Sheep & Shepherds Pt. 1: Jesus, the Good Shepherd, John 9:39-10:21


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“Sheep & Shepherds Pt. 1: Jesus, the Good Shepherd”

John 9:39-10:21

March 1, 2020

Faith Presbyterian Church – Morning Service

Pastor Nicoletti

 

We will consider together this morning John, chapter ten, but before we get there, we need to recall what happened in John chapter nine.

 

In John nine, Jesus healed a man who was born blind, restoring his sight. And then, after he did that, tension built between the man who had been born blind and the religious leaders – specifically a number of the Pharisees who were leaders in the synagogue.

 

When they heard of the man’s healing, they first cast doubt on whether Jesus could be from God since he did not keep the regulations that they had added to the Scripture’s Sabbath laws. Second, they questioned whether the man had really been born blind, until his parents were produced to testify. Even then, they made known that any who confessed Jesus to be the Christ (the Messiah) would be excommunicated from the synagogue – causing his parents to hesitate and hedge even as they confessed the obvious truth of their son’s healing. Finally, when the man who was healed persisted in proclaiming that Jesus must be from God, they cast him out of the synagogue.

 

When it was all said and done, Jesus found the man born blind, who confessed his faith in Jesus and worshiped him.

 

Which then brings us to verse thirty-nine of chapter nine, where we will begin our reading this morning, noting that despite the later-added chapter breaks and section headings, in John’s writing, chapter nine flows right into chapter ten.

 

With that in mind we turn now to John 9:53 through 10:21.

 

Please do listen carefully, for this is God’s word for us this morning.

 

9:39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

10:1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

 

This is the word of the Lord.  (Thanks be to God.)

 

“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” [1 Peter 1:24-25]

 

Let’s pray …

 

Lord, our eyes long for your salvation

and for the fulfillment of your righteous promises.

Deal with us, your servants, according to your steadfast love,

and teach us your statutes.

We are your servants, and so we ask you to give us understanding,

that we may know your testimonies.

As we attend to your word now,

help us to love it more than gold, even much fine gold.

Make us to hold to your precepts as right,

and to hate every false way.

Grant this, we ask, in Jesus’s name. Amen

[Based on Psalm 119:123-125, 127-128]

 

Jesus, in this passage, gives us a “figure of speech” – a sort-of parable, that positions us as sheep in a flock. [Carson, 383]

 

And one of the first important things that does is to remind us of the needs of the sheep, and therefore of our needs as people. Two elements are highlighted by Jesus: the need for nourishment, and the need for protection. The sheep need pasture if they are to have life, as we are reminded in verses nine and ten. And the sheep need protection from predators if they are to survive, as we are reminded in verse twelve. The question for the sheep is who will provide for those needs.

 

And as Jesus presents the needs of the sheep, so he presents the needs of human beings. We too need provisions and protection. And we too are faced with the question of where we will get it.

 

That question comes to us on a physical level, of course. And for that reason the Bible frequently uses the picture of a shepherd with his sheep to refer to a king and his people – the king provides for them and protects them. [Wright, 148-149] Today our political framework is different, and we would not tend to use the same analogy, and yet … when presidential elections roll around, the questions that seem to come up again and again are: who will provide for our needs, and who will protect us? Whatever one’s political philosophy, people, in the end, seem to look for a shepherd – for one who will provide for them and protect them.

 

We look for those things for our physical lives. But the fact is that we look for them for our spiritual lives as well.

 

Every human being looks for fulfillment and security spiritually, but that spiritual need is often most pronounced in those who have already have their physical needs largely met. How often is it that those who wildly succeed in this world – who become rich and famous – then, feeling empty and hollow, turn to drugs or other destructive means in order to numb their sense of spiritual despair?

 

Or think of it on a cultural level. When a culture most clearly has their physical needs for resources and security met, it is usually then that they most feel their lack of spiritual resources and spiritual security. Apathy and ennui can take over a culture … a sense of meaninglessness can pervade … hedonistic nihilism dominates, and hopelessness pervades, because people feel spiritually empty – spiritually starved and naked.

 

All of this reveals the fact that our souls are not self-sufficient. Just as our bodies need nourishment and protection, so do our souls. Our souls need to feed on the source of true life – the source of their being. And our souls need protection because there are spiritual forces of darkness in this world. The Bible affirms both of those needs. Modern people often try to deny them. But in moments where we are forced to reckon with our condition – whether moments of desperation or moments where it seems like we should be satisfied with what we have, but we are not – then we are reminded again that our souls, like sheep, need nourishment and protection.

 

And if that is so, then the question Jesus puts to us is: Who will be our shepherd? Who will be the shepherd of our souls?

 

But before Jesus even mentions an answer to that question, he begins by drawing out attention to further problems. He begins by pointing us to the threat of false shepherds. And the first of such threats is the thief.

 

We’re introduced to the thief right in verse one. The thief is there to feed on the sheep, rather than to feed them.

 

While the good shepherd provides for the needs of the sheep, the thief is the opposite – he is an anti-shepherd – he grasps at the sheep to meet his own needs and desires. He feeds on the sheep rather than feeding them.

 

And the Jews of the first century – the sheep Jesus is talking to – were very familiar with such anti-shepherds. They were surrounded by those who seemed to be there to consume them rather than to provide for them.

 

Most immediately in the context of our passage there were the Pharisaical leaders of the synagogue, whom we had just seen cast a newly healed man out of the synagogue and threaten his parents with the same if they didn’t watch their words.

 

And as we observe the Pharisees responding to the words and works of Jesus it becomes clear that they are not there first and foremost to nourish and protect the sheep – but they are there to establish and maintain their own position and power. And so a mighty work of God is met not with awe and thanksgiving, but with attempts to silence the people who experienced it. The leaders are not there to care for the people, but to enrich themselves.

 

But the Pharisaical leaders were not the only instance of this that the first-century Jews faced. There was also Herod – a puppet of the Romans who used his power for himself and cared little for the lives of those under him. He was all too happy to slaughter some of his sheep if it might work to his benefit.

 

Then, on top of that, there were the many militaristic false Messiahs who arose in the first century. These anti-shepherds among the people were ready to offer the blood of the sheep who followed them in often hopeless battles to gain power and prominence for themselves.

 

The first century Jews were surrounded by anti-shepherds – by thieves and robbers – by those who were there to feed on the sheep rather than feed them.

 

And, of course, that problem was not unique to God’s people in the first century. It comes up again and again in the history of God’s people. Passages like Jeremiah 23 and Ezekiel 34 confronted Israel’s leaders for being anti-shepherds – for feeding on the people rather than feeding them, or for scattering them rather than gathering them. These are the same habits of the thieves that Jesus describes.

 

But then, Jesus points out that that is not the only sort of false shepherd the people faced. Jesus describes the other kind in verses twelve and thirteen: the hired hand.

 

The hired hand is not there to devour the sheep – to exploit them for his own gain. The hired hand is willing to work for the good of the sheep … so long as their good also coincides with his good. In other words, the hired hand does a cost/benefit analysis, and so long as it is in his favor to work for the good of the sheep, that’s what he does. But once things shift – once a threatening wolf shows up, for example – then it’s no longer really in his interest to protect the sheep, and so off he goes. The hired hand is willing to protect the sheep so long as there is nothing too serious to protect them from.

 

And such leaders have always existed among the people of God as well. The Jews, like all people, knew of leaders who would help them so long as it was in the leader’s own self-interests, and who would then turn on them or leave them to the wolves when that served the leader’s own self-interest.

 

Many hired-hands will commend themselves for not being thieves – for not preying on those in their care. And that is something. But still, in the end, the hired hand is in it for himself.

 

And so, Jesus gives us these two more general categories of false shepherds: both thieves, and hired hands.

 

And each one of us here has had some experience with false shepherds – with anti-shepherds. And we can experience them on a number of levels.

 

Sometimes it’s an individual whom we entrust ourselves to – whom we look to to provide for us and protect us … and then they betray us. They either exploit us and use us … or they abandon us when we are seen as more of a liability than a benefit to them.

 

But the pattern and the effects of the false shepherd is not limited to individuals.

 

It can also be true of cultural systems in our fallen world. Individuals, the Bible reminds us, are fallen. But the human world as a whole is fallen as well. Which means that the systems by which fallen humans organize their communal life always, to some extent, reflect the fallenness of the people behind them.

 

And so across cultures we can see ways in which cultural systems – whether they are political, economic, social, or religious – often exploit those they are called to provide for, and expose those they are called to protect. We can look at institutions in any society in this fallen world and find those that can be anti-shepherds to the people they claim to serve.

 

We see it with individuals. We see it with cultural systems. But some of the most significant false shepherds we experience are those we invest our deepest hopes in. They are the things that we look to for ultimate meaning and ultimate security – the earthly things we look to to be our ultimate shepherds, that in the end, always turn out to be false.

 

We all look for an ultimate shepherd – to something we can put our greatest trust in. Whether we pursue pleasure or achievement – whether we pursue money or self-improvement – whether we pursue the esteem of others or control over our private lives – whatever it may be for each one of us, we all look to something that we hope will be our cosmic shepherd – the shepherd of our souls, to provide for us and protect us. But in each of those cases, when we pursue them to the end, we find either a thief or a hired hand. They either consume us, leaving us hollow and empty, or they abandon us when we are no longer of use to them. Whatever they tell us along the way, in the end, whatever material benefits we may accrue from them, they cannot shepherd our souls – though we often ask them to.

 

Our lives look very different from the first-century Jews that Jesus spoke to. But we too are surrounded by false shepherds – by anti-shepherds – by thieves and by hired hands, who do not provide the fulfillment and protection we hope they will.

 

Jesus here in this parable exposes those false shepherds for what they are. And then he directs our attention to himself.

 

Because contrary to those false shepherds, Jesus tells us that he is the Good Shepherd – he is the true shepherd.

 

And central to that is Jesus’s claim that he will provide the nourishment and the protection that we need – that he will provide what a shepherd should provide for his sheep.

 

We see that first and foundationally on a spiritual level. Jesus provides spiritual nourishment for his people.

 

He calls his sheep out by name, and then he leads them to good pasture, as we read in verses three and nine. He provides what they need to have life and to have it abundantly. Jesus feeds his people, so that their souls can be satisfied and sustained. We try to fill our souls with many things, but we find, again and again, that the things we consume lack the spiritual calories we need to be satisfied or to be sustained. And so we continue to hunger. But Jesus feeds us so that we may have life and have it abundantly. He is the Good Shepherd.

 

And along with providing for us, he also tells us that he will protect us. The Bible warns us that we have a spiritual adversary who longs to consume us – who longs to devour us. The devil is the ultimate anti-shepherd. He is a wolf. But Jesus tells us that he – that Jesus – is the one who stays with his sheep when such threats come. And he will protect them from all their enemies – from all who seek to separate them from the good shepherd.

 

And because he promises to defeat all their enemies, we see that his provision is not only spiritual, but it encompasses all of life. Jesus feeds us spiritually in this life. He protects us from the assaults of the devil. He will protect us, if we stay close to him, from the temptations of sin. But he will also do more than that. He will defeat all of our enemies – including sin, Satan, and even death. Which is why the promise of his provision for us is not just spiritual and in this life, but it is a promise that encompasses both the spiritual and the physical – both this life and the next. It is a promise that in the end he will make all things new – he will drive away forever sin and sadness and brokenness and death, and create a new heaven and a new earth, where his people will forever dwell secure and feast on his abundant blessings. That is the ultimate promise of the Good Shepherd.

 

And Jesus further emphasizes these claims in verses seven and nine, where he adds that he is also the door – the gate of the sheep. Now, it’s unclear whether Jesus here is adding a second metaphor on top of the first, by saying that he is also the gate by which the sheep access good pasture [Carson, 384], or whether he is referencing the practice in Eastern sheepfolds in which “the shepherd lies down at night in the gateway, to stop the sheep getting out and to stop predators getting in.” [Wright, 150] In either case, Jesus is emphasizing what he has also said his role is as the Good Shepherd: he provides for and protects his sheep.

 

That is Jesus’s claim.

 

But how do we know it’s true? How do we know he is who he says he is? The question hangs over this passage as Jesus makes the astounding claims that he does.

 

The question is there, but it is also a question that Jesus answers. And he answers it in our text with five claims that he makes throughout this passage. Let’s consider them briefly.

 

First, Jesus’s claim to be the Good Shepherd actually brings together the other staggering claims he has made about himself – and it does it through the Hebrew Scriptures.

 

Jesus, in chapter eight, brought out the anger of the Jewish crowd when he essentially claimed to be God. Then, in chapter nine, Jesus claimed to be the Son of Man – the Messiah – the son of David. On some level it makes sense that the Jews would at least be perplexed by the combination of claims that Jesus is making – it was not assumed in the first century that the Messiah was to be divine. But then, in claiming to be the Good Shepherd, Jesus is actually driving the Jews back to the Scriptures to reexamine their assumptions.

 

As I mentioned earlier, the theme of good and bad shepherds comes up repeatedly in the Hebrew Scriptures. But one of the more prominent occurrences of it is in Ezekiel chapter thirty-four.

 

First, the passage begins with the Lord – with Yahweh – confronting the false shepherds of Israel. In verses two through five we read as the Lord says the following to the prophet Ezekiel – he says: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord Yahweh: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts.”

 

Yahweh’s condemnation of the anti-shepherds of Israel sounds a lot like Jesus’s condemnations in John chapter ten.

 

What solution is offered then in Ezekiel 34?

 

Well, two things are said. The first comes in verses eleven through sixteen, and it’s striking. There we read this – it says: 11 “For thus says the Lord Yahweh: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord Yahweh. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak.”

 

After the failures of their human shepherds, Yahweh will shepherd his people Israel himself.

 

But then a seemingly different answer comes just a few verses later, in verses twenty-two through twenty-four. There we read the Lord say: “22 I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. 23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, Yahweh, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am Yahweh; I have spoken.”

 

And there is an apparent tension here. Because in verses twenty-two through twenty-four, God – Yahweh – says that it will be David – by which he must mean a human descendent from David, since this was written long after David’s death – but he says it will be a descendant of David who will be established as the great shepherd of God’s people. But then, in verses eleven through sixteen, the Lord stresses that it will be he himself – that it will be Yahweh – who will be the shepherd of his people.

 

And we are left with an odd apparent contradiction … until we come to John eight through ten. And Jesus claims that he is the promised descendant of David. And then he also claims that he is the Lord – Yahweh – who made all things. And then, to help us connect the dots, he points us to Ezekiel 34 and tells us that he is the Good Shepherd – he is Yahweh, who will himself shepherd his people, and he is the son of David, heir to the Messianic throne. [Wright, 153]

 

The first argument as to why we should believe Jesus is the Good Shepherd, is because this is what the Lord had promised all along. God himself would come as the heir of David to shepherd his people.

 

Of course, even if that is the right reading of Ezekiel 34, we might wonder if that proves that Jesus is the one whom it is talking about. Why should we believe him that he is the one the Hebrew Scriptures refer to?

 

Which brings us to the second argument implied in our passage. We must take seriously Jesus’s claim to be the Good Shepherd because only he can provide divine care for his sheep.

 

The healing of the blind man surrounds the claims that Jesus makes here. The healing itself happens right beforehand, and then we are pointed to it again at the end of our text. There, in verses nineteen through twenty-one we read: “19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, ‘He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?’ 21 Others said, ‘These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’”

 

The claims of Jesus were so extreme that some rush to the conclusion that he must be insane and demon-possessed.

 

But they can’t just write him off in that way. Because the healing of the blind man stops them. There were ways that people in the ancient world were more open to miracles than people in the modern Western world are today (though even then, they were not as naïve as we tend to think of them). But even so, we are reminded in this passage that no one expected a man born blind to receive his sight again. The healing of the man born blind forced people to consider Jesus’s claims. It was not by itself proof of his divinity – but it meant the people could not just ignore Jesus’s claims. It was a paradigm-buster. It smashed through people’s assumptions about the world – it broke their worldviews. And it forced them to reconsider the nature of the world they lived in, and what Jesus’s place was in it.

 

Jesus was making astounding claims of being the divine Good Shepherd. But he was also acting with divine power. His claims had to be considered.

 

Jesus’s divine care for his people is further proof that he is the Good Shepherd.

 

Third, as evidence that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, we are reminded that Jesus cares for people as individuals. And this wasn’t proof of his power and divinity so much as it was proof of his goodness and love. Jesus cared for the blind man as an individual. He sought him out. And the blind man was not unique in getting such attention.

 

Following the pattern of shepherds in the Middle East, we are told in verse three that Jesus calls his sheep out by name. He recognizes them. He sees them as individuals. He knows them, as he says in verse fourteen. He calls them by name because he is not there to get from the sheep, or to provide minimal care as a hired hand – he is there because loves the sheep and so knows every one of them by name.

 

Fourth, Jesus shows the extent of that love in that he lays down his life for the sheep. He says this in verses fifteen through eighteen. So, far from being there to selfishly use the sheep, Jesus lays down his life for the sheep. His love for the sheep is confirmed in his willingness to die on the cross in order to save his sheep, confirming for all who will look on and see that he is the Good Shepherd who loves his sheep.

 

Fifth and finally, we can know Jesus is the good shepherd if we will listen to his voice. We have the data before us – the Hebrew Scriptures and the miracles to show his divine Messianic status, his attention and his willingness to die for the good of his sheep prove his love. But in the end, what convinces us – what enables us to see those truths – is hearing his voice. When we hear his voice, we can recognize him for who he is.

 

It is as we hear the voice of Jesus that the Spirit enables us to see him as he is. And then it is in following him that we can experience his provision and his protection.

 

Jesus makes these five claims to the first-century Jews gathered around him in this passage, but all that he claimed regarding them is also true of you.

 

Jesus is, for you, the human descendant of David and the divine Son of God. We can spin our minds in circles trying to comprehend the two natures of Christ, but the point driven home here is that in both natures he is the Good Shepherd of Ezekiel 34, who will care for and protect you if you would follow him.

 

Jesus is, for you, the one who brings his divine power to bear for your good – to care for you, to heal your brokenness, to drive out your sin, to protect you from evil. He is the Good Shepherd who does for you what only God can do.

 

Jesus is, for you, the divine king who knows you by name. Stop and think about that for a moment. The rich and the powerful leaders of this world may have no idea who you are. But the divine king – the Lord of the cosmos – the Good Shepherd – he knows you by name, and he calls you to follow him.

 

Jesus is, for you, the shepherd who has laid down his life in order to save you. He went to the cross for you, a sheep of his fold. That is how great his love is for you.

 

And Jesus is, for you, the one who still speaks and calls to you today. He speaks to you through his Word, the Scriptures. He draws you to follow him through his Holy Spirit. He calls to you, and shepherds you, through the Church. In all these ways, Jesus’s voice still goes out to you.

 

And he calls you so that he might give to you what a shepherd is to give to his flock – that he might provide the nurture and the protection that you need. He calls you to bless you and to give you life – abundant life. He calls you to bless you with spiritual blessings now, and with the fullness of his loving blessing in the life that is to come.

 

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, calls you to listen to him, and to follow close behind.

 

If you are here this morning and you are not a Christian, this text tells you that the best way for you to figure out what to make of this Jesus you have been hearing about, is to listen to his voice. Keep coming to worship and hearing his word proclaimed, and prayed, and sung here. Keep talking to Christians, and asking them to share with you and explain to you the words of Jesus. And read the Bible. Read the Scriptures. All of it is Jesus’s word. But even so, it would probably be best to start with one of the Gospels – with Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Read the Word of Jesus. And listen to him as he calls you.

 

Because your relationship to him is what is key. Jesus doesn’t talk here about who has their act together. He doesn’t talk about who lives a respectable-looking life. He doesn’t talk about who lives an outwardly virtuous life. As Augustine points out in reflecting on this passage, many pagans, many non-Christians can boast of an outwardly virtuous life. But that is not what Jesus says will lead them to the provision and protection you need. What provides access to spiritual provision is not your list of good deeds, but Christ, the gate and the gatekeeper to the good pastureland. What provides protection is not your list of supposed virtues, but Christ, the Good Shepherd, who will lay down his life for you. He is what you need. So listen to his voice. [Augustine, Tractate XLV.2]

 

And for those of us who are Christians, this text reminds us that our whole life must be a life of listening, and following.

 

It’s important to appreciate, as commentators point out, that “unlike Western shepherds, who drive the sheep [from behind], often using a sheep dog, shepherds in Near East, both now and in Jesus’ day, lead their flocks, their voice calling them on.” [Carson, 383] The shepherd leads, and the sheep listen and follow close behind.

 

And that is our primary calling. Many other voices call out to us. Many come in to steal our hearts. But the sheep know the voice of the Good Shepherd. We must listen for it. And when we hear, we must follow close behind.

 

We listen as we attend to the Scriptures. We draw close as we respond in prayer. We listen as we attend to God’s Word in worship. We draw close as we respond in praise. We listen as we hold on to Christ’s Word. We draw close as we live out what he has told us to do in our daily lives.

 

That is how the Christian is a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd.

 

Our lives can be difficult. We face challenges. We face discouragements. We face griefs. And we look around us and we see barren lands, or we see vicious wolves on the horizon, and we wonder if we will be provided for – we wonder if we will be protected.

 

Jesus says “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.” And so it is crucial that you know him.

 

So listen to him, see him, and know him.

 

He is both the eternal and the intimate Good Shepherd. Challenges may come and challenges may go. But Christ remains the same forever. All the way back in Ezekiel 34, in the sixth century B.C., Yahweh, our God, not only sees his people’s need for a Good Shepherd, but is willing to stoop down to where they are and be their Good Shepherd himself. And so he came, in Jesus Christ, to do just that. And he continues to draw close by the Holy Spirit to do that for you. He is the Good Shepherd whose promises echo through the millennia that he will be your true shepherd.

 

And with that, he is also the all-powerful Good Shepherd. However things might appear now, he is the One who could heal the blind. He is the One who conquered sin and death. He is the One who can restore your life and your soul. Whatever your circumstances, remember and know that your Good Shepherd can provide and protect.

 

He is also the loving and sacrificial Good Shepherd. He has laid down his life, for you. That is how great his love is for you. Do you think about that? Do you see it? And when you do, when you focus your mind on it, how can you doubt that he cares for you, and desires your good? He gave his life for you? Can you really doubt his love?

 

Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd. Listen. Hear his voice. And follow him as he leads.

 

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This sermon draws on material from:

Augustine. Homilies on the Gospel of John. Tractates XLV, XLVI, XLVII. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. First Series, Volume 7.

Carson, D.A. The Gospel According to John. PNTC. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991.

Wright, N.T. John for Everyone: Part 1. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.