034 John 10v11-21 The Good Shepherd

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When we read this gospel, we discover with striking regularity that Jesus turns
the searchlight of his gaze upon the human heart. He exposes man's deepest
need and invariably responds by saying, “I am uniquely equipped to deal with
that need. I alone am the answer to your problem”.
Now, many in Israel were wandering around looking for some spiritual
direction. Understandably, many people wanted to find God, to
experience spiritual security and to enjoy God’s smile
upon their lives. Some had experiences of spiritual leaders
who seemed intent upon fleecing their flock, of enriching
themselves at their followers’ expense.
It is in this context that we are to understand Jesus’ claim,
“I am the Good Shepherd.”
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Background To The Claim
Why did Jesus describe himself as the Good Shepherd? In order to
understand this important designation we must first turn to the O.T. where
God is described as the ‘Shepherd of Israel’ cf. Psalm 23.
This marvellous term speaks of a caring God, who among
other things makes provision for his people’s need,
restores those who wander, gives definite
guidance and leadership, and is the
source of his people’s security.
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Background To The Claim
The first person who ever described God as a Shepherd was Jacob in Gen.
49v24. As Jacob lay on his deathbed, he would have remembered that for
much of his early life he had stumbled about in the dark. He had wilfully
complicated his life and placed it in danger. But God had searched out this
rouge sheep and brought him back to a place of blessing,
provision and security.
Reflecting upon God’s past dealings with him,
Jacob says, ‘God has been a Shepherd-God
to me!’
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Background To The Claim
Now although God was ‘The Shepherd of Israel’, he had placed men in
positions of spiritual leadership to be ‘under-shepherds’. These shepherdleaders were under God and responsible for the provision, restoration,
guidance and security of his sheep. Sadly, many of these men proved to be
false shepherds for they abused and neglected their position. God vents his
anger against such shepherds in Jer.50v6 and Ezek.34v1-4.
It was quite clear that they were shepherds
in name but not in practice.
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Background To The Claim
Six hundred years later Jesus described the people of Israel as “sheep without
a shepherd” Mk.6v34. The Scribes and Pharisees, the spiritual leaders of that
day, were more caught up with their own religious life and status than with
the needs of others. As a result many in Israel were without spiritual direction.
When direction was given it was misdirection which earned these leaders
the title of, “blind leaders of the blind” Matt.15v14.
Against this failure of the spiritual leadership
Jesus said, "I am the Good Shepherd".
This word ‘good’ carries the meaning
of ‘beautiful, excellent and ideal’.
And in this regard Jesus is unique.
Are we surprised that the common
people heard him gladly?
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Background To The Claim
Today, many people ask, why are the religious sects and cults like the Jehovah
Witnesses and Mormons growing, when church numbers in some parts of the
western world are falling? Surely, a portion of the blame lies with those in
positions of spiritual leadership? Have some leaders failed to give spiritual
direction to their congregations, while at the same time starving them of the
Word of God? Would Jesus say of those living in the ‘so-called’ Christian West,
'they are like sheep without a shepherd?'
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The Explanation of His Claim
Jesus then goes on to explain what he means by ‘Good
Shepherd’. In v11 we read, "the Good Shepherd lays
down his life for the sheep". Imagine how this would
have startled his hearers! Normally the safety of the
sheep is dependent upon the well-being of the
shepherd. If the shepherd loses his life are not the
sheep in much greater danger?
Notice also that Jesus does not say there is a chance that
he might have to risk his life, or that he could be killed
against his will. Rather he describes his death as part of
the ‘shepherd-mission’ he had chosen to fulfil v13.
Jesus is saying, “It is my death that lies at the very heart
of my shepherding work”. Why?
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The Explanation of His Claim
When Jesus speaks of laying down his life for his sheep, he is using the
language of substitution. He is saying, ‘I am dying in the place of my sheep. I
am dying the death they deserve to die’. In his death Jesus effected a great
exchange. Standing in his sheep's stead, he was clothed with all their sin in
order that they might be clothed with
his perfect righteousness.
The sin of his sheep
This death would satisfy the justice
of God and therefore, the safety
of the sheep would be secure.
Jesus’ righteousness
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The Explanation of His Claim
Through this death, Jesus’ rebel sheep would
be restored and reconciled to God.
By this death, Jesus earned the right to lead his
sheep from the dark kingdom of sin and death
into the glorious light of the kingdom of God.
Someone has rightly said, “All the blessings that
come to the sheep come by way of the cross".
Recognising this helps us to understand the
remarkable uniqueness of Jesus’ claim! He is
the only shepherd of his kind.
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The Explanation of His Claim
Jesus further qualifies the uniqueness of his shepherding role saying, "I know
my sheep” v14. Have you ever cried out in exasperation, “No one understands
me”? When Jesus speaks of ‘knowing his sheep’ he is describing an intimate
knowledge of them and their needs.
It was said of Martin Luther's preaching that
'he spoke as if he had been inside a man'.
To a far greater degree Jesus, ‘spoke as if
he had been inside a man’ nothing is
hidden from him.
Jesus knows the depths of our hearts and souls
and he owns the key which enables him to look inside.
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The Explanation of His Claim
When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night we read that, "Jesus answered
Nicodemus” Jn.3v3. But notice Nicodemus hadn't begun to ask his question.
But Jesus knew what it was that weighed most heavily on Nicodemus’ mind
and heart. His big question was, 'How can I get into the kingdom of God?'
And Jesus understood that!
Similarly in Jn.4, when Jesus began to speak to
the Samaritan woman at the well, he knew
that the great longing of her heart was for
spiritual satisfaction. Therefore he could
structure his conversation to address
her need.
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The Explanation of His Claim
To be ‘known’ in this way by Jesus can be uncomfortable. The masks and
disguises we wear before others dissolve before Jesus’ gaze. We may appear
self-contained before others but Jesus says, "I know what you are like." He
exposes in order to heal and so his knowledge of us
should not terrify but comfort to us.
We are not a part of an anonymous flock but precious,
individual sheep with particular needs. Some
sheep need to be carried for a while, others
corrected, others dealt with gently…etc.
cf. Is. 40v11.
Jesus does not despise the weak, or crush the
sensitive. Because he knows his sheep he
is able to give them his individual attention.
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The Effect of The Claim
The first effect of Jesus’ claim to be his people’s Shepherd is to see that they
belong to one flock v16. Wesley rightly said, 'the Bible knows nothing of solitary
Christianity'. Because we belong to the Good Shepherd, we are part of his flock
and so we belong to one another. It is not ultimately culture, social status, or
personality that divides men but covetousness, oppression, self-centredness…
etc. Men and women are alienated from one another because of their sin, which
also alienates them from God. Through the death of the Good Shepherd men are
not only reconciled to God but also to one another. Cf. Eph. 2.13-18
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The Effect of The Claim
We need to grasp that if we belong be the Good Shepherd, then we also
belong to one another. For this reason discord and division should be foreign
to the flock of God. We rightly think it natural for wolves to trouble the lambs
but it is strange and unnatural for one lamb to harm another? It is only when
outsiders see the mutual love, care and acceptance of Christians
for one another that they will be drawn
towards Jesus.
How do you shape up in this regard
as a part of your church fellowship?
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The Effect of The Claim
However, the immediate effect of Jesus’ claim was to divide his hearers. We
read in v19 that some thought him ‘mad’, a charge often hurled when people
are confronted with something they simply cannot accept or understand.
‘How can one man's death reconcile men to God and to one another?’ Now
those, who adamantly refused to believe that Jesus was their Good Shepherd,
clearly demonstrated that they were not Jesus’ sheep v26.
On hearing this perhaps some in the
crowd heaved a sigh of relief and
‘I believe, therefore I must be safe’.
We can sometimes be too hasty in
jumping to that conclusion.
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The Effect of The Claim
For this reason Jesus does not leave the matter there. He goes on to qualify
what he means by belief in v27 "They listen to my voice ...and follow..." It is
not enough to say at a mere intellectual level, “I believe that Jesus is the Good
Shepherd and have understood the necessity and significance of his death”.
The gospel message is not simply something to be believed but something
that must be obeyed. In another place Jesus asks, “Why do you call me Lord,
Lord and do not do the things that I say?” Lk.6v46
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As the Good Shepherd, Jesus confronted the disorientated society of his day
with the words, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost”Lk.19v10.
By doing so, he showed a genuine care and concern. By his death, he brought
lost men and women back to God and as a result their broken
relationships with one another were also healed.
The same Good Shepherd confronts society today, primarily through
his church. As his flock demonstrate costly love and care for one
another they will arrest the attention of many unbelievers
and point them to Jesus. Christ's sheep must bear the mark
of obedience. We will not be able
to influence others without it.
Do you bear this mark? If so then
you will enable Jesus to reach
his objective?
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