************ Sermon on John 10:11 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 30, 2003
"I Am The Good Shepherd"
Subtopic: Suffered and Died
When George Nixon Brigs was Governor of Massachusetts, three of his friends visited Palestine. While there, they climbed Golgotha's slope. From the summit they cut a small stick to be used as a cane. On their return home they presented it to the governor and said: "We wanted you to know that when we stood on Golgotha's mountain, we thought of you." Accepting the gift with all due courtesy, the governor gratefully added: "But I am still more thankful, gentlemen, that there was Another who thought of me on Mount Golgotha."
Yes, my brothers and sisters, we all know Who that Other is: even the Lord Jesus Christ. We all can have salvation only because He, the Good Shepherd, thought of us. We all are washed and redeemed because He is the Good Shepherd Who gave His life for the sheep.
I The Background
A "I am the good shepherd." Don't forget, this is one of the seven "I AM" statements of Jesus that we are studying this year during Lent. In these statements Jesus wants us to think of God speaking to Moses out of the burning bush; at that time God identified Himself as "I Am Who I Am." By using the same expression, Jesus claims divinity, He claims to be God's equal, He claims to be part of the eternal Godhead. That claim is especially true when you realize that throughout the Old Testament God is thought of and spoken of as the shepherd of Israel and Israel is spoken of as His sheep:
(Ps 23:1) The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.The scribes and Pharisees were well acquainted with this and were scandalized with Jesus' statement, "I am the good shepherd."
(Ps 80:1) Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock ...
(Ps 100:3) Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
(cf Jer 13:17; Micah 7:14; Zech 10:3; etc)
B "I am the good shepherd." The people listening to Jesus speak of Himself as the good shepherd would also think immediately of David and Moses. Think of King David. He tells us of the time a lion and a bear attacked his flock of sheep. They were big, hungry, and ferocious. But David did not desert the sheep. He defended his flock against the lion and the bear and killed them. Or, think of Moses. He spent 40 years tending the flocks of his father-in-law before being called by God to lead the people out of Egypt. Then he led the people through the same desert for another 40 years. Think of the similarities. Both times he had to search for water and food. Both times he had to exercise wisdom and love and patience. Both times he had to guard and defend the flock against enemies.
Now, Jesus claims to be a good shepherd like these revered shepherds of old.
C "I am the good shepherd." We also need to look at the good shepherd of John 10 in the light of what God says through Ezekiel 34. Turn there with me and follow along as I read what the inspired prophet says:
(Ezek 34:1-6) The word of the LORD came to me: (2) "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? (3) You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. (4) You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. (5) So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. (6) My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.
Who are these shepherds of Israel? They are the priests, prophets, judges, kings, nobility, and other leaders of the people. Instead of looking after the sheep, they fleece the sheep. Instead of protecting the sheep, they attack the sheep. Instead of feeding the sheep, they feed themselves. Jesus compares them to thieves and robbers or to a hired man (Jn 10:8,12).
These shepherds of Israel remind me of many political rulers today. Instead of serving the country and the people, they serve themselves. Instead of asking what they can do for their country, they ask what their country can do for them. They are in office to line their own pockets instead of looking after the common good.
A recent article in Newsweek revealed the corruption of Saddam Hussein and his two sons. After the Persian Gulf war the U.N. set up an Oil for Food program. Under the rules of the program, Iraq was allowed to sell $2 billion worth of oil every six months. The money was deposited in a U.N. controlled bank account and used to feed starving Iraqi kids. There was just once catch. Saddam and his sons sold the oil below market prices in return for kickbacks to secret bank accounts. U.S. government figures estimate that Saddam has received at least $2.3 billion in oil-contract kickbacks since 1997.We know that this kind of government corruption happens in just about every country, including ours. More than once, for instance, we have had members of Congress indicted for corruption.
Newsweek November 11, 2001
In the 2002 mid-term elections, for instance, one congressman ran his re-election campaign from jail; he was not re-elected.
The shepherds of Israel were just as corrupt as many leaders are today.
God does not tolerate this. What exactly does God do to the shepherds of Israel?
(Ezek 34:10) This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.We know what happened: the leaders of Israel were stripped of their positions and led into exile while the common people, the sheep, were left behind. God did not tolerate corrupt shepherds in Israel. And, He does not tolerate them today as well. Rulers, take heed, some day you will be called to account by the King of kings, the Judge of judges, and the Prince of princes.
D "I am the good shepherd." We also cannot look at the good shepherd of John 10 apart from the shepherds of Jesus' day: the scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, priests, and kings. Once again, the shepherds neglected the sheep. Instead of concerning themselves with the sheep, they were concerned about their precious law. Jots and tittles, letters and strokes, were more important than the law of love. The letter of the law was more important than the spirit of the law. They weighed down the people. They made the service of God a burden instead of a joy, a duty instead of a calling.
One chapter earlier in John's Gospel we see these so-called shepherds at work. A man is born blind. Here is someone the scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees should have tender care for. But they don't. Jesus heals the man. Instead of rejoicing with him in his healing, the scribes and Pharisees wanted to know if Jesus broke the Sabbath in the act of healing. And, they interrogated both the man and his parents for their own purposes (Jn 9:13-34). When they did not like the man's answers they actually threw him out of their meeting room.
"I am the good shepherd." The scribes and Pharisees were not dumb. They knew that Jesus was condemning them with these words. He was calling them thieves and robbers and hired men who did not care for the flock.
II Jesus the Good Shepherd
A Jesus says, "I am the good shepherd." His audience knew what He was saying. In contrast to the bad shepherds – those of Ezekiel's day, those of His day, those of our day – He is the good shepherd.
What does a good shepherd do? Looking at Psalm 23 and Ezekiel 34 we would say a good shepherd leads the sheep to quiet waters and green pastures. He binds their wounds. He protects them from enemies. He searches for the lost ones. He untangles them from thorns and brambles. He picks them up when they fall. But Jesus mentions none of these things.
B "I am the good shepherd." In this season of Lent we need to ask why Jesus calls Himself "the good shepherd"? Jesus tells us in our Scripture reading:
(Jn 10:14) "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me ..."In this computer age, it's easy to begin feeling like a number instead of a person. We are identified by our social security number rather than by our name. We often get junk mail that is addressed to "Resident" or "Occupant." Every once in a while we even get a letter addressed to "Miss Trinity Christian" – I'm never quite sure whether they want Ruth or Amy. Such impersonal methods may cause some people to feel a lack of significance. They may even conclude, "No one cares for me." But that's not true. Jesus cares. In fact, He knows every one by name. He is the good shepherd. You see, the shepherd of Palestine knew his sheep. He had nicknames for each one – blackie, nosey, or whatever.
Jesus is the good shepherd. This means, like the shepherds of Palestine, that Jesus knows his sheep.
Topic: CareBut we are never overlooked by Jesus, for He gives individual attention to every one of us. He is the good shepherd who "calls his own sheep by name" (John 10:3). Think of it: Jesus knows who you are! You matter to Him. As you worship Him and pray to Him, you are more than a number to Him. You may be a number computers can trace, but Christ knows your need, your name, and your face.
Title: You Matter To Jesus
We never need to feel disappointed like the young British student who thought the king had slighted her. When Edward VII, the King of England from 1901 to 1910, was visiting a city to lay the cornerstone for a new hospital, thousands of school children were present to greet him and to sing for him.
Following the ceremony, the King walked past the excited youngsters. After he was gone, a teacher saw one of her students crying. She asked her, "Why are you crying? Did you not see the King?" "Yes," the young girl sobbed, "but the King did not see me." King Edward couldn't have taken notice of each child in that throng.
C "I am the good shepherd." In this season of Lent we need to ask why Jesus calls Himself "the good shepherd"? Our text tells us another reason:
(Jn 10:11,17,18) "The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep ... I lay down my life for the sheep ... No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord."Like David, He is willing to die for the sheep.
Jesus is the good shepherd. He is the good shepherd because He saves His sheep rather than Himself. Remember how time and again Jesus had the opportunity to avoid the way of the cross and the grave? "Bow down and worship me," said Satan, "and I will give you the kingdoms of the world and their splendor." He could have gained His Kingdom without going the way of the cross and the grave but He turned Satan down (Lk 4). After feeding the 5,000 the crowds wanted to make Jesus king by force; again, He would have gained His kingdom without going the way of the cross and the grave but Jesus snuck away before they crowd could act (Jn 6). He could have gotten away from Gethsemane before Judas and the crowd came to arrest Him. He could have called on 10,000 angels to beat back the soldiers. His disciples were willing to die fighting. But Jesus is the good shepherd. It is He Who dies rather than the disciples, the soldiers, or the people. He lays down His life for the sheep.
Topic: RedemptionThis is the sort of love Jesus shows as the good shepherd. He takes our place. He lays down His life for the sheep.
Charles Dickens's "Tale of Two Cities" presents a classic illustration of this. Set during the French Revolution, it is the story of two friends, Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton. Darnay is a young Frenchman who has been thrown in a dungeon to await the guillotine. Carton is a wasted English lawyer whose life has been one of careless reprobation.
In a beautiful allegory of Christ's atonement for us, Carton slips into the dungeon and exchanges clothes with the prisoner, allowing Darnay to escape. The next morning, Sydney Carton makes his way up the steps that lead to the guillotine.
Jesus is the good shepherd. He not only laid down His life for the sheep, but He did so joyfully and willingly. He says, "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord" (vs 18). It was a rare occurrence for a Palestinian shepherd to die for his sheep. And, when it happened, it was a tragic accident. He did not plan to die for them; rather, he planned to live for them. Jesus, however, planned to die for the sheep. That was God's set purpose and His intention.
Would you be willing to die for another? Such behavior is so rare that we applaud those who do and pronounce them to be heroes and adorn them with medals and honors. Jesus is the good shepherd. He willingly and joyfully lays down His life for the sheep.
When the shepherd of Palestine died, that usually meant disaster for the sheep. They were scattered. They became prey for all their enemies. Many died or were lost. But Jesus is the good shepherd. His death is not disaster. Rather, it is life.
(Jn 10:10) ... I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.In fact, it would be a disaster if He did not die, because then we would remain in our sin and misery.
"I am the good shepherd." Jesus is the good shepherd. He knows His sheep. He laid down His life for the sheep.
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