Monday, 8 May 2017

Jesus is the Good Shepherd

On Sunday I had the privileged of speaking again at WatersEdge in the Googong cafe. Like last time, I tried to give this talk without reading from a transcript. I didn't end up delivering this all note free, I did have a series of dot points next to me to help prompt me of the flow. I do think I probably spoke too fast.

The Psalm for the day was Psalm 23 and last time they met they looked at Psalm 23, so I thought this passage (the Gospel reading for the day) worked well and was kinda on a theme they had just looked at. Below is the John 10 text I used and the rough draft I wrote before. I kinda said all that was below, but maybe not so much word for word.
10 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

You may have heard this one:

The Lord is my shepherd
I shall not want
He leads me besides still waters
He restores my soul
He leads me in paths of righteousness
For His name sake

These are the first few verses to Psalm 23. King David wrote these words about a 1,000 years before our text of John 10. Already we see in Jewish thought this idea of God being a shepherd and so implicitly those who follow Him are his sheep. Does that seem insulting? Being called a sheep.

Have you heard of the word sheeple? It is a term referred to people who are easily influenced. The Merriam-Webster dictionary under the word sheeple cites as an example iPhone fanboys who are willing to pay lots of money for apple products[1]. They need to wake up and be independent, to think for themselves and not give into pure marketing.

Is that what it’s like to follow God? Are people who follow Jesus just sheeple?

In John 10 Jesus tells a story about sheep and a shepherd.

Hear, follow, know
In the first half of the story we see a few things about the sheep. The sheep hear, they follow and they know the shepherd.

Back then, what they would do over night is put all the sheep from different flocks into one communal pen, this way, overnight they just need one gatekeeper to keep watch via the one entry way. This means the shepherds can go home and you only have to pay one guy to watch all the sheep overnight. This guy, the gatekeeper was to make sure no illegitimate person was getting in. In the morning, the shepherds would come into the pen, call out to their sheep and they would then follow him, because they know him[2].

Today when we round up sheep we normally push them from behind from one paddock to another using dogs, horses or four wheel drives. I remember once when I was about 15 I was on a large sheep farm up past Parks and we had to move a few hundred sheep from one paddock to another. We used a few dogs and two four wheel drives, and still some sheep, while been almost run over by Ute with a large bull-bar would not budge through the one open gate where were trying to get them through. Back then the shepherd wouldn’t push the sheep from behind, they would walk ahead of the sheep and the sheep would follow the shepherd, because they knew and trusted Him. They would go wherever he would lead them[3], and if he had to, he could call them and they would know to obey his voice.

This point shows a two-way relationship between the shepherd and the sheep. The shepherd knows his sheep and the sheep know their shepherd. The sheep aren’t dragged out or tricked into following the wrong guy, they know who their true master is.

Jesus is the door
What I find interesting is that in the first bit of the story Jesus doesn’t say He is the shepherd, or the gatekeeper. He says he is the door. He is the one entry way into the sheep pen. In this analogy, He is simply saying that he is the way to safety, or to salvation[4]. Only legitimate people come into the pen via the door. Others, thieves and robbers, they come into the pen by jumping the wall.

Jesus is the door, or as He says later, He is the way the truth and the life, no one comes to God except through Him[5].

Jesus is the Good Shepherd
Then from verse 11 Jesus changes his role in the second bit of the story. First, he was the door to the pen, now he calls himself the good shepherd.

Psalm 23 calls God a shepherd, but what makes Jesus such a good shepherd in John 10?

Compared to other characters in the story Jesus is willing to protect his sheep, even at the cost of His own life.

The robbers and thieves want to come in and kill and destroy the sheep.

The hired hand is flaky as at the first sign of trouble they would run. They don’t want to put their life on the line for some dumb sheep. When push comes to shove, it is better to lose your job than to die.

But Jesus says He is the good shepherd because He lays down His life for His sheep. The sheep aren’t just on loan to Jesus, they are His. He owns them. He has some sort of moral responsibility over them, more so than a hired helper. Jesus says about three times in this passage that He is the good shepherd because He lays down His life for His sheep. I think the repetition is important. It is kinda the main thing Jesus is saying.

Jesus isn’t just telling some nice story about how brave or good he possibly could be. We know from Easter what happens at the end of this book. Jesus really does die. He gets faced with some trumped up charges and is then executed on a cross outside Jerusalem. In this story, Jesus is saying that His death is not to be seen as some brave example for the sheep to follow and be inspired by. The assumption in this story is that the sheep are in some sort of mortal danger and the shepherd lays down His life to protect and save the sheep from the danger[6]. It is by the shepherd’s death that the sheep are saved. Likewise it is by Jesus’ death that we are saved. We have all sinned and fallen short of the standards God has set for us. Our present good deeds do not change history and undo the bad things that we have done. But, while were still sinners, God sent Jesus to rescues us from the danger of God’s judgment. Jesus took that on himself so that we don’t have the face it. He is the good shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep, because He loves His sheep.

Other sheep
Jesus goes onto say in verse 16 that he has other sheep that are out there and his goal is to bring those sheep into one flock. What is meant by this is you and me. In the immediate context, the bit before this passage Jesus had healed a blind man. He was brought before the Jewish religious leaders and then cast out of the temple because the healed guy said Jesus must have been from God. The religious people didn’t like this, because they didn’t like Jesus. Jesus was upsetting their apple cart.

In our passage, the reference to the thieves and robbers is a jab at the religious leaders of the day as they were only interested in robbing the people, rather than leading and looking after them[7]. The sheep in this context are Jews, but when Jesus is talking about other sheep who are not in the pen, He means Gentiles[8], that is you and me. Jesus is the good shepherd not just for His own kind, His own bloodline the Jewish people, but He is for all people. It’s almost an understatement to say that Jesus is just the good shepherd. The scope of the salvation He offers is grand.

Not only is the scope is grand, but Jesus then goes to say that His execution was entirely in His control. He says no one takes His life from Him, He gives it up voluntarily. This is staggering. From the betrayal of His own disciple, to the High Priest that year, and Pontius Pilate and Herod, Jesus is saying all those are minor details. He died because He allowed it. At any moment, Jesus says He could have stopped His own execution[9] he could have called down 72 thousand angles to help stop His death from taking place[10].

Jesus is the good shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep voluntary. To save them from a greater danger, one that threaten their eternal destination.

But Jesus didn’t stay dead. He says twice in this passage that He can take up His life again. He has the authority to lay down His life and the authority to take it up again. Death cannot keep this good shepherd down. He takes away deaths sting. And since He has already died to death once, He can never be killed again. This shepherd kills death.

So, are people who follow Jesus sheeple? Jesus says they are sheep. Are Christians just easily influenced or is Jesus really a good guy to follow?

Jesus is the door, that is, the only way to salvation.

Jesus is the good shepherd who lays down His life for his people.

He lays down His life to save His people from danger, because He loves them.

He lays down His life voluntarily and

He lays down his life to take it back up again. He has defeated death for his people.

Christians aren’t really part of the status quo when they say they follow Jesus. They follow Jesus, we follow Jesus because He is worth following.

So, the main question I want to leave you with is: can you say Psalm 23. Is the Lord your shepherd. Do you know Him? Do you hear His voice and follow Him?

[2] R.C. Sproul, John (St Andrews Expositional Commentary)
[3] R.C. Sproul, John (St Andrews Expositional Commentary)
[4] R.C. Sproul, John (St Andrews Expositional Commentary); J. Ramsey Michaels, John (Understanding the Bible Commentary Series)
[5] John 14:6
[6] Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (386). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.
[7] Crson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (382). 
[8] Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (388).
[9] R.C. Sproul, John (St Andrews Expositional Commentary)
[10] Matthew 26:53


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