Easter 4 Saturday
1 Peter 2:25
“For you were like straying sheep; but now you have been converted to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”
Here St. Peter puts simply and clearly what I have said, namely, that getting rid of sin and death is not accomplished by our works or merit, but only Christ’s wounds and death had to do this. “It cost you nothing,” he wants to say, “neither blood nor wounds; in fact, you were unable to contribute. For you were nothing but miserable, straying, and lost sheep, separated from God, and condemned to hell. You were unable to advise or help yourselves.” This is how all men are without and outside of Christ, as the prophet Isaiah, Isaiah 53:6, from where these words are taken, says with even greater clarity: “We all had gone astray, like sheep, each on his own way.” That is, no matter how we lived and what we undertook, we only turned farther away from God. And Psalm 14:3 says: “They have all turned aside and are all unfit; there is no one who does good, not even one,” etc. Work and experience evidently prove this: The world has always been divided in so much, and so many kinds of, idolatry or false worship and superstition – even when things should be best in God’s people – one ran here, the other there; they have always sought and sought where they might hit upon the path to heaven, but they have only gotten farther and farther from it. … This is why no one may boast that he found the right path by himself and that he has earned God’s grace and the redemption from sin by his life. We must all confess and agree with Scripture’s testimony that we were nothing but erring sheep and that we only fled farther and farther from our Shepherd and Savior until he converted us to himself. Now you have heard the voice of your Shepherd he has brought you to himself out of idolatry and all kinds of false paths. You did not deserve this, but was purchased for you by his wounds and blood. See to it, therefore, and no longer live like erring and lost sheep, but live as sheep who, now converted and returned, follow their dear Shepherd. In him you have both a good Shepherd who diligently feeds you and cares for you and a faithful Bishop who always watches over you to protect you and to keep you with him. These words are exceedingly lovely and comforting although the fine word “bishop” has been shamefully darkened and corrupted by our idolatrous monastics and dummy bishops … Accordingly, when we hear the word “bishop” we think no farther than the great pointy hats and silver staves, as if it were enough to place such dummies into the church like the carved or hewn idols – they are no better and do more damage. But Scripture call a true bishop one who is an overseer or keeper and guardian, as a watchman in a city or like any public official and regent who always must watch and oversee land and city. In the past, the bishop in every congregation was this kind of person whose office it was to oversee the churches, to guard and watch over them against the devil, false doctrine, and all offenses. This is also why St. Paul reminds them of such office and exhorts them, Acts 20:28, “Pay attention to yourselves and the entire flock over whom the Holy Spirit placed you as bishops,” etc. … Now, such a faithful Guardian and true Bishop and Shepherd – for it is a single office and title – is Christ, our dear Lord, who bears this title before all others with all honors, for our eternal comfort: He intercedes for us at God’s right hand without ceasing and shows him his own wounds. Then he also governs, feeds, provides for, and guards by his Word, Sacraments, and the power of the Holy Spirit his little flock on earth who believe in him. For if he were not present and at work personally, the devil would have long since swept us all away and eradicated us along with God’s Word and Christ’s name.