The Good Shepherd- Sermon Preached 3-16-14
?The Good Shepherd? John 10:1-21 Lake Murray Presbyterian by Dr. J. Ben Sloan
We don?t see sheep every day in South Carolina.? But I saw some this week on highway 76 at Slice?s horse farm and last week when I went to Whitmire of all places, I saw a large sheep farm.? But for the people of Jesus day, sheep were as much a part of life as dogs are to us.? People had pet sheep.? Jesus grew up as a carpenter, but his birth was proclaimed to shepherds.? When we went to Scotland, there were parts where the sheep were just walking down the road as common as a dog walks down the road in Chapin.? In fact, when you think about Jesus as the Good Shepherd, maybe a better image is of Jesus as the good pet owner versus the bad pet owner.? He knows his animal, cares for the animal, feeds, pets, loves his own.? ?We may flinch at being called a pet, but as Philip Keller said in his classic word, ?Being called a sheep was no compliment. They are not the most intelligent being in the animal kingdom- they need a shepherd.?? We tend to wander off- almost rushing to their own self-destruction;? we are vulnerable with no means of real defense at all; we cannot care for ourselves; we would
I) THE GOOD SHEPHERD GIVES LIFE- The good shepherd is the one who was there when the sheep was born.? The good shepherd watches over the sheep so that they may have a good quality of life.? The good shepherd.? |
A. HE IS THE ONE WHO BROUGHT US INTO LIFE- We did not make our own DNA.? We can take no credit for our birth.? God is our Maker.? He is the lifegiver at the beginning, in the middle and in the end.? Sometimes we don?t have a problem that God is the one who gives us life in the beginning or end.? But do not leave God out of the middle.? The best life- is not the life that wanders away from the shepherd- but that stays under the shepherd?s care.
B. HE IS THE ONE WHO OFFERS US LIFE NOW- Not just physical life- but a happy and abundant life.? .? Jesus said (vs. 10) ?the thief comes only to kill steal and destroy.? I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly.??? The word ?abundantly?(perisson in Greek) means to the fullest.? The word means more and more and more– extraordinarily more.? Not a more depressing life- but a life that is full of peace that passes all understanding- a peace that doesn?t always make sense to have.? It is not that everything goes right.? Jesus faced the cross, and he faced many wolves head on in his day.? Jesus wants to give us the fullest most complete life we can have.? It comes by knowing Him- the good shepherd and then following His path and voice.
A Roman soldier once came to Julius Caesar and asked him for permission to commit suicide.? He was dispirited, lethargic and depressed.? Caesar looked at him and asked, ?Man were you ever really alive??? Too many people are just existing- or even rebelling against their own existence.? Jesus comes to give us the abundant life- so that we do not just exist, but that we live.? I am not talking about just kind of giving a tip of the hat to Jesus- but if you live for him- trusting in Him- you will find new life- new purpose, new hope, new energy.
A sheep who does not know there is a good shepherd is scared, is lost, is afraid to eat, afraid to rest.? But a sheep who knows there is a shepherd who cares does not have to look around for the wolves, or worry.
The Good shepherd is the gate for the sheep (10:7).? Jesus gave two images of himself in John 10- one as the shepherd and the other as the gate.? In Israel?s terms, the good shepherd was the gate.? The sheepfolds were made of stone, usually piled about 8-10 feet high. They had little wood in Israel, and this is still true today.? The shepherd would lie down at the gate and be the gate- keeping the wolves away and the sheep within.? In our day there are many who would tell us that Jesus is not a good shepherd, and that if we are a sheep we should make every effort to escape the flock and escape the shepherd.? There are wolves without and wolves within asking you to give up on God, head off into the wilderness, and stop believing that God is good or that God cares.? But if we look around us, we will see that the people who are healthiest and who are most content are the people who do not listen to the wolves howl, but to the Good Shepherd?s voice.
IITHE GOOD SHEPHERD LAYS DOWN HIS OWN LIFE. Of course, we know that Jesus was referring to giving His life for us on the cross.? But there is much more.
A. GOES WITH US- Someone said one of the key words of the gospel is the word ?with.?? The Good Shepherd goes into the Valley of the Shadow of Death with us.? Jesus knows what it is like to face pain, ridicule, poverty, humility, even death.
B. GOES AFTER THE LOST SHEEP- Jesus said that when a shepherd knows of one sheep that is lost, He leaves the 90 and 9 and goes after that one (Mt. 18; Lk. 15).
Jesus pursues us.? Maybe you have felt Him pursuing you.? The sheep, once they see the shepherd running after them- usually stop running away.? But some don?t.? Some think they can outsmart the shepherd.? If you know Christ is pursuing you- and you are here today in part because He is- then let Him catch you.
C. PROTECTS AT HIS OWN COST- The cross- is a protection.? It is a payment to the wolf.? It is a ransom. ? Jesus lays down his life to rescue us from death.
I think of Terry Waite who negotiated the release of hostages from Iran and Lybia only to become a hostage for 5 years himself trying to release others in Lebannon.
I read this past week of ministers meeting fighters at the gate of their church in South Sudan because refugees had fled to the church for safety.? He came out to meet the armed guard and stop them from entering the church to kill the refugees.? Yesterday I watched ?The Green Lantern? while I was on the treadmill.? The hero had to learn to face his fear in order to save the world.? He risked his life in order to save ours in the story.? That story imitates what Jesus did for us.
III. THE SHEPHERD KNOWS HIS SHEEP ? Apparently very important.? In the end, it is Jesus who knows everyone.? He not only calls us by name, but He loves and cares for us.? The knowledge of God is bigger than the greatest human created computer that could keep track of everyone?s credit scores, medical and criminal records.? The love of God is greater than the best of human love.? He combines knowledge and care.?? Pastors may not know everyone.? But God knows everyone- and actually, like a good shepherd, knows us better than we know ourselves.
.? Ezekiel (20:37) speaks of us ?passing under the rod? of the shepherd.? The shepherd would count the sheep with his rod and also inspect them.? The shepherd would take the rod and part the heavy wool to make sure there were no wounds or signs of disease.
The individual sheep in a flock all look alike to the untrained eye. A good shepherd, however, can tell them apart–often because of their defects and peculiar traits. A man who was tending a large flock explained this to a Christian friend who expressed surprise at his familiarity with each animal. “See that sheep over there?” he asked. “Notice how it toes in a little. The one behind it has a squint; the next one has a patch of wool off its back; ahead is one with a distinguishing black mark, while the one closest to us has a small piece torn out of its ear.”
St. Patrick Day is tomorrow- it is not about green water in the fountain and green beer in the tap- or even corned beef and cabbage.? St. Patrick was a real man who brought Christianity to Ireland in the fourth century.? Whenever an ancient picture of Patrick is found- he is seen with a shepherd?s staff.? He was seen as the ?Shepherd (or bishop) of Ireland.?? He wanted to be the good pastor- or the good shepherd as Jesus is to us.
Jesus confronted Peter after his resurrection- after Peter denied him.? It was the first time Jesus talked to Peter since he betrayed him.? He said, ?Simon do you love me more?? Peter said, ?Yes, Lord.? Then Jesus said, ?Feed my sheep.? Jesus wanted Peter to be a good shepherd- and to not fear his life more than caring for those entrusted to his care. ???It was not long after this that Peter showed up in the Gentile world and went to Rome spreading the Gospel and dying there.? Jesus knows His sheep.? He has other sheep that have not been gathered into the his flock of the church.? He asks us to reach out to them- feed them.
“Two men were called on, in a large classroom, to recite the Twenty-third Psalm. One was a published orator trained in speech technique and drama. He repeated the psalm in a powerful way. When he finished, the audience cheered and even asked for an encore that they might hear his wonderful voice again. “Then the other man, who was much older, repeated the same words–‘The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want…’ But when he finished, no sound came from the large class. Instead, people sat in a deep mood of devotion and prayer.? “Then the first man, the orator, stood to his feet. ‘I have a confession to make,’ he said. ‘The difference between what you have just heard from my old friend, and what you heard from me is this: I know the Psalm, my friend knows the Shepherd.'”
Jesus comes so we may know Him and in that process to give us life- abundant life.? The pasture is not always so green on the other side of the fence.? Listen to the Good Shepherd..? Listen to His voice.? Walk in the paths He has laid out for you.? It is the path of life.?