The Good Shepherd (9-13-14)
Going Deeper is a weekend devotion intended to help you go deeper into a scripture you spent time in during the week. We pray this is simply another way for you to dig into God’s word. May your affections for Him be stirred and your soul sanctified for all He has prepared for you.
Grab your bible and let’s go deeper into John 10:1-16
Jesus has just had a lengthy exchange with the religious hierarchy of the day (the Pharisees) over the healing of a blind man in chapter 9. Jesus is going to take the conversation to a different topic— a well-known topic in that day—one of “Shepherds and sheep!”
In that day the Middle East often referred to kings and priests as shepherds and their subjects as sheep. The Old Testament text that many of the Jews grew up studying is filled with important men who were shepherds; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David. So it was very fitting for Jesus to use this platform of sheep and shepherds as his metaphor for his next two proclamations.
Read: John 10:1-6
The location he is describing is a Sheepfold! A sheepfold was a roofless enclosure in an open field, most likely with a wall made of rough stones, and with a sturdy door for access. A robber or a thief who did not belong would not have had a key to the door or access to go through it if the gatekeeper did not know him. So to take what was not theirs, thieves would have had to jump over the wall.
IN THE MOMENT
Jesus is talking about the religious leaders who were trying to illegitimately gain mastery over the Jewish people. They would have used a number of tactics to convince and sway the people toward them and in doing so avoid the door for access— and try to discredit the true shepherd from ministering to his flock.
Read: John 10:7-10
Jesus is talking about his work to bring his people back to a restored life with Him! He is saying, “I, GOD, am here to give you access to the abundant life that I originally made for you.” Jesus is making it very clear, in the midst of these thieves and robbers: “I am telling you the truth. I am real, deep, lasting, Life! Through me ‘the gate…the door’ is where you will find LIFE!”
How is this Good News to us?
JESUS IS LIFE!
This understanding is everything!
Why is it so hard for us to get this? One reason, I think, is the same problem Jesus fought against in his day—the religious institutions have taught for too long something else. We have been raised to see Jesus as the Provider FOR life…instead of Realizing God’s pure design: that Jesus IS life!
Think for a second about those who have snuck over the wall and tried to convince you they were your shepherd. Who are the thieves and robbers in your life?
- a parent who told you weren’t worth anything by the way they treated you or treated themselves (drinking, drugs, gambling, workaholic)
- a “Friend” who convinced you to make a lame decision that cost you a lot
- a lover who used you for your care, your time, your body
- a drug that has plagued your life with a lust for it instead of godly things
- a form of media that has you entranced with its images or sounds and seems to consume you day and night
- a career goal that has you trapped pursuing motorcycles, and awards, and paychecks that never seems to last or be enough
Jesus is saying, “Those people and things are not life!” Jesus is saying, “follow me and I will bring you to pasture…I am life…my motive is pure and my ability to keep my promise is golden. The thief’s motive is wicked: it is to use you selfishly until you don’t provide any longer and then be done with you!”
Read again: John 10:1
- The thief didn’t have the key, and didn’t know the gatekeeper…So why do we trust people like this in our lives?
Read again: John 10: 2-3
We love being called by name…we love being known, don’t we? Do you realize Jesus knows you better than your best friend, your very own mother? He knows you better than you know yourself! For many of you that is a frightening thought, because you don’t like what you know about yourself.
- The good News is: HE knows YOU…and he still showed up to redeem you! Why? To bring you home. To invite you to LIVE! Are you listening to his voice?
Notice it says “he leads them out.” He doesn’t drive us like most Shepherds do with their flock, HE leads and we follow!
Read again: John 10:4-5
Again, are you trusting a stranger? Who are your going to for your guidance in life?
Read again: John 10:7
What is the function of a gate or a door? Entrance!
Read again: John 10:9
“THROUGH” I want to focus on this very important word…
Again, Why is it GOOD NEWS TO US when Jesus says that he is the gate? Because he is saying LIFE is found in me…THROUGH me! It is vitally important that we all get this: what seems simple and basic here is life altering.
Life is defined two ways: One is super misleading; one is everything!
- Life #1: Physical Life (your birthdate until now.)
- Life #2: Spiritual LIFE (the moment you enter the gate who is Jesus Christ and surrender to his leading until forever!)
We must STOP treating JESUS like he is an add-on to our already existing life…a get out of HELL free card…a genie in a lamp to answer your most pressing problems…a supplier of all of life’s needed tools and resources. START living life THROUGH Jesus every moment, Realize: HE IS LIFE!
“We must go to war with consumer Christianity”
Read again: John 10:9
When Jesus says come in and out, he is not saying, “Hey come and visit me sometimes, and at other times you can go off by yourself.” He is saying that THROUGH ME you do life…the in and out…daily little and big things of life. He is saying, “IN Me, THROUGH ME you are ALIVE…so live! Enjoy the Pasture I am to you!”
Read: Romans 6:23
Read again: John 10:10
Only through JESUS will we experience the abundant life. I hope you see this like you have never seen it before.
The Abundant Life is not Heaven; it is not a prosperous temporary life in the here and now. IT IS LIFE WITH GOD.
He is our prize, our joy, our strength, our satisfaction. He is all we need and could ever truly want!
Read again: John 10:11-14
WHAT DOES THIS TEACH US ABOUT JESUS?
There are two very important things here in the text:
- I KNOW my sheep
Before we go further we have to acknowledge that if he is the Shepherd then We are sheep! But, why sheep?
Of all the animal kingdom, which are you and I most like? There are several different opinions these days:
-Charles Darwin claimed that the monkey was the nearest animal to man
– Biologists tend to think that man is most like a mouse or a rat.
-Some scientists say that we are a lot like ants or bees because like humans they are social creatures that live in highly structured societies.
-Others have recently compared people to dolphins because of the similar ratio of brain mass to body size.
So why is it that in the Bible we are MOST often compared to SHEEP? David, the psalmist, a shepherd himself, employed this analogy repeatedly. In Psalm 100:3 he said, “…we are [God’s] people and the SHEEP of His pasture.” In Psalm 77:2 he wrote, “God, You lead Your people like a flock…” In Psalm 79:13says, “We, Your people, the sheep of Your pasture will give You thanks forever.” In Psalm 23, his most popular Psalm containing this comparison, David said, “The Lord is my shepherd…” Throughout the Bible we see this same parallel drawn between man and sheep. Isaiah 40:11 says that God, “…tends His flock like a Shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart. He gently leads those that are with young.” I believe this God inspired comparison is in His word so often because, of all the animals God created, the species that most NEEDS guidance is SHEEP.
Now what do we know about sheep?
I- on the whole we know SHEEP are pretty stupid and stubborn animals. Ask yourself, have you ever seen a group of trained sheep in a circus? Of course not. You’ve seen trained apes and even trained mice or rats or dolphins but not sheep.
And you probably never will because sheep are just too simple-minded.
II- Sheep are dirty and wayward. Real sheep aren’t like those clean, fluffy balls of cotton depicted on greeting cards. And if you’ve ever seen the southern end of a northbound herd, you’ll know why. They can’t keep themselves clean, and they smell atrocious. Plus, they tend to wander off easily, perhaps because they can’t see very far—less than 15 yards. And, no matter how many times you bring wayward sheep back, they are prone to wander off again because they don’t learn from their mistakes.
III – Sheep are defenseless and dependent. They don’t have much of a bite. No natural defense, no claws, no horns, no fangs, not even a stink bag like a skunk. To make matters worse they are top-heavy and their legs are spindly. This makes them slow.
IV-Sheep are also susceptible to all kinds of diseases. They will eat too much if you let them and get sick. They are definitely not your king-of-the-forest types.
V- Sheep are easily frightened and confused. It doesn’t take much to scramble the simple mental yolk of a nervous sheep. They’ve even been known to plunge straight over the edge of a high precipice in a panic, one following right after another.
Now, God doesn’t compare us to sheep so often in His Word to put us down. He makes this comparison in His book so often because He wants to communicate one very important truth to us. He wants us to know that we are designed to NEED a Guide in life. We need a Shepherd with a “rod and a staff” to protect us.
So when we read scriptures like
Isaiah 53:6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…
Mark 9:36 “When Jesus saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
we should be reminded that we have an inborn need for a Shepherd. So, When Jesus says: “I am the good Shepherd” He is really saying: I am the only One who is qualified for this task.
In verse 3 we read that Jesus knows us by name and in verse 14 we read that He knows us like no other guide could possibly know us! He is not some stranger—some hired hand—some substitute teacher paid to do the job. NO, Jesus knows us. And when we are honest with ourselves we want to be known by him!
Did you know the relationship between sheep and shepherds was different in Palestine than in other parts of the world? For example, in Britain most sheep are kept for killing and eating but in Palestine most sheep were kept for their wool or milk. So in the land of the Bible, the sheep were often with a shepherd for years—many times from birth throughout their entire lives. Those shepherds KNEW their sheep and gave them names!
This leads us to a deeper understanding of Shepherds; shepherds know their sheep and go to great lengths to acquire them and care for them. WHY? Because their investment into a flock is their life.
It is super important that shepherds know their sheep well. Sheep are the most helpless of the all the animals. They are not smart at all. They will follow each other like no other animal. Most animals enjoy and grow in their freedom, but not sheep. They lose direction and purpose.
So, what is Jesus saying by comparing us to sheep? He is saying: “We are utterly Spiritually Dependent!”
Just look at the way we do life! We are constantly making lame choices…that reap harvests of failure.
One of the ways we get by in life is that we don’t know everything about each other—because if we did, if people knew the depths of who we are and the darkness of some of our life—people would turn on us. So, out of fear, we keep a certain level of distance. We don’t want to be known deep down for fear of not having anyone stand by us anymore.
Here is the kicker about Jesus being the true Shepherd…he knows his sheep…he knows us inside and out and instead of turning and running when he gets close to our baggage and stink he does the unthinkable…HE lays down his life!
Read again: John 10:11-13
- I LAY DOWN MY LIFE for my sheep
The hired hand runs, the true shepherd will go to great lengths to defend his flock.
Here is what we must understand about sheep: even though they were dumb, they were super valuable! Every part of a sheep can be used for great profit and utility! This is why it was not uncommon for a shepherd to leave the 99 and chase after the 1!
But Jesus says not me…when the wolves come…I love my sheep so much I become the LAMB myself! I lay down my life for the sheep. The Greek preposition used here for the English word “for” means “in the place of.” So what Jesus is saying is not what it first seems. At first glance it looks like Jesus is calling us dumb lost animals incapable of anything. But what it is really saying is we are so valuable—so loved—he breaks all logic wide open and dies for us so that the wolves will not get us!
WHY? So we can have LIFE! Again who Jesus is to us…He is LIFE!
Now, we NEED a Shepherd, but God has also designed in us that we BE Shepherds to those around us. The same way that Jesus is the LIGHT OF THE WORLD! When we have JESUS IN us we are called to be THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD TO those around us! JEUS IS NOT HERE IN BODILY FORM, he has chosen to live in his people and move and work though this people!
I want us to turn to Ezekiel because I want us to see how we can tend to resist this amazing opportunity to lead as Shepherds to those around us. As we read in Ezekiel 34, understand and remember the rulers of the people where often called shepherds. They were to be strong caring leaders who guarded their nation like a flock. But they were failing and so God sent his Prophet to speak against the false actions of the SHPEHERDS of the day.
Read: Ezekiel 34:1-3
False Practice #1—Selfishness: They did not serve the flock as their first priority. They put their own interests first above those they were called to lead. They had added to their wealth at the expense of the common people.
Read: Ezekiel 34:4
False Practice #2—Apathy: They treated the people harshly and failed to care for them and their health. A good shepherd will lead his sheep to food, protect them from attack, nurse them to health and look for them if they get lost! Instead the false shepherds ruled harshly and brutally!
Read: Ezekiel 34:5-6
False Practice #3—Absence: They had complete disregard for their people’s whereabouts and let them be scattered without looking for them. In shepherd life the scattering of the sheep was the worse thing possible because they were so dumb and not able to find their way back together. Additionally they were so hard to round up!
In the old testament the rulers (shepherds) failed at keeping the tribes (the sheep) together. Israel and Judah were scattered all over by the Babylonian and Assyrian Armies. Likewise today we have a culture that is scattered. Whereas once we were part of a culture founded on Christian teachings and morals, today we have the first generation that has a major component not connected to the church or the ways of God at all. This is affecting our kids and the following generations in major ways! We have to stop the bleeding and return to our first love…returning the flock to the good shepherd!
The fact that they were false shepherds meant that the flock had no real shepherd. So there are three main ways the Shepherds were blowing it:
A False Shepherd: 1. Selfish 2. Apathetic 3. Absent
A Good Shepherd: 1. Sacrificial 2. Caring 3. Present
The Good Shepherd:
- Lays Down his life
- Leads us to pasture and provision
- Isn’t just present but knows us at depths we don’t know ourselves
NOW, there are two other people we can choose to be lead by or be exposed to:
The Hired Hand – The hired hand is uncommitted! He leads with the wrong motives.
Purpose: to put in the minimum effort in order to get by and get paid!
The Thief/Robber/WOLF – The three are all the same! Nothing but a pure lie!
Purpose: to kill, steal and destroy!
Because we are sheep we will always end up following someone. Soldiers! As independent as you long to be, as strong willed as you are, we are still SHEEP in need of a SHEPHERD! The question is : Which of the 4 choices are you following?
-A False Shepherd- someone who has acted as a lead in your life but has lead you poorly
-A Hired Hand-someone who is put in a position over you in life but has no real interest in your growth or well-being. Instead, he leads out of duty
-A thief/Robber/Wolf-someone who has lied to you and somehow gained your trust with all intentions to use you and then throw you out
-The Good Shepherd-the only one who knows you inside and out and still loves you with a greater commitment than anyone you have ever known. He proved his love by laying down his life so that you could live and grow and enjoy HIM!
What kind of shepherd will you be to those God has entrusted to your care?
–a thief who will use and abuse those who follow you
–a Hired hand who will run when it gets hard
–a godly Shepherd who will lie down, who invests into others in a sacrificial, caring and present way!
Back in EZEKIEL … GOD Promised that because the rulers of the day failed in being Good Shepherds … he would step in and care for the Sheep himself!
Read: Ezekiel 34:11-16
Jesus says: I am the Good Shepherd!
WHY IS THIS GOOD NEWS to you and me?
Read: Psalm 23
“THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD…” Do you get the subtle emphasis there? GOD WON’T BE your shepherd until He becomes your LORD. Are you following and living for the GOOD SHEPHERD or someone else? Shepherds lead, sheep follow. He won’t lead you until you commit your life to follow Him.
by His grace and for His glory,
Soldiers for Jesus MC