The Good Shepherd – John 10

The religious leaders of the day did not care for the people but rather wanted to steal, kill, and destroy them. In contrast to these “shepherds,” Jesus is the good shepherd who lays his life down for us sheep. When we follow the Good Shepherd, we find a life abundant with meaning and significance in the midst of an evil and broken world. 

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14 years ago on Labor Day weekend Nicole and I spent our first Sunday here with me as the lead pastor. To mark the significant moment our founding Pastor Bob Helms presented me with this shepherds staff. It was a gift that was to mark the passing of leadership from one to another and also signify that I was to be the shepherd here at Faith Church.

Shepherds carry a staff to fight off predators and keep sheep close.

Psalm 23 says “yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” A staff is also used to pull sheep close, pluck them out of water, pull them out of thickets, etc. The staff needs a crook or hook on the end because sheep not only need protecting from predators, but also from themselves. Scripture is full of allusions to sheep because sheep are dumb and we are dumb.

We get ourselves into a world of hurt for really foolish reasons.

Sheep are known for wandering without any idea of where they are going. Sheep will spend a day going from tuft of grass to tuft of grass and then look up once they’re full and say, where am I?!

Most of us didn’t set out to wander from God, it’s just where we ended up. If we look back over our lives, we can see that just kind of stumbled from one thing to the next. Then at some point we pick our heads up in a moment of existential crisis and say, how did I end up here?

We could spend the whole message looking at how we are just like sheep, but the point Jesus wants to make in this passage is a contrast between himself and other “shepherds.”

Unlike the religious leaders, Jesus is a Good Shepherd.

This makes a lot of sense as a follow up to chapter 9. Remember what happened in chapter 9? Jesus heals a blind man. A man blind form birth and the religious officials excommunicate him. They throw him out of the synagogue. The religious leaders that should have been helpful to this man push him away. Jesus then gives us this contrast between a good shepherd and hired hands…

Jesus says shepherds will come through the door, but the thief and robber will jump over the fence. The people are confused and Jesus says, I am the door and the shepherd will come through me. Jesus is saying that sheep that will lead the sheep in the right direction will come through him. Those that just want to steal and kill the sheep will bypass him. Occasionally someone will say to me, why do we need denominations? Why are there so many different churches?

There are several reasons, but one of the most important is that we need a process of vetting the shepherds that lead our sheep. We need to know that they have entered through the door, and they are not merely jumping over the fence to get to steal from and even kill the sheep.

Good shepherds enter at the door.

In our association some years ago, we had a man attempt to become the pastor of one of our churches. He had not entered through the process that we have in place, but instead he attempt to bypass it. The reason was that because in another church far away and many years ago he had left his wife for one of the girls in his youth group. He was not a shepherd, he was a predator.

When I was handed the shepherds staff here, it was after I had sat in front of an examining board that not only question me on theology, but examined my life and conduct, my faithfulness to the Lord’s church, and my willingness to submit to the process.

If a pastor is unwilling to put themselves under the hand of Christ and the leading of His church, why should he lead the people?

The religious authority in Jesus’ day had become totally corrupt. The High Priest’s seat had been purchased. Jesus says, they say that I’m not legitimate because I am not one of them, I’m telling you that they are have not placed themselves under the authority of God, but rather have jumped the fence to fleece and eat the sheep.

Jesus is the gate for good shepherds to enter through. He validates those who lead his people.

Jesus refers to himself as the gate, in this instance it’s in reference to the process in which a shepherd would come to the sheep- but Jesus himself had also entered through the doorway setup by the Father. Fulfilling prophecy and meeting all of the criteria of the Messiah, confirmed through miracles, Jesus himself is a good shepherd. It’s for this reason Jesus says in verse 11

I am the good shepherd.

Here we have the 3rd I am statement. Jesus has come to tell us that He is the Great I am,  the Son of God. Jesus is the very expression of very God. He gives us these analogies so that we can have an appreciation or understanding of what that means. Jesus, himself entering through the doorway established by the Father, is the Good Shepherd who has come lead the sheep. The strongest contrast is made in verse 10.

10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

So Jesus has given us the process for true shepherds and then He gives us the purpose of the Good Shepherd.

The purpose of the Good Shepherd is to bring life to the sheep.

Jesus has come so that we might have life and life abundantly. I want us to camp out here for just a little bit. Remember the purpose statement of John’s Gospel? John gives us this purpose statement in John 20:30-31

30And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:
31But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

The word life here is not about length of days, but rather depth and breadth of days. It’s about the robustness of the life we lead. It’s that feeling of “this is living” or “this is what life is all about” when we feel connected to what really matters or what really has significance…

Sheep who were living abundant lives would have no lack of water to drink and grass to eat. They would have no lack of what nourishes them, and by result they would be healthy and have coats of thick healthy wool free of pests and disease.

Now, unfortunately we have taken this to mean Jesus wants me to live my best life, and my best life looks a lot like what this culture tells me my life should be like. This culture tells my life should be comfortable, exciting, luxurious, easy, and not cost me anything. That’s not your best life.

The abundant life is a life full of meaning and purpose.

The best life of a sheep was to fulfill their purpose of providing wool. The best life of a believer is producing fruit.

“I think the average North American Christian is about 3000 bible verses overweight.” – Nieuwhoff

NPR posted a story about a sheep that was found in Australia that they believe had wandered from its shepherd 5-6 years previously and had grown so much wool it could hardly walk. The wool is to serve a purpose. It’s to give someone else warmth. It’s to be made into clothing. When we don’t fulfill our purpose, we don’t find our calling, we just pick up Bible knowledge, we’re like this Wooly Mammoth of a sheep, we are desperate need of some pruning or shearing….

This is why there are believers else where in the world that don’t even have shoes, but they live a more abundant life than you. It’s not because they have more stuff, it’s because they have more meaning and purpose in their lives…

John wanted people to read this book he had compiled about Jesus life so that they would come to see what “LIFE” really is, and those who did gave their lives away in serving others and passing the message of Jesus along.

The Good Shepherd wants to take us somewhere!

When we picture shepherds, we think of Jesus sitting on a hillside holding a precious little lamb and all the sheep sitting around him. This is not the appropriate picture of a shepherd.

When David was a shepherd, he killed a lion and a bear. The 23rd Psalm talks about the valley of death and preparing a table in the presence of enemies- lambs eat on the plains in the presence of predators…

Jesus says

11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.

Jesus lays his life down for the sheep. That’s what the cross is all about. It’s Jesus laying down his life to conquer sin. Taking the punishment of sin so that sheep may live. It’s David charging at the bear or the lion, coming between the predator and the sheep.

The Good Shepherd must take on the predator because this world is full of evil.

There is evil in the world. Did you know that for the past 3 years the life expectancy of Americans has dropped? That hasn’t happened since 1918. We’ve had 100 years of progress, and now it’s going down. Why? Overdoses and Suicides. In fact, the number of overdoses in 2017 was higher than any other crisis- HIV, automobile accidents, gun violence. More people were killed by Opioid last year than guns. The chart is like a cliff.

Now people are excited that in 2018 we had the first year of fewer overdoses than the previous year. A big part of that is Narcan.
INSYS. They admitted to bribing doctors to prescribe the powerful opioid Fentanyl, and were fined 225 million. They said they would probably not last because of their mounting legal fees. However, they just received FDA approval on Naloxone, aka Narcan.

Culture likes to pretend everything is all rosy and good, but there are really evil and harmful people in the world. Some of them work in high rise buildings in our biggest cities. There are people parading as good, as doctors, theologians, and pharmacists, who are evil.

So how do we follow the Good Shepherd? What does Jesus say

3 the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.

4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.

14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

It’s a relationship with Jesus. We are to listen to His voice.
Do you know Jesus?

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