Sermon Preached at Grace Community Church (EPC)
Sun City Grand, Surprise, AZ
Sunday, February 25, 2018
by the Reverend Cooper McWhirter
I Am Who I Am: “The Good Shepherd” [Part Four] John 10:11-18
In today’s sermon outline, it characterizes the anxiety felt by so many Jews in Jesus’ day. Three and a half centuries had pasted without a prophetic word being spoken; nor had any miracles been performed. The people of God were suffering from a severe spiritual drought. They asked themselves, “When would the long-awaited Messiah appear?”
This, coupled with the fact that for centuries they were besieged by foreign invaders. The Assyrians ransacked the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 B. C. Those who survived this onslaught were deported; never to see their homeland again.
A century later, the Southern Kingdom would suffer a similar fate at the hands of the Babylonians with the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B. C. Among the war-torn ruins was Solomon’s glorious temple. Ancient archives, along with the temple treasury, were carted off; irreplaceable antiquities lost forever.
However, there was a brief period of relative peace following on the heels of the Maccabean uprising. But then came the oppressive Roman Empire in 63 B. C. The Torah spoke of a Redeemer-King who would vanquish their foes and establish once again a nation with Yahweh as their God.
The people set their sights on a conquering hero; not some disheveled shepherd. Not surprisingly, these oppressed people chose to ridicule this commoner from Nazareth. His revelatory teachings were met not only with skepticism, but callousness and rancor.
Some, like the disciple Judas, aligned themselves with the zealots. Transfixed with the image of a Messiah armed to the teeth with sword and spear; not the staff of a beleaguered shepherd! In their minds eye, the Messiah would come as a militant leader prepared for war; not someone invoking peace!
As for the Pharisees, not all of them were contemptuous of Jesus. Some, like Nicodemus, would eventually come to believe that Jesus was the Christ; the Son of the living God! Jesus’ devoted followers understood that the greatest foe of mankind was not born of flesh and blood. Rather, their arch enemy was sin; perpetrated by the wiles of the evil one.
Despite those who were diametrically opposed to His teachings, Jesus continued His dialogue by identifying Himself as: THE GOOD SHEPHERD (repeat).
He said to them: “I am the Good Shepherd.” Contextually, the word ‘good’ was intended to convey something ‘noble-minded’. The Good Shepherd was desirous of gathering the lost sheep of Israel and to bring them together as one flock.
The Israelites were displaced to distant lands, which came to be known as the ‘diaspora’. To survive, and perhaps even to thrive, many Jews assimilated into these foreign cultures. They chose to adopt pagan idols. Consequently, they lost their identity and forfeited their birth right.
Jesus then distinguishes Himself from a hireling where He says: “The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep…when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” A shepherd for hire has no vested interest in the welfare of the sheep. For he does not own them. He’s mainly concerned for his own safety and receiving payment for his ineptness.
Jesus’ words were a veiled reference to Israel’s religious leaders. They went about their perfunctory duties with little regard for their countrymen. And yet, they reaped unwarranted praise and undeserved prestige. But, whenever danger lurked, they ran away and hid; leaving the sheep of Israel to fend for themselves.
If only these learned men had taken to heart the ways of shepherding. A. W. Tozer once remarked: “The only safe place for a sheep is by the side of its shepherd. Because the devil does not fear sheep, he only fears the Shepherd.”
Besides conveying His noble aspirations, Jesus assures them [that]: HE ALONE CAN SECURE HIS FLOCK (repeat).
In verse 16, the Lord dispels the notion that the Messiah came only for the Jews. He said to them: “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to My voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”
The Jews viewed themselves as being ‘set apart’ from all other peoples’. They alone were the ‘true descendants’ of father Abraham. So, they alone deserved God’s favor and blessings. Never mind that they had once been the least among the peoples of the earth [Deuteronomy 7:7]! By His mighty hand, God called Israel to be a ‘holy nation.’ As such, they were to have shared the news about the God, Yahweh, with the Gentile nations.
Perhaps you noticed that Jesus spoke of there being only ‘one flock’. One flock comprised of every nation, from every age. A faithful remnant under one shepherd. So, to speak of the Messiah as being only the Jewish Messiah is not only misleading, but erroneous. Although Jesus was of Jewish ancestry; the true Messiah is the Savior to all, and for all!
In no uncertain terms Jesus said to them: “I know My sheep and My sheep know Me…just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father.” The word ‘know’ is the same word in Greek and Hebrew used to describe the intimacy between husband and wife. So, it stands to reason that if you are a child of God, you will know it! We were created to enjoy an intimate relationship with our Creator. Dear ones, it is that simple; and it is that profound!
If perhaps you are plagued with nagging doubts as to whether you are saved, then now is the time to have this blessed assurance. You must ask for God’s quieted voice to speak to you.
Yes, His flock listens intently to the Good Shepherd. For just as He says, “They too will listen to My voice.” Perhaps He will speak to you in an audible voice. Or, perhaps He will reveal Himself in dreams and visions. Usually, God speaks to us through His Word. Regardless, you must be willing to allow your spirit to listen to His Spirit. Intimacy is the ‘key’ to unlocking God’s love for you!
However, the greatest assurance is in knowing that the Good Shepherd: LAYS DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FLOCK (repeat).
“But then why should I follow someone who dies and goes away?” It defies conventional wisdom! This, the fourth of seven ‘I Am’s,’ is the first time Jesus speaks of His atoning sacrifice. Not once, not twice, but three times, He mentions “laying down His life for His sheep”. Furthermore, He lays down His life…willingly! His repetitiveness is meant to ensure that we embed this vital truth in our hearts and minds.
But, there is more! Jesus’ death did not end at Calvary’s cross. Twice, in verses 17 and 18, Jesus exclaims: “I lay My life down and I take it up again.” There are two important aspects regarding Jesus’ death. First, no one, neither flesh and blood, nor any spirit being, could have brought about Jesus’ death. And certainly not without God’s divine directive.
Neither the Jewish leaders, nor the Romans were the sole causes of Jesus’ death. Rather, it was every man, woman and child who has, or will ever live, which brought Christ to the cross. Ultimately, Jesus died of His own volition! He alone took upon Himself our sins. Thus, He became the ‘sin-bearer’ as God’s beloved Son.
Secondly, Jesus’ sacrifice validates that He IS the Christ [Romans 1:4]! Furthermore, Jesus’ physical death and bodily resurrection resulted in His ultimate glorification. This gave rise to the coming of the Holy Spirit who bears witness of this truth.
Thus far in this series, Jesus has revealed Himself as: The Bread of Life; the Light of the World; the Gate; and the Good Shepherd. I, on the other hand, see Him only as my Lord and Savior. For without Christ in my life, I would have no life! Without Christ, it would have been preferable never to have been born; to have remained a ‘non-entity’. But because Christ loves me, I have a new lease on life…an eternal life!
I close with a quote from an unknown source: “I don’t know how I could miss someone so much whom I had never met before.” Startling words, indeed! Perhaps spoken by a newborn believer. Or, perhaps by some tormented soul! God only knows.
Let us pray…