Melville Scott, The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, Second Edition, 1903. Public Domain.
Risen Life of Love
THE Sunday of the Good Shepherd conveys the truth expressed in our Saviour’s new commandment (S. John xiii. 34), “that ye love one another; as I have loved you that ye also love one another.” We are, therefore, to consider the love of Christ as manifested in His sacrifice, and as enjoined upon us by His example.
Both sacrifice and example meet in the character of the Good Shepherd, Who not only laid down His life for the sheep, but goeth before them that they should follow His steps. The death of Christ is at once our trust, our motive, and our example. This love of Christ is to constrain us to a risen life of love.
THE EPISTLE – 1 PETER 2:19-25 – THE LOVE OF CHRIST
A. The Christian Calling.
The Christian ideal is not satisfied by mere resignation under punishment, for the Christian is to be patient, not only when he suffers justly, but when he suffers wrongly. He must be as ready to suffer for doing right as he is for doing wrong. Such patience is “acceptable with God,” for it can only come from the highest motives (“conscience towards God”). Christian meekness is far more than a mere passive quality, and must never be confounded with weakness, for it needs far more strength to restrain our passions than to let them have their way. The Christian is meek because the passion of love has the mastery over all other passions.
B. The Example of Love.
Such conduct is our bounden duty, for we are called not only to trust in Christ, but to follow Christ. We are to follow His footsteps of sinlessness, of sincerity, of meekness under provocation, of calm confidence in the just judgement of God. Unless we endeavour to be like Christ in His holiness we cannot be like Him in His patience, Who “did well and suffered for it.” We cannot otherwise suffer as Christ, but at best only as the penitent thief “receiving the due reward of our deeds.” But we are called to do far more than this.
C. The Sacrifice of Love.
Love was the very essence of Christ’s sacrifice, and must, therefore, be the example we are to follow. The exceeding love of Christ’s sacrifice is seen in every phrase of the description.
“His Own Self.” — He alone could bear the Cross, and He bore it alone. The Good Shepherd did not send after the lost sheep, but went after them.
“In His Own Body.” — The high priests offered the bodies of beasts, turning over to them the pain of sacrifice. Christ bore all “in His Own Body.”
“Upon the tree” — a place of agony inconceivable and of shame inexpressible, of dreadful loneliness, of horrible publicity. He was made as one accursed for us.
All this was a sacrifice of love, for it was done “for our sins.”
D. The Purpose of Love.
Christ’s purpose in thus dying was far more than merely our pardon. He came, not merely that our sins should be forgiven, but that we “having died to sin should live unto righteousness.” He came to heal the wounds of sin and to restore us to perfect soundness. He came, not merely that our wanderings should be overlooked, but that we should cease to wander; not only to bring us back to the fold, but as our “Shepherd and Bishop” to keep us ever under His love and care. Thus the final words of the Epistle prepare for the fuller teaching of the Gospel.
THE GOSPEL – S. JOHN 10:11-16 – THE LOVE OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD
Christ our sacrifice and Christ our example are combined in our Saviour’s description of Himself as the Good Shepherd, in Whom are all the qualities of courage, faithfulness, and patience which a shepherd needs, and of Whom every earthly shepherd is a far-off picture and type. He has in perfection every mark of a true Shepherd.
The Eastern shepherd, in lands that are waste and desolate, must often imperil his life in contention with fierce beasts and robbers. Christ did yet more than this, for “He laid down His life for the sheep.” His only care when the wolf came was to safeguard His little flock. His self-devotion arises from His ownership: He will go after the lost until He find it, for it is to Him, “My sheep which is lost.”
As the shepherd knows his sheep with an individual, almost personal, knowledge, so Christ knows His sheep. He knows not merely who are His sheep and who are not, but what they are and where they are. He knows their weakness, “gathering the lambs with His arms, and gently leading those that are with young,” their weariness, their folly. He knows their temptations, their dangers, and their liability to err. He is not cold, nor high, nor distant with them, but admits them into personal intimacy with Himself. They know His voice from the voice of strangers. This union is one of nature, comparable only to the intimacy which obtains between the Father and the Son. They are known by Him as He is known by the Father, they know Him as He knows the Father. This intimacy is the secret of His sacrifice on their behalf.
C. Pastoral Care.
His heart is even wider than His fold: an inward pressure drives Him to seek His other sheep that are scattered abroad, and to lead them to know Him and one another. He desires to be their Leader–“them also I must lead.” Here we meet with the second Sunday thought of “our example.”
Christ is the example of all shepherds who “feed the flock of Christ which He purchased with His own blood,” and who are to be “ensamples to the flock.” He is an ensample to the sheep. He has passed through life and death to mark a path, and His sheep are to hear His voice and follow Him until they meet as “one flock, one Shepherd.”
This Collect is subsequent in date to the selection of the Epistle and Gospel, to both of which it makes evident reference.
A. The Double Office of Christ.
As taught by the Epistle, we are to regard Christ as both our Sacrifice and our Ensample, the source of both justification and sanctification, our Saviour both from guilt and sin.
B. Our Twofold Petition.
Our prayers must follow our theology, and thus we pray that we may always receive with thankfulness the priceless treasure of pardon. Faith receives; it can do no more, for human merit has no place here. We pray also, as taught by the Gospel, for grace to follow the blessed steps of His example. Christ’s sheep must both trust and follow their Shepherd; they must depend upon His loving death, and live His risen life of love.