carefully. As a shepherd examines his flock when he is with his sheep that have been scattered, so I will examine my flock and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries and bring them to their own land…I myself will shepherd my flock, and I myself will let them lie down, declares the Lord God…Then I will raise up over them one Shepherd, and he will tend them, my servant David. He will tend them, and he will be their Shepherd. I, the Lord, will be their God and my servant David will be the Prince among them. I, the, Lord, have spoken.”
As we read the words of our text we remember that today is the last Sunday in the season of end times. It is also called Christ the King Sunday. Our Old Testament reading, which is also our sermon text, is taken from the Book of Ezekiel. The fourth Sunday after Easter is called Good Shepherd Sunday. One of the Old Testament readings for that Sunday is also taken from Ezekiel. It is taken from chapter 34 as our text is today, verses 25-31.
In these verses the Lord talks about delivering the nation of Israel. He said things like this: I will make a covenant of peace with them…I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill…They will live in safety…I will provide for them a land renowned for its crops…Then they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them and that they, the house of Israel, are my people. What we are interested in today is the ending verse of chapter 34 where the Lord says: You my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, are people, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.
Did you see it? In both lessons He talks about providing a Shepherd for His people. At the same time this Shepherd would be a King to rule over, to guide and protect His people. Then I will raise up over them one Shepherd, and he will tend them. He will tend them, and he will be their Shepherd.
We have been using two words frequently today: king and shepherd. Do you see a contradiction there? If you were choosing a king, where would you look? – in the pasture? – among the sheep? – or in the sheep barn? You would not expect to find any future kings in the sheep pen, unless they are there to see how many sheep they owned.
But that is where we find two kings. One is David. We are amazed when we read how the prophet Samuel anointed the future king of Israel. Our Lord told him: Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.
Where did Samuel find the future king: Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, The Lord has not chosen these. So he asked Jesse, Are these all the sons you have? There is still the youngest, Jesse answered, but he is tending the sheep. Where did he find David? – In the sheep pasture. There he was, David, son of Jesse, whom we call the shepherd king. That lowly shepherd would become the great king of Israel. David would deliver the nation of Israel from their enemies and establish a powerful kingdom. Now God promises that once again He would free them and deliver them to their homeland
As important as this was for the children of Israel, that God would give them their homeland, there was something more important in the words of Ezekiel. It is found in these words: Then I will raise up over them one Shepherd, and He will tend them, my servant David. He will tend them, and he will be their Shepherd. I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David will be the Prince among them. I, the Lord, have spoken.
The Lord had one special shepherd in mind. He calls Him David, reminding us of King David the shepherd king. This Shepherd would be a descendant of King David. In Psalm 89 we read: I have sworn to David my servant, I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations. In Isaiah’s famous Christmas prophecy Isaiah says of Jesus: He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
Ezekiel is telling them that the great Shepherd, the one-of-a-kind Shepherd, is coming. He will establish an eternal kingdom for His sheep. That is the kingdom of heaven where His sheep will experience the fullness of this prophecy: He will tend them, and he will be their Shepherd. I, the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be the Prince among them.
Samuel found the future shepherd king in the sheep pasture. Where do we find this great Shepherd King? In a barn: She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. You would not expect to find a great king using a cattle feeding trough as his crib. Yet we know that here lay the great Shepherd King.
You would not expect to find a great king nailed to a cross. Yet there He was, our Shepherd King, offering Himself as a lamb led to the slaughter, dying so that He could share an eternal home with His sheep. All this was part of that portion of Jesus’ life which we call His state of humiliation. Matthew tells us: After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
But His humiliation has ended. We will never again find Him in a manger or nailed to a cross. The next time that we will see Him will be on Judgment Day. Matthew tells us: When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him.
In our text Ezekiel also speaks about that when he says: I will destroy the fat and the strong…I will save my flock so that they will not become plunder any more. I will judge between one sheep and another…Therefore, this is what the Lord God says to them. I myself am going to judge between the fat sheep and the skinny sheep. The fat sheep are those who trusted in their own good works to earn salvation. These are the ones to whom the Lord will say on Judgment Day, depart from me.
The skinny sheep are those who realize that they are sinners who need the Shepherd King to bring them forgiveness. They realize that they can do nothing to earn salvation because without their Shepherd King they are lost and condemned creatures. These are the ones to whom the Lord will say: Come, inherit the kingdom prepared for you. As we prepare to begin the Advent season, we confess that we are skinny sheep. There is nothing good in us to earn God’s favor. We know that we need a shepherd king.
By faith we recognize the child born in Bethlehem as that Shepherd King who will return on Judgment day. We confess Him to be our Savior-Shepherd-King. We confess in the creed: He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, and: From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.