With Easter having come three weeks ago today, we are now squarely in the liturgical season of Eastertide. In fact, this church season will continue until May 28th this year, at which time we will celebrate Pentecost. In between Easter and Pentecost, we will also take notice of the ascension of Jesus back to heaven.
Clearly, Easter is the most holy day in the liturgical calendar. And for the several Sundays after that, many churches focus on the post resurrection appearances of Jesus such as on the road to Emmaus. Of course, He also appeared to the disciples and most of us have heard about “doubting” Thomas to wanted to see the wounds of Jesus suffered on the cross. Biblically, there were numerous visits by Jesus during this time.
The liturgical transition this week moves from the sightings of Jesus to Jesus as our shepherd and our role as “sheep” – following Him. For the message today, many churches, especially in the Catholic faith, focus on the 23rd Psalm. It is this most famous psalm that starts with the proclamation that Jesus is our “shepherd”. It is also a time for youngsters to celebrate their first communion, as happened today in many Catholic churches across the land.
As we move closer to the Ascension of Jesus to His Father, the coming Sundays will move to stories and remembrances of Jesus and the disciples. And after the Ascension, we will move to the time of Pentecost, 10 days after the Ascension when the Holy Spirit appeared and Peter preached the first sermon of the new church – the ekklesia of Jesus. The Acts 2 church grew tremendously in those first days and it is fair to say that many churches today would like to follow the pattern that Peter and the disciples used in starting the church at Pentecost.
However, today we focus on Jesus as the Good Shepherd, and we, as His sheep. In my last post, I spoke about the sheep knowing the master’s voice. Tonight’s verse also comes from the Gospel of John. In this passage, John gives us the words of Jesus as He proclaims Himself to be the shepherd. John tells us, in John 10:14-16, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”
My encouragement this evening is that Jesus wants us to follow Him and that we can depend on Him to protect us and advocate for us with His Father. My prayer is that we will depend on Jesus and that we will celebrate his role as the Good Shepherd as we await the Ascension and Pentecost, the beginning of the church. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…