This is one of the most beloved passages to be found anywhere in Scripture. But it's not a stand-alone passage: The healing of the blind man in chapter 9 was more than a miracle. It was part of the process of Jesus forming His flock. The leadership had cast the healed man out of the synagogue. Jesus found him, accepted him, saved him, and placed him in His own fold.
"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" John 20:31.
Believe:879 is an epic journey through the book of John led by Pastor Skip Heitzig of Calvary of Albuquerque. As we explore each of the 879 verses of this gospel, we'll grow in grace and in our knowledge of Jesus Christ. From His pre-incarnate existence, to His public ministry, through His death and His resurrection we'll traverse familiar territory and embark on new adventures of faith.
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Things for Sheep to Chew On:
Sheep are docile; they follow one another. They are not known for their strength. The Bible uses sheep as an analogy for human beings. Thousands of years ago, everyone understood the analogy; they were a part of the culture. Job owned 14,000 sheep; Solomon sacrificed 120,000 on one occasion; Psalm 100:3 refers to God's children as the sheep of His pasture. Isaiah 53:6 says "All we like sheep have gone astray;" alluding to the fact that sheep are prone to wander.
Phillip Keller writes "Sheep do not 'just take care of themselves' as some might suppose. They require, more than any other class of livestock, endless attention and meticulous care. It is no accident that God has chosen to call us sheep. The behavior of sheep and human beings is similar in many ways[...]. Our mass mind (or mob instincts), our fears and timidity, our stubbornness and stupidity, our perverse habits are all parallels of profound importance." The quality of life for the sheep depends on the shepherd who takes care of it.
This text is divided into two sections: the village scene (vv. 1-6) and the countryside scene (vv. 7-10).
Figures Referenced: Tommy Walker; George Adam Smith;
Publications Referenced: A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller
Cross References: Psalm 23:2; Psalm 100:3; Isaiah 53:6; Jeremiah 23:1-2; Ezekiel 34:1-2; Matthew 9:17; John 10:16; Galatians 4:4
Topic: The Good Shepherd
Keywords: sheep, shepherd, Good Shepherd, provision, protection
Would you turn in your bibles this morning to John's Gospel the 10th chapter. We've made it all the way to John Chapter 10. We've been along time in John and as you can see by being in Chapter 10, we have along way to go. But as for me, my appreciation of the person, work and majesty of Jesus Christ has been so enlarged and enriched that every study for me personally has been very, very worth it. We're going to look at John Chapter 10 the verse 10 verses today of that chapter. Let's go ahead and pray together.
Father, we pause and we feel the need before we get in to any study of this book to talk to you about it, that's why we pray first because it's your word. These are your trues and because we are your people and we are the flock, the sheep of your fold, we pray that we would be delighted and comforted, strengthened, instructed, exhorted by what were about to read and consider. This is one of the most loved passages by so many of your children. We pray that we would grasp it and understand what Jesus meant to say to those who are listening and what he means to say to us, in Jesus name, Amen.
You will probably never see a professional sports team when coming up for a mascot to represent their team, you'll probably never see a sheep being used, not going to happen. If you look at coins or paper money, you'll probably never find when a nation wants to represent its strength or majesty, you'll never see them use a sheep on the front of the coin.
When it comes to protecting property, you don't usually by sheep to do that. You'll never see a sign for instance on a chain linked fence that says, "Beware of sheep" or "Attack Lamb"
"Lambo" is here and we laugh at that because we know better that sheep or dorsal creatures, they are creatures driven together to act following one another rather than being independent, not known for their strength. And you should also know that when the bible wants to talk about human beings, it often uses this analogy of us being sheep.
I heard a story of a woman, she was blonde and I know, I know you think you know where this is going, but follow me here. And she was sick of all the blonde jokes that she would hear at work and she would hear everywhere she went. So she just got fed up with it. So she decided she's going to dye her hair black. She dyed her hair black it looked great and it worked. There were no blonde jokes that she heard. Life was good.
One day, she's driving out in the country side and she stops because a flock of sheep is going across the road with the shepherd. So she stops, gets out, enjoys the view and then finally says to the shepherd, "Hey, if I can guess how many sheep are in your flock, can I have one of them?" He thought about it. He said, "Sure, if you can guess how many sheep I have in my flock you can take one, it's yours."
So she said, "You have 257 sheep in your flock." He was pretty impressed because that's exactly how many he had. So he said, "Okay, you can take anyone you want." So she reached down and picked up one of the animals and put it in her car and she was about to leave, started up her car, rolled up her windows, was driving away, the shepherd knocked on the window and she rolled it down. And he leaned in and he said, "Hey if I can guess what color your hair really is, can I have my dog back?"
See, how that snuck that in that way? For those of us in the western world, an analogy of a shepherd and sheep isn't too relevant because most us aren't on the farm. It's not a part of our culture. Thousands of years ago however, for Jesus to give this kind of a word picture or illustration, everyone instantly knew what it meant because that was part of their culture. The Old Testament Job, one of the early patriarchs it is believed, had 14,000 sheep that he owned.
Solomon, when he wanted to give a grand sacrifice to the lord in the first temple sacrificed on one occasion 120,000 sheep. And so, the bible uses this metaphor because it was common to people back then. It's one of the most loved ideas in all of the bible. For example, Psalm 100, "It is he who made us and we are his people. We are the sheep of his pasture."
So it's a beautiful thought that we have a shepherd who takes care of the sheep. However, in the bible, the nature and the character of sheep is not put in the best light. For example, when Isaiah wants to write about what we are like and what we need, he says, "All we like sheep have gone astray." Because that's what sheep do, they are prone to wander. They are prone to leave the path.
One professor of philosophy said, "The existence of sheep is evidence against the theory of evolution." For he continues, "There's no way sheep could survive if your into survival of the fittest." They require a constant attention, constant rescue, constant cleaning, constant everything or they'll die.
One of my favorite writings is Phillip Keller who was a shepherd in Canada. And Keller writes of his own experience and he says, "Sheep do not just take care of themselves as some might suppose, they require more than any other class of livestock and less attention and meticulous care."
It is no accident that God has chosen to call us sheep. The behavior of sheep in human beings is similar in so many ways. Our mass mind or mob instinct, our fears and timidity, our stubbornness and stupidity, our perverse habits are all parallels of profound importance. God calls us sheep because he knows people. He knows human nature.
Moreover, it says a lot about the shepherd because it's not about -- and I don't want you to walk away from this (00:07:20), I'm just a dumb sheep, but rather, I have a wonderful shepherd. That was David's thought on Psalm 23, "The lord is my shepherd." The point wasn't, "I'm just some dumb sheep." The point was a bragging point. Look at who my shepherd is. Look at who's in control of my life because David knew, being a shepherd in Bethlehem that the quality of life for any sheep depends on the kind of shepherd that takes care of you.
I bet you've all known people who've had pets and you wonder why they have them. They don't care of them much. They don't walk their dog. The dog is chained in the backyard and barks all day and digs holes, he is never walked and you wonder why do they have a dog.
On the other extreme, you have people not only have dogs, they adopt them like their own children. The dogs have wardrobes, monogram sweaters, quaffed hairdos, air-conditioned dog houses. They go to all the shows and you look at the way some people pamper their pets and you think, "Oh my goodness, that's so extreme." We mock them, at least I do.
But I have a question for you. If you were a dog and have the choice of owner A or owner B, which one would you pick? Owner B hands down, I want a Christ who are going to take care of me and dote over me. So when David said, "The Lord is my shepherd. I won't need a thing", his bragging not on his own stupidity but on God's greatness.
Now, we're on Chapter 10 of John, not Psalm 23. And in John Chapter 10, the first 10 verses which we're going to look at this morning can be divided into two sections and if you'll just take a look at it, if you have a red letter bible, you'll notice that everything's red except verse six, that's the dividing line.
The first red letter section is Jesus giving a point, then there's a reaction, then Jesus said something else again. And so, I want you to see that this section that we're going to read is divided up into two. The first, verses one through six is the village scene and verses seven through 10 is the countryside scene.
The first is the shepherd gathering his flock and the second is the shepherd guiding his flock. Let's go ahead and read through verses one through 10 or verses one through six and see the gathering.
"Most assuredly I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs up some other way the same as a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep."
To him, the door keeper opens the sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them and the sheep follow him for they know his voice. If they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him for they do not know the stranger's voice. Jesus used this illustration but they didn't understand the things which he spoke to them.
Now it's going to be helpful for you to understand that there were two different kinds of sheepfolds, that's the word used here. That is a corral, an enclosure, two different types. One was the village sheepfold and the other was the countryside sheepfold. This is the village of sheepfold, the first six verses. And every single village in the ancient Middle East, there was a communal corral somewhere in the middle of town or somewhere by town a communal corral.
That is, if you were a shepherd and your neighbor was a shepherd and your other buddy was a shepherd, you would all put your flocks in one common enclosure. This is how it would work, you are coming in from the fields at night and you would lineup your sheep to enter the sheepfold. Your rod would go down and their shepherd's rod kept each sheep from entering and the shepherd would inspect each sheep after looking through its fur and making sure they were no scratches or no parasites that would infect the rest of the flock. He would lift his rod and the sheep would go under the rod and then he put it back down again and inspects the next and then the next one, etcetera.
All of the shepherds did that in this communal sheepfold. Then in the morning, it's time to take them out of the village and out to the countryside. So, each of the shepherds would come one by one and because they were the shepherds that the gatekeeper or the porter knew being instantly recognized by the porter, he would allow the shepherd who walked into that enclosure. And then the shepherd would take his flock out of the village, out to the countryside.
Now it's sort of interesting that many commentators try to pin the identity of the sheepfold and take it into different category. Some say it represents heaven. The sheepfold is heaven. I disagree completely with that because we have thieves and robbers climbing over the wall in the story. I don't think you're going to have thieves and robbers climbing over any wall to getting to heaven. First of all, you can't climb into heaven on your own.
Some people say this is the picture of salvation or it's a picture of the church. I don't agree with that either because here in this first section, the shepherd goes to lead his flock out of the fold. God didn't lead anybody out of the body of Christ. He doesn't lead anybody out of salvation, so it can't be either of those or any of those.
In its context, it's easy to see and understand what he's referring to. The fold or the enclosure represents Judaism that has kept God's flocks safe until the Messiah could come. But keep in mind that in the original documents, there's no chapter break. There's no chapter nine, chapter 10 and if you read this you'll find that this is part of the last conversation in chapter nine. He's speaking to the leaders and he says, "For judgment, I have come into this world that those who are blind may see and those who see may be made blind." Then they said, "What are we blind to?"
all that conversation is because they just kicked a man out of the Synagogue, right? A blind man who has been healed, they kicked him out of the Synagogue. And then it says Jesus found him. So he found the man and he indicts the leaders.
So, Judaism is that religious system that kept God's people until the Messiah could come. That's what the fold represents. It's easy to see if you go down to verse 16, Jesus says, "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold." Speaking of non-Jews, Gentiles the church will be birth in Jerusalem but spread out all over to Gentile world. "Them also I must bring and they will hear my voice and there will be one flock and one shepherd."
So, this shepherd goes in the morning and finds that flock already in the fold and he leads them out. The shepherd is Jesus, he is the good shepherd. In fact, if you look at verse 11 he says, "I am the good shepherd." The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.
Jesus does three things as the shepherd, he comes the right way. He calls the right way and he conducts or leads the right way. You notice something in verse one, the illustration that Jesus employs, the analogy of a shepherd and sheep begins in verse one on a negative note, not a positive note. Notice, "Most assuredly I say to you he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs up some other way the same is a thief and a robber." What is he talking about? Sheep rustlers, that's what he's talking about. Those guys who at night would climb over the wall because the gate of that village enclosure was locked and guarded by a porter, hopefully, he had found asleep and they can climb over the wall and steal sheep.
So you have people in verse one that is hostile toward the sheep and toward the owner of the sheep. And one cannot help but make the comparison to the previous chapter where the Pharisees were hostile to the blind man and hostile to Jesus and they kicked that man out of their fold, they were the sheep rustlers. You see the Pharisees were the latest in a long line of false prophets.
If you read through the bible in the Old Testament, you discover that many of the true prophets of God speak against the false prophets. Three of the major books that do that are the Book of Isaiah, the Book of Jeremiah and the Book of Ezekiel, where god speaks against false leaders, corrupt priest, wicked kings, false prophets who say things that aren't true.
One famous passage is Jeremiah 23 where the Lords says through that prophet, "Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture. Declares the Lord." Therefore, this is what the Lord, the God of Israel says to the shepherds who tend my people, "Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done."
Another famous one is in the book of Ezekiel, Chapter 34 where he says, "Son of man prophesy to the shepherds of Israel and say to them, woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves when they should be feeding my flock." And so, that is what this analogy is all about; thieves and robbers. In contrast to them, verse two, "He who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep."
See, the true shepherd doesn't have to sneak in, he just uses the front door, they're his sheep. The porter or the gatekeeper recognizes the shepherd. And that's the point Jesus came the right way because Jesus is the true shepherd. He came from heaven to the earth. He came after the prophesying 300 plus predictions in the Old Testament of what the Messiah, the shepherd of Israel would be like, where he would be born. He fixed the messianic description as being the son of David, born in Bethlehem, born of the royal line or as Paul said in Galatians, "When the fullness of the time had come, God sent fort his son born of a virgin, born under the law" as if to say he is the true shepherd who comes the right way and uses the front door.
Look also at verse three a little more carefully, not only does he come the right way but he calls the right way for Jesus says in this analogy, "He calls his own sheep by name." Remember how he said in that communal sheep enclosure, you have all those different flocks that are all together? So if your were to look in, you would know which sheep is which and who belongs to whom. In fact, the shepherd wouldn't instantly know what sheep is his, there are tons of them. There were no brandings or external markings in those days.
But, what the shepherd would do is he would come to that sheepfold in the morning and he would sing out or speak out a sweet little particular voice that he was used to calling his sheep with. Now you know what that's like when you call your dog, you don't talk normal. "Hey boy--", whatever voice you have, your dog recognizes that voice am I right?
Each shepherd had his distinct pitch, tone and inflection that the sheep would recognize as being their master. The sheep may not be the brightest animals, but they can understand their master's voice.
I read a story this week a very interesting story about a shepherd down in Australia who was accused of stealing a sheep a single sheep.
Well, he protest and said, "I didn't steal that sheep. That sheep was mine to begin with. I simply recovered, found my lost sheep." The other guy said, "No, that's my sheep. He stole it from me." So they took it to court, it's a very unusual case. And the judge didn't quite know what to do with this. So, he summoned the sheep in to the court room, I kid you not. And after all, you get the testimony of a sheep, that's how you close the case.
And basically, that's what he did. The judge said to the plaintiff, the one who made the accusation, "Go outside the court room and call that critter." He goes outside gives his call, the sheep does nothing except raise his head and look really scared. And then he said to the defendant, the one who was accused, "Now you go outside and call the sheep." And he called in his particular voice and the sheep perked his head up and run toward the real owner, and that sealed the deal. And the judge simply said, "His sheep knows him. Case dismissed." And so, that's how the shepherd would get the sheep out of that fold and out into the pasture. The right speech, the right words, the recognizable tone of voice.
Here's how that is fulfilled. When Jesus Christ came to this earth, many in Israel did not recognize him. He called as their shepherd, he spoke to them, but the bible says he came into his own, and his own did not receive him. It means his own nation, his own people, and his own group. He came into his own folks and they didn't recognize him, they didn't hear his voice. They didn't pick up his pitch, his tone, his intonation.
Now that wasn't true of everyone, some, the true sheep had been looking and anticipating for this shepherd to come all along. Zacharias was one, Elizabeth was another. Simeon was another. Anna was another. Marry, Joseph, John the Baptist, Zacchaeus, that short little tax collector who was up in the tree. This blind man in this story, Lazarus, Mary, Martha and eventually the thief on the cross will all recognize this is the one and placed their faith in him.
Look a little more closely at the third verse, he says, "He calls his own sheep" by what? By name, did you know that shepherds used to have nicknames for individual sheep in their flock? See, the shepherd intimately knew his flock. He hung around them all day long. He was with them, he watched them. He smelled them. He'd put them in the enclosure everyday, every night.
So he got to know the idiosyncrasies and diverse personalities of each of the sheep. And because of that and studying them, he would give them nicknames. He might call one, "Long Nose." He might call another one, "Black Ear." He might say to another one "Fluffy" or to another one "Slowpoke" because he knew them and he would call them by some individual nickname.
And all of this is to speak of the personal nature of shepherding in ancient times. A name is a personal thing. When somebody speaks your name and isn't it funny you can be in a crowd and there's noise in the crowd, you don't really hear anything in particular but if someone across the room even just speaks your name, you hear it.
It's personal. Somebody calls you by name. One of my favorite songs is written by Tommy Walker, a friend of mine whose out in Los Angeles. He wrote the song, "He Knows My Name." "He knows my every thought. He sees each tear that falls and he hears me when I call." I was with Tommy some years ago in the Philippines and he sang that song at a crusade, there were thousands of people from Manila there. And the people and the crowd began to weep as they heard the song and they all knew the song. They sang the song with him.
It was like the national anthem to them. They said it was their favorite Christian song because they felt like in a huge metropolitan area like Manila where there are so many millions of people and you feel like you're just a face in a crowd, the idea that there's a God in heaven who knows my name and calls me by name is so comforting.
So, he comes the right way. He calls the right way and look at the third, he conducts the right way. The end of verse three, Jesus says, "And he leads them out", he's taking them out of this fold.
And when he brings out his own sheep, verse four, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him for they know his voice. If they were by no means follow a stranger but will flee from him for they do not know the voice of strangers.
It's a picture of a shepherd conducting his flock, leading his flock out of one place to another. If you have any experience with sheep in the west here, and some do, very few do but some do. You understand immediately that the Western style of shepherding is very different from the Middle Eastern or eastern type of shepherding.
Here in the west, people use if they have sheep, dogs to drive the sheep. But not in the east, in the east, a shepherd leads, not drives; leads the sheep. He will go out first, the sheep will follow him and he'll take the path to make sure it's the right path, there's no presuppose that the sheep would fall over and that the path is going to take the sheep to a place where they're going to have food and water.
It's going to be peaceful, it's going to be nourishing. That's the thought behind Psalm 23 when David writes, "He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters." He conducts, he leads the right way. He has the right style of leadership, not driving them like the Pharisees, but leading them like God said he would send shepherds to do.
And this is what I think is important in context. What Jesus is saying by this analogy is just explaining to the crowd and especially the leaders what just happened to that man who'd born blind who is now healed. He had been kicked out of Judaism. The fold of Judaism had fulfilled its function. It had kept the people of God safe, kept the people of God separate from the world. And that was fulfilled, that was over. It was time for a new fold with a new flock and this man was part of that.
It's a new order. I'll use another analogy Jesus employs. He says, "You can't put new wine into old --" what? Wineskins for Jesus said, "The wineskin that is old will crack and burst and you'll lose all the new wine. Now you have to put new wine in new wineskins. And Jesus here is saying, "I'm going to do a new work. I'm leading that man out of the fold and I'm going to lead him in to my fold. I'm his savior. I'm his shepherd."
There's a great point there, learn to trust the leading of your shepherd. If Jesus Christ is indeed your shepherd in leading your life, then trust him. If he's leading you out of something it's because he wants to lead you into something else. And some of us we don't get led very well. The Lord tries to lead us when we dig our hills in and we're just dragging along the road.
Maybe he's leading some of you out of a bad relationship, a sinful relationship. It's because he's leading you into something else. Maybe he's leading you out of a false religion because he's leading you into something else. Maybe he's leading you out of a bad business partnership, it's because he's leading you into something else. Trust the direction and the lead of your shepherd.
Now it says in verse six, Jesus used this illustration, it's what it was. But they did not understand the things that he spoke to them. Now, why did John include that? Well it's very simple. Remember back in the previous chapter? He said, "For judgment I have come into this world that those who are blind may see and those who don't see me may see, those who say they see would be made me blind." And the Pharisees said, "What are we blind also?"
And John is now saying in effect, "Uh-huh. You didn't get it." Jesus just gave you a simple analogy that any of his followers would have gotten and enjoyed and applied but they are scratching their heads going, "Huh?" which proves the whole point that they were blind.
So verse seven, now there's a shift, verse one through six, the shepherd gathers his flock, here's the guiding of the flock. Jesus said to them again, "Most dastardly(ph) I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All whoever came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them, I am the door, if anyone enters by me he will be saved. He will go in and out and find pasture.
The thief does not come except to steal, to kill and to destroy, I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly. Now the second time that Jesus talks, the scene has shifted. The camera pans from the village now to the country side. It's no longer morning when the shepherd calls his flock. It's probably mid-day when the flock is out in the pastor grazing.
Now we have little bit about question posed or at least a little bit of a problem. Jesus refers to himself in the first part and later on after this as the shepherd. Look at verse 11, it says, "I am the good shepherd." But now, it would seem as if Jesus is mixing his metaphors because he says, "I am the door." First he says, "I am the shepherd", now he says "I am the door."
Now, what I want to get across to you is that it's not a mixing of metaphors. A shepherd is a door and I want to explain that. Remember, I said there are two types of enclosures, the one in the village, the one in the country? Village had a high wall, had briers on top to keep it a little more secure, had a gate that swung and it could be locked at night and there was a gatekeeper who admitted the shepherds every morning.
But out on the country was a little more primitive. There were sheepfolds but they were low walled enclosures, just a few piled up stones and there was an opening but no gate that swung a narrow opening. One time, a scholar named George Adam Smith, Old Testament scholar was visiting the land of Israel. He got a tour guide. The tour guide showed him a shepherd, it was toward evening and the shepherd wanted to show where he places his flock at night out on the country side.
So he shows him the sheep enclosure and he says, "I place them in here, my flock in here every night and they're perfectly safe." George Adam Smith said, "What do you mean they're perfectly safe? There's no door, they can get out." And the shepherd, he wasn't a Christian, he was a Muslim Arab. He said, "Well, I am the door." He said, "What do you mean you're the door?" He said at night, I lay down to sleep in front of this opening and I become the literal door so the sheep can't get out unless they would to crossover my body and they're too scared, they won't do that, and wolves can't get in because they'd have to cross over me and I've got a club."
So the shepherd is the door. When he's out in the countryside where he leads his flock at night, he becomes the door. So, it's not a mixing of metaphor, the shepherd becomes the very door. What is that -- you see the door too; verse nine, "I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved." He's the door of salvation.
How many openings, doors do you think the sheepfold had? One, he didn't say, "I'm one of many doors." Now the analogy is perfect because he says, "I am the door. No one gets in this enclosure unless he comes over me or through me." So, it's a perfect application of what Jesus has always thought in the gospel of John, the narrow way, the exclusiveness of Christ.
You see, if God sent Jesus out of heaven and he came to the sheepfold the right way, he came to be the savior of mankind sent by God, why would he come if there were many doors, if there were many ways, if there were many ways to God? Why didn't he just stay up in heaven and enjoy himself and because everybody's leading, going to the same place no matter what they believe. No, he came that people might be saved through or by him. That's why he says on verse eight, "All whoever came before me are thieves and robbers but the sheep did not hear them."
Then look again at verse nine, after he says, "He will be saved, the door of salvation. He will go in and out." That's a metaphor for contentment, for provision, go in and out and find pasture.
So here's the idea, the shepherd would lead his flock into the sheepfold at night and out of the sheepfold in the morning for pasture. That's the idea, in and out. And when he took them out, he brought them to green pastures, still waters, abundant food sources because he's taking care of them. He's providing for them. Even as Jesus Christ nourishes us, his sheep, right now we're being nourished by the very trues of the word of God that speak of his infinite care.
Now if you're a sheep, there's the secret to being a happy one. If you don't want to be too happy of a sheep, just sort of stay at a distance from your shepherd, wander around a little bit, thank God the shepherd have known as much as I know, I'm a sheep. Just sort of wander around and find your own way and make your own idea. But if you really want to be a happy sheep, safety is directly proportional to proximity. The closer you live to your shepherd, the more you are nourished and cared for by him and are safe because of him.
Now, we'll finish it up in verse 10, "He's the door to our satisfaction." He says the thief in comparison does not come except to steal, to kill and to destroy. "I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly" or literally that they might have it to the brim or in super abundance.
I wonder if that describes your life as God's flock. Does abundant life describe you? Notice he says, "I come that they might have life." He didn't say, "I have come that they might have bummer and have bummer more abundantly."
But by looking at some people's lives, you would think he may have said that. Remember how I said that shepherds often gave nicknames to their sheep based on their personalities and idiosyncrasies? If God were to give you a nickname based upon your personality and idiosyncrasies, what would it be? Would it be words like, "Grumpy?" That's my sheep, that's Grumpy, he's always grumpy. There's my sheep Wanderer, he's always kind of wandering around doing his own thing. Or would it be Loving, Trusting, Hopeful?
"I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly." Let me put it a little more directly. If as God's sheep you find yourself constantly complaining about your luck in life, it is an advertisement to everyone else watching you saying, "I follow my shepherd but don't you follow my shepherd or you're going to end up just like me."
But if on the other hand, it reflects this quality of life, the satisfaction of life. What an advertisement that is to follow the shepherd. So many people would line up to follow that shepherd as they see the flock, as they see the sheep. Eric Butterworth is an author who wrote a book "Chicken Soup for the Soul." You may have read the book, it's very popular.
He gives a great little illustration in the book. True story, a sociology professor sent his students out for a project into the slums of Baltimore to find 200 young boys, 200 of them and they were assigned to write an evaluation of what they thought their future would be in these slums. 200 were found, 200 were interviewed, they looked at their lives and almost without deviation, the reports came back the same; hasn't got a chance, no hope and this condition hasn't got a chance.
That was the study. 25 years later, same college, another sociology professor finds this study from 25 years earlier. And now he's wondering, "I wonder what happened to those 200 young boys who are now men?" He sends his class out and their assignment is to find those 200 boys who have grown up and are now men, find out what they're doing.
What they did and they discovered that though 20 of them had moved or had died, 176 of the 180 that they talked to, 176 out of 180 had very successful lives. They were successful business people or they were lawyers or doctors, you get the drift. And that was astonishing because the first report is, "Hasn't got a chance."
Well now the professor in the sociology department is very curious he goes, "You got to find out why." So they went back and they started interviewing them and almost without fail, the answer came back, "Well there was this one teacher that changed everything for me."
So they found the teacher, she was old, old lady but still very lucent. And the sociology professor said, "You have to tell me, I'm writing this up. You have to tell me what your secret was to changing these lives." She smiles, she was very flattered, a sparkle in her eye and a big smile she said, "Honestly, I didn't do anything special. I just loved these boys. I just loved these boys."
And the conclusion of the professor is their success was based on the love of one single teacher, amazing story. Our victory, our success is based on the love and care of one shepherd, the shepherd who laid down his life for the flock. And you know why he is so good at shepherding? Because he knows what it's like to be a sheep. He came into our fold and laid his life down. And that's why when John the Baptist saw him he said, "Behold the Lamb of God, he takes away the sin of the world."
Our father, how humbled we are, how grateful we are to be a part of your flock. You called us out of whatever fold we were in and you brought us into a new one, yours. You're the owner, you're the shepherd. And though using that analogy certainly is saying something about human beings, it says much more about your capability and our need for you even as sheep are completely contingent animals, completely dependant beings. Help us to see our needs to depend fully upon your care, upon your leading.
Thank you that you opened the door for salvation. Thank you with that open door comes the provision, the green pastures, all that we need and you know what we need better than we do and the abundant life, so that any sheep under your care must say, "This is the life." May we reflect that in Jesus name, Amen.