Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 8, 2022
“The Bummer Lamb” John 20:19-31
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Pamela Hiscocks was a young lady who lived and died with a number of physical disabilities. In 2017, at only 39 years of age, she died. This article, “The Bummer Lamb” is hers:
“Every once in a while, a ewe will give birth to a lamb and reject it. There are many reasons she may do this. If the lamb is returned to the ewe, the mother may push or even kick the poor animal away. Once a ewe rejects one of her lambs, she will never change her mind. These little lambs will hang their heads so low that it looks like something is wrong with its neck. Its spirit is broken.
These lambs are called “Bummer Lambs.” Unless the shepherd intervenes, that lamb will die, rejected all alone. So, do you know what the shepherd does? He takes that rejected little one into his home, hand-feeds it and keeps it warm by the fire. He will wrap it up with blankets and hold it to his chest so the Bummer can hear his heart beat. Once the lamb is strong enough, the shepherd will place it back in the field with the rest of the flock.
But that sheep never forgets how the shepherd cared for him when his mother rejected him. When the shepherd calls for the flock, guess who runs to him first? That’s right – the Bummer sheep. He knows his voice intimately. It is not that the Bummer Lamb is loved more, it just knows intimately the one who loves it. It has experienced the shepherd’s love one on one.”
Pamela Hiscocks continues, “So many of us are Bummer Lambs, rejected and broken. But He [Jesus] is the Good Shepherd. He cares for our every need and holds us close to His heart so that we can hear His heart beat. We may be broken but we are deeply loved by the Good Shepherd.” (From Pastor Bob Tasler’s Weekly Message, September 23, 2019)
There are times when someone is just shut out by others. They don’t like something about them. They are bummer lambs to them. They are rejected, shunned, isolated, made to stand all alone. There are some horrid stories of what people can endure at the hands of others – sometimes suffering for no good reason.
But sometimes people become bummer lambs of their own choosing, or by their own actions. This is the Sunday after Easter and for many years the Bible reading assigned to be read is about Doubting Thomas – a bummer lamb of his own choosing. The text from John 20 gives us information about the resurrected Jesus coming to His followers on Easter evening. “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you’. After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side.” (John 20:19-20a)
But you know that someone was missing. Thomas. He wasn’t there. Now, he hadn’t been kicked out. But he wasn’t there. During those days after the resurrection day Thomas was told over and over again about what the disciples of Jesus had seen. They saw Him!! Still scarred but alive. Risen. But Thomas, choosing to be a bummer lamb, rejected the words. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” (John 20:25)
So, the Shepherd comes looking for the bummer lamb whose head was bowed low, who had no hope, no faith, no future. “A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’” (John 20:26-27)
That is what Jesus does. To all Bummer Lambs He comes and seeks and finds. Some folks have been beat up by life; it has not treated them well. Some have chosen to run from the Shepherd; to live in unbelief or rebellion and sin. But the account of the resurrection of Jesus tells us that the resurrected Christ looks for the bummer lambs. He seeks us. He looks for us. He wants us to know peace.
Do you know who was in that room both on Easter evening and the Sunday following Easter? Another bummer lamb – Peter. The Rock!! He’s the one who would boast about his courage after Jesus told him that everyone would run away and leave Him to face His enemies alone. Peter said, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” (Matthew 26:35a) But his record wasn’t too good. He didn’t die with him. Three times he declared that he had no idea who Jesus was. Three times. And now on Easter evening he is in the room with the followers with doors securely locked because he feared, and they feared, that the awful execution of Jesus would soon be theirs.
Thomas – bummer lamb. Peter – bummer lamb. Jesus – Shepherd who cares for bummer lambs like them and you and me. Of our God the Bible says this, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” (Isaiah 42:3) Jesus gives an invitation to all of us who have been battered and beaten and don’t think we can face another round, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Jesus came back on that Sunday after Easter for one person – Thomas. He was the bummer lamb. He had lost his faith and Jesus took him and embraced him and held him close to His heart. The lost lamb would look at Jesus and confess with joy, “My Lord and my God.”
Peter is visited by Jesus that very Easter day (See I Corinthians 15:5) and later he would be re-commissioned to be a vessel of God’s grace. “Peter, do you love me?”, (Jesus asks Peter this three times) and to this Jesus tells him, “Feed my sheep”, “Tend my lambs”. Peter, who had “wept bitterly” and whose head was low, was lifted. Jesus, before Peter’s fall would say to him, “I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32)
Sometimes we are just a bunch of bummer lambs – everyone of us. I was told that while enduring this pandemic an Italian wife had had just a little too much of her husband during the endless quarantine. The big sign hanging over her balcony read, “Husband For Sale.” (I can’t remember – but maybe it added – CHEAP!!)
Bummer lambs – heads low, discouraged and overwhelmed. Rejected by others, struggling with self, feeling the weight of the sin of unbelief, or actions that have denied that Jesus is our Lord. I got an e-mail this week from a person who was candid about their fears, “I also selfishly fear for my own mortality. I worry that I will become sickened and unable to provide for my family. Oh well, they say that despair is normal in times like these.”
Do you know what saved the lives of those bummer lambs – Thomas and Peter? The resurrection saved them. Do you know what saves you? The resurrection of Jesus saves you. Listen to the despair of life without the resurrection of Jesus and the certainty of life with it, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those whose have fallen asleep.” (I Corinthians 15:17-20)
Peter, the bummer lamb who Jesus sought and found, had this to say about the hope that Jesus brings to all through His resurrection, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (I Peter 1:3)
I’ve gotta ask you – Did Jesus rise from death, or not? Is this true? Or not? If it isn’t true then we have no hope, no foundation, no life. We’d be bummer lambs who would keep our heads bent and broken. But if it is true, that Jesus can show Himself alive, and defeat every evil force, then He will lift the spirits of those dejected followers by His words, “Peace be with you”. Us bummer lambs have heads that are lifted and spirits made certain and strong.
Did Jesus rise from death, or not? Is this true? Or not? Yes, He rose. Yes, He lives. And we rise and live. We are forgiven and given faith. We live with confidence and hope. We die with certain victory.
We are all bummer lambs given life in Jesus, who was crucified and now lives…forever. Amen!!
This message was first preached to the saints on April 19, 2020.