Gospel: John 10:11-18 (Easter 4: Series B)

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.”


INTRODUCTION

The Problem with Sheep

 

In his excellent study of the famous Biblical passage on shepherds, (The Good Shepherd: A Thousand Year Journey from Psalm 23 to the New Testament), scholar Ken Bailey provides a helpful context to understand why it is that the psalmist chose the metaphor of a good shepherd and sheep to describe his relationship with God.

 

Sheep have a special problem. They have no defenses. Cats have teeth, claws and speed. Dogs have their teeth and their speed. Horses can kick, bite and run. Bears can claw, bite and crush. Deer can run. But the sheep have no bite or claws and cannot outrun any serious predator. They can butt other sheep, but that ability will not protect them from a wolf or a bear. The sheep’s only security is the shepherd. Indeed, “you are with me.”

 

Taken from The Good Shepherd: A Thousand-Year Journey from Psalm 23 to the New Testament by Kenneth E. Bailey, Copyright (c) 2014, p.49, by Kenneth E. Bailey. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

 

The Lost Sheep

 

Shepherds in Lebanon, and in the Holy Land (in addition to some of my students), have told me that once a sheep knows that it is lost, it tries to hide under a bush or rock and begins quivering and bleating. The shepherd must locate it quickly lest it be heard and killed by a wild animal. On being found it is usually too traumatized to walk and must be carried back to the flock or to the village.

 

Taken from The Good Shepherd: A Thousand-Year Journey from Psalm 23 to the New Testament by Kenneth E. Bailey, Copyright (c) 2014, p.44, by Kenneth E. Bailey. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com 

The picture of Jesus as a shepherd creates a huge number of possibilities for the Christian imagination. Even people who have never seen a living, breathing shepherd (much less a sheep) find themselves wanting more. They hang pictures of Jesus with sheep in Sunday school classrooms. They sing “I am Jesus’ little lamb,” with a childlike faith. They memorize Psalm 23 and expect it to be read at their funeral. And every year, during the season of Easter, they spend an entire Sunday thinking about the idea that Jesus is the Good Shepherd.


PART ONE

We need to begin our look at Jesus as the Good Shepherd back in John, chapter 9. There we hear Jesus not talking to faithful Christians at a memorial service or little ones gathered for a children’s message. Jesus was rebuking a group of Pharisees. The Pharisees in chapter 9 were offended that Jesus had healed a man on the Sabbath. Rather than celebrating with the man that had been born blind, they were harassing him (and his family) for their working with Jesus.

So Jesus uses something the people of that day would have been familiar with in order to get across an idea. He compares a good shepherd with a paid worker. The difference between the two is all about commitment.


PART TWO

Gerald Ford ascended to the presidency at a difficult time in American history. He had been appointed vice president because of his reputation for honesty and integrity, to replace a vice president who had resigned in disgrace. Not long after that, it became clear Ford eventually would become president. When Ford was told he was going to ascend to the presidency at Nixon’s resignation, one of the first things he did was to go to church and pray. He later asked the county to support him with prayer. On his grave are written these simple words: “Lives Committed to God, Country and Love.”

A paid worker is just that—one who is paid to care for someone else’s sheep. His connection to the sheep is limited. He is committed to the sheep if he gets paid, but he is more committed to himself. When danger comes and the wolf shows up, the paid worker is most concerned with his own safety and runs. His lack of commitment shows in his inability to provide protection.


PART THREE

Compare this with a picture of a good shepherd. A good shepherd cares for the sheep because the sheep are his own: Verses 12 and 14: 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; 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. The sheep belong to him and he loves them, not because he gets paid, but because the sheep are his. He will not run away when the wolf comes. Instead he will protect his sheep and defend them to the end. The sheep are safe in the secure protection of the shepherd.


PART FOUR

Jesus has the power to lay down His life and the power to take it up again, as the resurrections shows. Jesus is committed to this act that the Father has given him. Out of love for His sheep, He is willing to give Himself to the wolf to protect them. You and I are counted among His sheep. Baaa, Baaa. We are included in His fold. Because we are His sheep we enjoy the protection and security of a shepherd who is both committed to our safety and able to fulfill His commitment.

But Jesus is not just committed to you and me. In verse 16, Jesus tells the Pharisees He has other sheep that are not part of this fold. 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. This is a prophecy of the Gentiles coming to faith. This prophecy is not yet finished. There are still more sheep to gather. Jesus, “must bring them also,” (verse 16) into His one flock. They will listen to His voice, Jesus says, but first they must hear it.


PART FIVE

This is behind the idea of sending His disciples after the resurrection. That is why Jesus sends you and me today.

You have a part in participating in the loving commitment of the Good Shepherd. He continues to gather other sheep in, and He does it through your selfless serving and your gracious speaking to others about God’s love for them.

However this does not come naturally to us. In our sin, we are more like the hired hand who cares most of all for themselves. That is why we should proclaim God’s promises as well as His commands for us. We need to hear that God forgives us for our selfishness. We need to be assured of God’s grace and mercy to us in spite of our sinfulness. And we need to hear that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, restores us through his body and blood. Not to be a hired hand, but instead to be sons and daughters. God calls to each of us, equips us, and then sends us to speak with the voice of their Good Shepherd to who will hear. There are people who will never step inside a church, and, because of that, they will never hear the voice of a pastor. These people are looking for a committed Good Shepherd to protect them.


CONCLUSION

Lloyd Ogilvie, the former Chaplain of the Senate and Pastor of Hollywood Presbyterian Church tells of being in the Middle East and watching a group of shepherds walk a large flock down a hillside one evening. As they got nearer each man called to his sheep and out of this huge mass the sheep moved to follow the voice they knew. They then led them into their pen and with a fire near the doorway settled down, literally sleeping in front of the opening.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He laid down His life for all and He has taken it back up for them. Through His Church, He continues gathering them into His fold. Amen.

 

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