Tuesday, May 03, 2016
"I Am the Good Shepherd" Sermon: John 10:11-21
“I Am the Good Shepherd”
May 1, 2016 Second Reformed Church
Last week, we began to look at Jesus’ use of the metaphor of a sheepfold. We may remember that the sheepfold was a sanctuary – a protective structure – for the flock of sheep. It was a stone walled area of grass in a field with a door, and only one door, so the sheep and anyone who entered or exited the sheepfold legitimately did so through the door to the sheepfold. The walls were not especially high, just high enough to keep the sheep in and to make it difficult for predators – foxes, lions, bears – to enter and steal away the sheep.
Jesus explained that He is the door – He is the gate – to the sheepfold. In other words, no one can enter salvation, the Kingdom, green pastures, unless they come through Jesus Alone – through believing that He is God the Son and Savior Who came to earth, lived and died and rose to make us right with God and ascended back to the Right Hand of the Father where He reigns sovereign over all.
Jesus explained that if you do not believe that, you are not a Christian. You are not saved. You are not born again – born anew – born a second time. You are not a sheep of the fold of God. And if you do make your way into the fold, it is only as a thief or a robber – you are honestly only there – pretending to be one of the sheep – to steal and mislead and kill.
And Jesus pointed to those Pharisees who stood before Him – unbelieving – during that occasion – as false shepherds – false sheep – thieves and robbers – determined only to do evil. And we mentioned that there are plenty of people in pulpits today who say they are preaching the Word of God, but they twist it and use it to their own advantage and seek to make others likewise disciples of the devil.
We continue with Jesus’ explanation this morning, and we see, first, Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 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. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”
Let us remember, as Jesus gives these “I am” sayings that the ancient Jewish hearer would be directed to that most holy name of God given by God to Moses to give to the people of Israel: “I Am Who I Am.” As Jesus used this expression, there is the purposeful implication that Jesus was saying that He is the God of Moses – He is divine.
Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd.” He is not merely the Shepherd; He is the Good Shepherd. The word that is used for “good” literally means, “beautiful.” “I am the Beautiful Shepherd.” The implication is that Jesus is not just any shepherd, but He is the most excellent shepherd in existence. If you want to know what it looks like to be the perfect shepherd, that is Jesus. There is no more excellent incarnation of the shepherd. There is no more perfect exemplar of the shepherd. Jesus is the Shepherd par excellence!
And here is a reason why: Jesus was willing to lay down His life for the sheep.
The shepherd of the sheep is called to protect the sheep – to keep them safe as they travelled rfrm place to place, using his staff to lead them away from danger and using his rod to fight off bears and lions and other predators – even human thieves.
When David was a young man, he said to King Saul – arguing that he be allowed to stand before Goliath in battle:
“But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him’” (1 Samuel 17:34-35, ESV).
The shepherd is alert and willing to fight with all of his strength and skill to preserve the lives of the sheep – even to the end of his being mauled or killed.
Not so with the hirelings. Not so with those who have taken on jobs to assist the Shepherd. Not so the under shepherds – those who are given to watch over smaller sections of large flocks. If death is upon them, they will sacrifice the sheep and run to save their own lives.
The hired hands do not care for the sheep. They do not have the same investment in the sheep that the Shepherd does. We can think of employees today, who, when faced with a tremendous task – or, perhaps, not even that big a task, respond, “You don’t pay me enough for that.”
Now, that is not to say that the hired hands are thieves and robbers – they may be – but they may also just be doing the work of a shepherd for the paycheck.
The point is that no one rises to the excellency of the Good Shepherd, because only He is willing to lay down His life for the sake of the sheep. Only He cares for them so much – as we saw last week – He knows each one of them by name and they know Him and His voice and do not confuse Him with another – His care – His love – His protection – of the sheep is to His death.
And that is what Jesus has done for us – His sheep, is it not?
Not only is Jesus the only One Who is able to provide salvation for us – and righteousness and eternal security and abundant life – He is the only One Who would be willing to die for us. He is our Good Shepherd. He is our Excellent Shepherd. He is the One Who cares for us for His sake and His glory – that He would be shown to be the most glorious Shepherd and Savior.
Paul wrote, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:6-11, ESV).
Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
Second, Jesus knows His sheep with the same type of intimacy that the Father and the Son know each other.
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 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.”
Before the Creation, God is. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have eternally been and will eternally be. They are perfectly in communion and in love with One Another, One God without end.
The Father knows the Son and the Son the Father and the Father the Spirit and the Spirit the Father and the Son the Spirit and the Spirit the Son in the deepest and most intimate way – it is not possible for God to know God better than God does. And it is an intimate knowledge of perfect love for Each Other.
And Jesus said that with the same type of intimacy and love that the members of the Godhead love Each Other and know Each Other – with that same type of intimacy, Jesus knows His sheep and we know Him.
Jesus knows us as intimately as possible. He knows everything about us, and He loves us with an everlasting love because His Father gave us to Him as a people for His Own, a flock for His Own leading.
And we know Jesus, through the intercession of God in us that changed out our heart and caused us to believe savingly in Jesus – we know our God and Savior and we love our God and Savior. But it is yet an imperfect knowledge and love, because we still sin, and it is a finite knowledge, because we are not God and we shall never be God – there is a limit to our understanding.
But, the day will come when we shall be glorified, and we will no longer be able to sin, and that will open new vistas of knowledge and love for us. Yet, we will still be finite. We will still be human.
As we saw in our study Thursday night, one of the glories that we will participate in in the Kingdom is that we will be before Jesus in worship and joy for all of eternity, and as we are there with Him, we shall continue to mature in our love and in our knowledge of Him. Our knowledge and understanding and love will continue to grow in the Kingdom for all of eternity. The love and the joy and the intimacy will only continue to grow from that day and for evermore.
And Jesus, our Good Shepherd, lay down His life for us.
Jesus spoke to the crowd before Him – telling them that He was laying His life down for His flock – and they would have rightly understood Him to mean all those believing Jews. All those who believe and received the promised made to Abraham and his descendants.
Paul wrote, “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 9:4-5, ESV).
God chose the Jews to be His people – to witness Him before all the nations – to receive God’s Word – and to be the line through which God gave His Son for all those that God gave to Him for His people.
But – and this was a shock to some – though it ought not to have been – although salvation was to the Jews first, it was also to the Gentiles – the non-Jews – all the nations of the world. Just as God promised to Abraham that all the nations of the world would be blessed through his descendants.
Jesus told them there is another sheep fold. The believing Jews are one sheepfold, and the believing Gentiles are another sheepfold. And through Jesus’ work, He was going to bring these two sheepfolds together into one sheepfold of all the sheep that hear His voice – who believe in Him savingly – for He is the One Good Shepherd.
As Paul wrote, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6, ESV).
No matter what background or culture or religion or race or whatever we came from – we are one in Christ, one as the Church, one in the sheepfold, one people, with One Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ.
And, third, the Father loves the Son for what He has done.
“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 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.”
Now, the Father loves the Son for many reasons – even that They are the same One God – but a specific reason that the Father loves the Son is that the Son – as the Good Shepherd – lay down His life for the sheep. Jesus died for everyone who would ever believe.
And Jesus lay down His life because He chose to do so and because He had the authority to do so. He had the authority to lay down His life and to rise from the dead – as the Holy God-Man – He lived a perfect life which He credits to everyone who believes, and He allowed our sin to be credited to Him, and He paid the debt for our sin. So we are sinless and holy in the eyes of God and we will be made so at the end of the age.
And again, we note that the Son does the will of the Father in all things: Jesus chose to lay His life down and take it up again. Jesus had the authority to lay His life down and take it up again. And the Father’s will was that Jesus would lay His life down and take it up again.
Peter explained it this way: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:22-24, ESV).
Jesus was delivered up and killed and raised from the dead according to the will and the plan of God. And God used Jews and Gentiles to accomplish that work. And the Father loves the Son for doing this.
Do you love the Good Shepherd? Do you love Jesus? Do you love Him Who loved us first and keeps us safe and provides for our needs and leads us into eternal and abundant life and security and green pastures forever and ever?
Do you see Him here:
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. [We shall have all we need.]
“He makes me lie down in green pastures. [In the sheepfold and in the field.]
“He leads me beside still waters.
“He restores my soul.
“He leads me in paths of righteousness
“for his name's sake. [He does all these things that we would glorify Him and know Him and love Him.]
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
“I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
“your rod and your staff,
“they comfort me. [We are not afraid of thieves or robbers or lions or bears or other predators, because we know the Good Shepherd, we recognize His voice and follow Him, and He lifts up His staff to lead us and His rod to protect us – even to the point of dying for our sake.]
“You prepare a table before me
“in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
“my cup overflows.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
“all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
“forever.” [Our Good Shepherd blesses us with blessings beyond blessings – and though we are in the midst of our enemies, we have nothing to fear because He is our Good Shepherd, goodness shall follow us into the Kingdom, mercy shall follow us into the Kingdom, we shall dwell in the House of the Lord – with our Good Shepherd – the Almighty God knows your name and my name and died for us and for our salvation. May He ever be praised. May we ever enjoy Him now and in the Kingdom forever and ever as we bask in His Glorious Presence and know Him all the more each moment.]
But what of the crowd that day?
“There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, ‘He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?’ Others said, ‘These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’”
Most of them responded by lashing out: “He’s God the Good Shepherd? He loves us and will die for us and bring us into everlasting communion with Him? He has the authority to live and die and rise again? Now you see: He is demon possessed! He is insane!”
But some of them wondered: “This doesn’t sound like a demon possessed man – it sounds more like what God told us in the Law and the Prophets. Besides, does a demon have the authority to open the eyes of a man born blind?”
Who has that kind of authority?
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for sending Your Son to be our Good Shepherd. We thank You that He chose to receive the people You gave Him and that He was willing and had the authority to live and die for us and to Your Glory. We thank You that He is the perfect, beautiful, most excellent Shepherd, Who You love. Send the Holy Spirit that when we hear all the voices calling out for our attention, we would clearly and quickly recognize the voice of Jesus and hear Him and follow Him and obey Him in all that He has called us to do and be – for we can trust Him – He loves us – and we are His sheep. And we ask these things in Jesus’ Name, Amen.