Open your bibles this morning to John's Gospel, Chapter 10; John Chapter 10 and let's pray together.
Lord, we remember that Jesus saw a great crowd of people, but he saw them as weary and scattered sheep having no shepherd. There are may be some gathered here this morning that feel just like that. We have great needs today and we look to you for great provision. I pray that as our shepherd, you'd bring us to a place of rest that we would hear your voice and that we would joyfully and immediately put into action the things you speak to us in Jesus name. Amen.
I don't know if you know this or not, but I was once a shepherd, of course I was eight years old and it was a Christmas play, I was the shepherd that I was. But every boy in my class wanted to be a shepherd, it was much less of a commitment than being Joseph or the magi, they had lines to memorize. Being shepherd, you just sort of stand there and smile.
But, I had no idea what a shepherd really did. A life of a shepherd is very demanding and rigorous, endless hours, a deep kind of commitment and expectation to care for an entire flock of sheep.
There was a fable about an old man travelling with a young boy and a donkey. The man was a shepherd, so they would be walking along and trailing behind them would be a flock of sheep. The first village that they walked into, the man was leading the donkey along and the villagers said that the old man was a fool to not be riding the donkey.
So, to appease the villagers, he sat up on the animal and rode the rest of the way and out of town. In the second village, the villagers saw the old man riding the donkey and complained that it was cruel to let a child walk while he rode. So he jumped off the animal and let the young boy ride.
When they went into the third village, the villagers said that the young boy was lazy making the old man walk and the old man was encouraging his lazy lifestyle. And they suggested that they both ride the donkey together. So, the old man hopped back on the animal along with that boy.
By the time they got to the fourth village, the villagers cried out cruelty to donkey that two people would be riding a single animal. The last time they saw the old man, he was walking down the road carrying the donkey.
He just can't please everyone. There's something I noticed about Jesus. He didn't seem to care about appeasing people's ideas about how he should be or act, you noticed that? He just said what he says, he is who he is and the truth of the matter is, what people thought about him would determine their eternal destiny, not his.
In fact, he seemed to only care about what his father in heaven thought about him and he only seemed to care about how to best care for his sheep. That's the analogy that he's giving in this Chapter of John, "The Good Shepherd." In fact in verse six, it's called an illustration. It was a common analogy, everyone in that crowd understood shepherds and shepherding. Everybody got it that there was a corral in every village and the sheep were kept there and the shepherd would lead the sheep out to the country side.
But more than that, many of their heroes had been shepherds. Moses was once a shepherd in the backside of the wilderness. David, before he became king was a shepherd boy in Bethlehem. Jacob and his sons lived the life of wandering shepherds in the Middle East. Even the prophet Amos was found among the sheep herders in Toccoa when God called him, it was a very common analogy.
But now in verse 11 of Chapter 10, in the same story, Jesus makes a very bold and singular statement; read it as we look at it. "I am the good shepherd", that's his statement. "I am the good shepherd", it's the first time he says it quite like that and he'll say it again. He makes the statement and now, he proceeds to tell why he's a good shepherd.
Now I have to say that and just indulge for a moment, the English doesn't carry the force and the intensity of the original statement.
You read this in English, you have a subject, a predicate, an object and one modifier, "I am the good shepherd", and it doesn't really capture the force. It's sort of like in any occupation, there's good ones and bad ones. You got some good doctors, you got some bad doctors. You might have a good lawyer then there could be a bad lawyer. You might have a good secretary or a bad secretary and well, there are good shepherds and there are bad shepherds and I'm a good one; that is not the intention at all.
And though I never do this, I just thought I tried this just so you can see for the sake of force. Let me put a slide up and you can see the idea. Now, on the bottom is the Greek and then in the original language it reads, "Egó̱ eímai o poimí̱n o kalós", which translated literally above in English, I am the shepherd, the good one.
Now here's what's noteworthy; there's an object before the modifier, "the good." "Good" is an adjective but there's an article because it's to intensify the meaning. So, what Jesus is saying is he is a shepherd in a class of his own, no one can compare to him. No one can compete with him. He says, "I am the good shepherd" and that way he's saying, "I am a shepherd" in the sense that no one has ever been a shepherd before. I am the supreme shepherd. I am the greatest shepherd.
Now, I'll tell you why that's important because it helps us understand the negative reaction at the end of the paragraph in verses 19 through 21 which we'll get to. We come here to the fourth of the seven "I am" statements in the Gospel of John. We bring them up to you every time we go through one of them, this is the fourth and we're making -- we're already -- in number four, we've only been at this a year in the gospel. We're making good progress.
But I would say that of all of the seven "I am" statements of Jesus that this is the most popular and the best loved. He said, "I am the light of the world", "I am the bread of life." "I am the resurrection and the life." "I am the way, the truth, and the light." But, "I am the good shepherd" ranks number one in popularity because it resonates with something in our core that God is pictured as someone who cares that much like the tender care of a shepherd for a sheep.
By the way, the most popular, symbolic representation of the early church when they were persecuted and lived in the catacombs in Rome, scratched on the walls of the catacomb was this motif of the good shepherd, they loved that. An unbeliever in hearing what I've just been saying, "Okay, you say he's the good shepherd, but there have been a lot of religious leaders before and after him. He says he's so singular, what makes him so great? What is so great about the good shepherd?"
I'm glad you asked that if you did. There are four things so great about the good shepherd that we see beginning in verse 11. Number one, he's great because he sacrifices for the sheep, verse 11, "I am the good shepherd." The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep, but a hireling; that's a hired hand, is he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hired hand flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.
"I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and I'm known by my own. As the father knows me, even so I know the father and I lay down my life for the sheep."
I found out that shepherding is risky, dangerous business because you had to lead those sheep that were in the corral in your village, in a protected environment and you had to lead them out into the countryside where they could fall prey to a number of predators. You are more vulnerable when you lead your sheep out in the countryside than when they're in a corral in the village.
Do you remember when David who was a shepherd boy stood before King Saul? King Saul wanted to know who are you, where do you come from? This is what David said to him, "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep, when a lion or a bear came and carried of a sheep from the flock, I went in after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. And when it turned on me, I seized it by its hair and struck it and killed it."
Wow, a bear? That's pretty dangerous. I found something out this week that just took me off guard, I just blew my mind. It's a -- according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, I didn't even know there was such an entity, the National Agricultural Statistics Service. That's sort of like 4H on steroids I suppose.
According to that group, 224,200 sheep were killed in the United States by predators in the year of 2004. I thought, "Really?" And it goes on to say the sheep lost in that year represented a sum total of $18.3 million for sheep producers. They were killed by coyotes, bears, eagles, domestic dogs etcetera.
So, it was and still is dangerous. A book in my study called "The land and the book", about a man travels though the Middle East and how it compares with what the bible says, written by W.M. Thompson. He interviewed shepherds and this is what he writes.
"I've listened with intense interest to these shepherd's graphic descriptions of downright and desperate fights with savage beasts. When the thief and the robber come and they do come, the faithful shepherd has often to put his life in his hand to defend the flock. I have known more than one case where the shepherd had literally to lay it down in the contest. One poor fellow, instead of fleeing actually fought off three Bedouin robbers until he was hacked to pieces himself, and he died among the sheep that he was defending."
But here's the difference, here's the difference between the dangerous, occupational hazard of a shepherd and Jesus himself. What Jesus says is "I lay my life down. I give my life." I don't want you to see this as some accidental, unintended tragedy, some occupational hazard.
Jesus gives his life. He said this four times, verse 11. "The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep." Verse 15, "I lay down my life for the sheep", verse 17, "The Father loves me because I lay down my life", verse 18, "No one takes it from me, I lay it down of myself. I have the power to lay it down and take it again."
Now this is so basic and so vital to what we believe and so repeated throughout the New Testament that if we don't have it yet, today is the day we need to really get this. There's two important things implied by this. Number one, Jesus' death was voluntary, it was voluntary. It wasn't an accident. It wasn't like Jesus got himself into trouble, said some really bad things and oops, he got arrested and they killed him. It was all part of the plan. There wasn't plan B, it wasn't just a tragedy or a murder, from a human level, yes but not from a divine level.
Revelation 13 calls Jesus the lamb slain from the foundations of the world. It was all part of the plan. Now, about six or eight months after this very conversation we're reading, Jesus has by that time died and risen from the dead and Peter and the Apostles are in Jerusalem and they're spreading the message everywhere. This is what Peter says to the crowd, the very same group in Jerusalem.
In Acts Chapter two, Peter says, "Jesus, him being delivered by the determined purpose and fore knowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands and crucified and put to death." You see what he does for that, how he combines human responsibility? Yeah, you killed him, but God planned it all along. There's this sovereign manipulation of events because Jesus volunteered his life. That's number one, it was voluntary.
Number two, it was substitutionary. He died for the sheep. He died for us, he didn't die for himself. He certainly didn't die for his own sins. He didn't have any sins to die for. He died for the sheep or the sins of the sheep. Verse 11 and verse 15, I want you to see it, look at the little phrase "For the sheep." For the sheep, a little word, the word "for" is who pair and agree. It means "on behalf of" or better translated "in the place of", as a substitution for.
He died so they wouldn't have to die. He took their death. You want to know why the good shepherd is so great, that's why. He took all the filth, all the muck, all the mire, all the sin of all the sheep and boarded upon himself so we wouldn't have to. Isaiah 53, you know the verse, "All we like sheep have gone astray, the Lord laid upon him the inequity of us all."
By the way, that's how sheep get into the sheep fold to begin with, right? Acknowledging their sin and need for the death of someone to clean up their life, to take away their sin. So that's why he's so great because he sacrifices for the sheep, here's the second reason. He's so great because he knows his sheep, verse 14. He says, "I am the good shepherd and I know my sheep and I'm known by my own as the Father knows me even so I know the Father and I lay down my life for the sheep."
Now frankly, this sounds a little odd to me at first. What do you mean he knows his sheep? I mean to me, a flock of sheep, they all look alike. A sheep is the sheep is a sheep is sheep is a sheep, like a cow is a cow is a cow, but that's how much I know. Ask a shepherd he'll say, "Oh, you got it all wrong." Sheep are so unique and so individual and some are large and some are small are some squatty and some are lean and some have quirks and others have differences in their personality and some like to lay around and others like to wander off and they are so unique and so different.
I know my sheep. I like that because he knows all the differences between us. In fact, it's those differences that make us so unique and distinguishable and what this tells me is I don't have to be anybody else. I don't have to desire what anybody else desires. I don't have to have the same gift as another person. I don't have to be an Evangelist. I don't have to be a musician. I don't have to have a great voice. I don't have to have a bubbly personality. I can just be who I am and God is okay with that, he knows us sheep individually and he can work with that.
Also, there's comfort in the fact that God knows his sheep. Think about it, after knowing all about you and all about your failures and all about your propensities, he loves you anyway. He loves you anyway. Look at the word "know" in these verses, I know. It's the word genosco, that's the Greek word. It means a deep profound, intimate, affectionate knowledge that people who have a close relationship enjoy, like a husband and wife or good friends, they really know each other. "I know my sheep and I'm known by my own."
In fact, look at verse 15, the knowledge that Jesus has of us is as complete and intimate as the father and the son's knowledge of each other. He says, "As the Father knows me even so I know the Father and I lay down my life for the sheep." You know why this is cool? Here's why it's cool, you can't surprise God. You know what that means to you? You'll never do something or think something or have a motive for something that God will be shocked by. He'll never go, "Huh? I didn't know you were like that. Now I know that you're like that, I don't quite love you as much as I did. I didn't know that about you. That's quite a shock."
God will never be surprised. I mean, nothing can diminish his love. You'll never have to worry that he'll find something out that will change that. I've always been fond of the story of the old rich grandfather who was losing his hearing and he went to the doctor and got a hearing aid and it worked. He went back to the doctor two weeks later and said, "Doctor, these things are so great I can hear conversations in the next room." The doctor said, "Oh, that's wonderful. I bet your family is really glad that you can hear." He said, "I haven't told them."
He said, "I've just been listening and listening and getting to know my family a lot better and guess what doc, I've changed my will twice."
You never have to worry that that will happen between you and God. He knows all about you and he still loves you. Psalm 139, David said, Lord you have searched and known me.
You know my sitting down. You know my rise and up. You understand my thoughts are far off. There's not a word on my tongue but behold Lord, you know it altogether. He knows when you lay down to relax. He knows when you get up to resume your activities. He search and anticipates your thoughts, your motives. He knows what you're going to think before you think it. He knows all the—He's got the dirt on you, okay. He's got the dirt on you. He knows you and he cares for you and loves you none the less.
I'll add to that and say He knows us perfectly. We know Him barely in comparison, right, wouldn't agree? In comparison to what God knows about you, you know Him barely. Your knowledge of God is incremental, it's growing. Peter said grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and savior. God knows you instantly totally, you know God barely. You and I are like Paul the Apostle who cried out in Philippians that I may know Him in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of the suffering. That's my heart's cry I want to knowing. Will there ever be a time when you know Him fully? Yes, but none on this earth, when you are in resurrected body and glory before His throne face-to-face, then you'll get it completely.
Paul writes this, 1 Corinthians 13, now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face-to-face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully as I am fully known.
Let me add just one more thought to this. If Jesus Christ is willing to be your shepherd, why would you settle for anything less? I'll put it to you in another way, if Jesus is your shepherd, accept no substitute. Don't ever try to live your life through somebody else's life, through the life of some leader. Any leader, any pastor, any mentor is at best and under shepherd of the great shepherd. Yet some people get so tide in to a shepherding kind of a movement where they don't make a decision, they don't make any kind of a movement unless they first check every thing out with there earthly shepherd. It's a mistake when people look to any kind of a leader to meet their needs, that's why He say accept no substitute. He's your shepherd.
Here's a third reason why He so great, He's great because He unites He's sheep, verse 16, could He says. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold, them also I must bring and they will hear my voice and there'll will be one flock and one shepherd. I love this. Our shepherd is so great. He wants to open up the corral to his many sheep as He can. He wants to expand the flock. Then others that phrase this fold, I have sheep that are not of this fold. This fold is the fold of Judaism, that's what he's talking about.
There was a blind man who was just kicked out of the fold, right, because he mouth up the Pharisees they ex-communicated him. We read about several weeks ago by now. They unsynagogue(ph) him. Jesus immediately scooped him up and brought him into his fall. But what I read here is our Lord is not interested in keeping this a Jewish thing. He wants to go to the highways and the by-ways and compel us many as He can all people to come in which by the way was predicted. The Pharisees didn't live that out, but it was predicted in their own scriptures that God's plan was to reach not just Jews but more.
Isaiah for example, chapter 56:8, the Lord god who gathers the outcast of Israel says "Yet I will gather to him, others beside those who are gather to Him". Boy, the Pharisees did not live that way. The Pharisees divided the world up into two groups, Jews and everybody else. Jews and gentile, and gentiles were unclean, un-savable. Pius(ph), religious, fanatical Pharisees would go to the streets of Jerusalem holding their robes tight to their body, so they wouldn't brush up against any gentile once they get to this some unclean kind of a rub off from these guys.
In fact some of the Pius Pharisees 2000 years ago, the men and you'll see why the men in the moment would pray this as part of their morning prayer, "Dear god, I thank that I'm not a gentile or slave or a woman". How'd you like to be married to that ladies? That was part of their prayer life.
In fact, some of the Pharisees said that God created the gentiles for one purpose, so we would have kindling wood for the fires of hell, that's why they were made just so we could burn them all up.
So here comes Jesus, He says you know what I have a plan that so much bigger than just this fold and I'm going to make this fold so big that there would be one flock and one shepherd. He's speaking of He's church, the blending of Jew and gentile together because that kind of a narrowness was never God's plan. He wanted to expand it and have everybody in the world hear about the good news of the savior.
Good Jesus said "For god so love the world that He gave He's only begotten Son", that was his plan. It was a revolutionary concept however. Did you know that even Peter, the Apostle of Jesus, had a hard time with Jesus letting anybody but Jews into the fall? Did you know that? It was revolutionary concept.
In the book of Acts in chapter 10, Peter's hanging with a buddy down in the sea port of Japa(ph) and he sees a vision. Remember the story that sheep to get sled down from heaven and there's all sorts of unclean, uncultured animals on the sheep. And God says, "Hey Peter, get up and kill those things and eat them". And Peter, being Peter says "No way, Lord".
I'd never eaten anything that's uncultured and unclean. God says "Let me tell you something, what I have plans don't you dare call common or unclean."
Well, this is all a set up because as he's getting this vision a knock on the door comes, some guys are there to take him to Cornelius' house, a gentile ruler in the Roman government. So he goes all the way to Seseria(ph), there's Cornelius and this is what Peter says as he's come to Cornelius' door, the door opens, the first thing out of Peter's mouth, listen to how wonderful Peter is, "You know how unlawful it is for Jews like me to hang out with people like you?" "Greetings to you too Peter."
But then Peter says "What God has been speaking to my heart that with he who is cleansed, I dare not call common or unclean". But you see Peter had a real problem with God reaching out to anybody who wasn't Jewish. But Jesus was opening the doors wide to who saw ever will let them come, that there would be one flock and he sees one shepherd.
Jesus Christ is the Lord for the Germans and the Jews and the Arabs and the Spanish and the Asians and the Africans and the Europeans and the Americans and your neighbor next door. That's who He is. Red and yellow, black and white, they're precious in He's sight. Jesus loves the little children and adults of the world.
By the way, it's the best way to view people. This is a revolutionary way for you to start looking at people who are unbelievers, they are potential sheep. That bank secretary, potential sheep, that business executive on the gulf course, potential sheep. That policeman writing you a ticket, a potential sheep, that's why you want to treat them with great respect, not just to get out of the ticket, potential sheep.
Here's the fourth and final reason He's so great. He's great because He lives for his sheep. Verse 17, therefore, my father loves me because I lay down my life. Now we know what that is, we've already cover it. He gives his life, he lays it down, that is his sacrificial death, because I laid down my life that I may take it again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of myself. I have the power to lay it down. I have the power to take it again, this command I have receive from my father. Therefore, there was a division among the Jews because of these sayings, and many of them said He has a demon and He is nuts. Why do you listen to him? Other said these aren't the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?
What is Jesus referring to in verse 17 and 18? His death and his resurrection and lay it down and then take it again. This would be the ultimate sign of (a) his messiah sheep, (b) his deity. No one takes my life from me, I give it, I lay it down and I have the power not only lay it down, but to take a back up. He is predicting his death and his resurrection.
Now why is that so important to being a good shepherd? Because it means he'll never leave us. Remember what Jesus said after He died and rose from to dead. He said to his disciples, "Lord I am with you always even to what, the end of the world, end of the age." Only somebody who lives forever can make that kind of promise, right? And if I were to tell you I'd be with you to the end of the age, what if I die next week or whenever I die for some of you who are young, it's not possible.
Only someone who lives forever can make that kind of a promise. Now some of you are thinking, but skip after the resurrection, He didn't leave. He ascended it up into heaven. The bible says they stood on the Mount of Olives and Jesus went--didn't say that but they said He ascended it up into heaven. He left. And you're thinking, what's so great about that? It's actually greater, it's greater.
You see before when Jesus was on earth, Jesus could only be where Jesus was in physicality, he was limited to a physical body. From heaven, reigning hand of the father, He can make promises like I will never leave you orphans, I will come to you.
Moreover, did you know that Jesus now in heaven, ascended in heaven at the right hand--you know He's been very busy the last 2000 years. He's been working. Some of you are thinking, what do you mean He's been working? He skip, you always talk about the finished work of Christ, you're right on the cross. On the cross, He finished the work of redemption. You can add to it. But there's another unfinished work in heaven and that's called intercession.
Here's what Hebrew 7:25 says "Jesus ever lives to make intercession for you." He lives for his sheep. He pleads your case before the father. Wow. I prayed for you this week. I pray for you every week. Nothing monumental, I should be doing that. It's what pastors do, they should be pray for their flock. But I do pray for you. And I'm saying that because I want to compare that with another statement.
As cool as that might sound, Jesus pray for you this week. He spoke to the father on your behalf because you have an adversary that has access to heaven named Satan who is the one who's always condemning you, always accusing you. And Jesus is up there saying "Its okay father, he's one of mine." I bought that one. This one is mine. He's praying for you. He intercedes on your behalf. How can you lose with the shepherd like that?
I tell you what, that ought to do something to us. When we realize this is the supreme great shepherd that we serve--There was a lady named Nancy, hardworking gal, got hardly any money. She was always borderline poverty because she work hard, but she never got much of a wage. However, something interesting about Nancy, she was radiant. She was always happy. She always had a smile, always had a good outlook. And people looking at Nancy's life would say, there's no really good reason why she had to be that happy until you get to know when you discover she really does trust Jesus. She loves Him.
Well, she had another friend who always was gloomy and glam and negative and her friends said this, get this she said "Nancy you maybe happy now, but what about later?" And she says, "What do you mean?" Her friends said, "Well suppose you get fired, you lose your job or suppose you come down with some terminal illness, some disease that you died from. Or suppose," and Nancy said, "Stop, stop, stop, I don't suppose anything. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." And she added "It's all those supposes that are making you so miserable."
How do you live? Do you live in suppose land? What if this happen, what if that happen, what if the economy, what if my house, what if my job, okay all real fears and that doubting them. Or do you live in the Lord is my shepherd. He's the chief shepherd, He is the supreme shepherd. He already died for me, now He lives for me. What do I got to lose? Well, what if I die? Let's see, oh yeah, heaven. Not bad, not a bad deal.
One final thought, closing thought I promise. Cheaper helpless, I get it such a kick out of the fact shows to compare us to sheep. They are utterly helpless. Do you know that sheep can come into a condition called cast? A sheep that lies on its back in some kind of a depression in the ground where it's leg are sticking up in the air is called cast sheep. They can't turn themselves over. They're like a turtle upside down. Moves his leg but they can't really get back up, sheep the same way.
If the sheep is cast in that condition, it cuts off circulation especially in the legs and if it's a warm weather, the sheep can die within hours. Utterly helpless unless a shepherd sees it and rescues it. So he knows about a sheep, do you know they'll eat anything? Anything, poison stuff, poison weeds and roots, it's like—no discriminating palate, whatsoever.
You want to know something else? You know what sheep doing their attack, they're helpless. It's not like you have an attack sheep, karate sheep. What do you think a sheep does when a wolf attacks? Some says they will run. You know what a lot of them do? Nothing. It's what they do. Wolf comes they go like this--
And some don't even bleat, they just stand there and die. Point is, they're helpless, they a need a shepherd to rescue them. I wonder some of you this morning would just finally say yes to the shepherd, admitting two things; I'm a sheep, I'm a sinner, I need help. I need a shepherd. I need a savior, one who can rescue me.
Let's pray Heavenly Father what an example of your great love in the story of Jesus. The shepherd who gave his life for the sheep. A shepherd who knows intimately, deeply, totally all of the different personality quirks of each one of us. A shepherd who lives for his sheep, standing for us before your Father's throne our behalf, uniting us into one flock wanting the whole world to know of the greatness of Jesus as the shepherd.
Some of that crowd was confused, others were down right angry. I wonder what our reaction is, I wonderful if we'll be angry, I wonder if we'll be indifferent or I wonder if we'll worship before you feed us Lord and the shepherd. I pray for anyone here who's never committed their life to Christ. Bring them into the fold in Jesus name, Amen.