Good Shepherd, we are the sheep of your pasture, you know us by name. We offer grateful thanks for your loving care. Open our hearts and minds to the guiding of your Spirit in our lives. Lead us in right paths that we may serve you in truth and action. Amen.
The Lord is My Shepherd
Two men were called on, in a large classroom, to recite John 10:11-18.
One was a published orator trained in speech technique and drama. He repeated the gospel of John in a powerful way. When he finished, the audience cheered and even asked for an encore that they might hear his wonderful voice again. Then, the other man, who was much older, repeated the same gospel —
But, when he finished, no sound came from the large class. Instead, people sat in a deep mood of devotion and prayer.
Then, the first man, the orator, stood to his feet.
He said: “I have a confession to make. The difference between what you have just heard from my old friend and what you heard from me is this:
I know the scripture. My friend knows the Shepherd.”
Can you say that you really know the Shepherd?
The Good Shepherd
Jesus introduces himself not as a king and not as a great teacher. He says that He is the good shepherd. By calling Himself the good shepherd, Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah that the scriptures foretold. Ezekiel 34 prophesied against the shepherds of Israel and criticized Israel’s leaders for taking care of themselves rather than taking care of their people. God rebuked and warned those shepherds who were concerned about feeding themselves and not their flock. The unfaithful leaders of Israel (both civil and spiritual) exploited their flocks without caring for them in return. It wasn’t wrong for the shepherd to make his living from the flock, but it was wrong to do it in a way that neglected love for the flock and the needs of the sheep. Then He promised that a TRUE shepherd (the Messiah) would come who would take care of the people.
Ezekiel 34 prophesied of the Messiah who would, like a true shepherd, come to caringly keep God’s people. It was a loving message of the coming Christ, the good shepherd, the Messiah that Israel was waiting for. Although the title “Good Shepherd” is found only in the New Testament, Jesus was intentionally reaching into the Old Testament with His words.
To call Jesus “good” is the same as calling Him “God.” Jesus was the chosen and the appointed. He was sent by God to care for God’s sheep. God entrusted His sheep to Jesus to care, feed, protect, and save. Like a shepherd, He provides for all our needs. He never casts anyone off.
Jesus says that the sheep are His; they belong to Him, every last one of them. In other words, He is the Provider, Protector and Savior of His people. He did not come to save Israel alone. He started with the lost sheep of Israel, but His reach went further.
To Jesus, every sheep is different and special. He knows them all by name and He will never forget it. We read in Isaiah 49:16: “I have written your name on my hand”. Not only does Christ know you by name, but you are uniquely made. Again in Psalm 139:16 we read, “Your eyes saw my embryo, and on your scroll every day was written that was being formed for me, before any one of them had yet happened.” God knows you by name. You are not just a number to the Good Shepherd.
Jesus was and is “the good” shepherd! No one else qualifies.
Jesus is the only one who has, or ever will, live a sinless life. He kept and fulfilled the commandments perfectly. Those who call on the name of Jesus are forgiven and are seen by God as good, but it is only through Jesus that we can lay claim to this goodness. Jesus showed His love for us by leaving heaven, entering humanity, living a perfect life, and paying the price for our sins by dying on the cross. He rose again, ascended to heaven to be with his Father, and intercedes on our behalf so that we can enter into relationship with God. Jesus rescued us and lay down his life for us, His sheep. As shepherd of the sheep, He is the one who protects, guides, and nurtures His flock. The Good Shepherd gives His life for His sheep, and is the Doorway to Heaven for the sheep who know Him and are known by Him. In using the phrase “the good shepherd,” Jesus is referencing His inherent goodness and His righteousness.
I came across a statement made by theologian and Pastor Dr. R.C. Sproul in which he made comment about a bumper sticker that read: “God said it; I believe it; that settles it.” He felt a new bumper sticker was needed that read, “God says it; that settles it.” “If God Almighty opens His holy mouth and declares something, we don’t need another witness. It’s over.”
So what are the credentials that qualify Jesus as the Good Shepherd? God said it…… that settles it.
In John 10, Christ spells out what it means for Him to be our Good Shepherd and how we can be secure in Him.
Christ has received you as a gift from the Father. How can you know if you are one of Christ’s sheep? How can you know if you have been given by the Father to the Son? Jesus says, “You believing is a distinguishing mark of the sheep given to the Son by the Father.” Christ’s sheep hear His voice, they believe His Word, and they follow Him. So, if you believe and follow Jesus Christ, you are one of Christ’s sheep. You have been given by the Father to the Son.
Christ knows you completely! There may be times when you are a mystery to yourself, but you are never a mystery to Christ. He knows what lifts you up and he knows what gets you down. There is nothing you could ever tell Jesus about yourself that he does not already know completely. You will never hear Jesus say, “I didn’t know that.” Here is the joy of following Jesus Christ: He knows you completely. He is able to lead you effectively.
Christ gave Himself for you. This is something very wonderful: The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. Under the Old Testament law, the sheep died for the shepherd in the yearly sacrifices but under the Grace of the New Testament, the Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep.
John 10:11, 15 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… I lay down my life for the sheep.”
Nothing that happened in His life was ever forced on Him or came to Him by surprise or by accident. Jesus said, “No one taketh it [My life] from me, but I lay it down of myself.” When Jesus cried on the cross “It is finished!, He then voluntarily yielded up His spirit to the Father.
When Jesus died, He purchased for us the gift of life and faith. Only a “great God” could GIVE. What a mercy this is because we can give nothing to God that is acceptable until we have first received what He gives to us through Christ. Everything Jesus endured in his passion was for you. He gave Himself to pay the ransom price, to bear our sins, to stand in our place, to make us acceptable to God, to redeem us from all lawlessness, and to remind us of our obligation to Him. When He gave Himself into the hands of the arresting party in the Garden of Gethsemane, it was for you. When He was scourged and beaten, it was for you. When He was condemned to death, it was for you. When He hung on that cross in agony, it was for you. Never forget that Jesus chose to suffer and die… for you.
If the Good Shepherd is willing to lay down His life for us, then who could ever rob us of God’s gift of grace and peace and salvation.
Christ called you and brought you to himself. You are loved sons and daughters of God because God chose you for himself. You are loved because He united you to Christ. By making you one with Christ, Christ becomes everything you need.
Christ owns you and will never abandon you. Bad news can turn our world upside down and push us into irrational conclusions like “God has abandoned us.” or “He doesn’t care.” Human nature reaches for a reason, any reason—and for someone to blame. In our confusion, we often target God. However, that is not the nature or character of God. If you are one of God’s children, God will never abandon you.
God desires your fellowship and He will never leave you alone. Not only will He return one day, but in the meantime, He promised a special gift, His presence through the Holy Spirit. Christ cares for you because you are His. There will never be a time when He will say, “You’re not worth it.” At the cost of His life and having made you His own, He will never leave you; He will never forsake you. With such a shepherd committed to you for life, what do you have to fear?
Christ gives you eternal life. Believers don’t have to “wait” for eternal life because it’s not something that starts when you die. Rather, eternal life begins the moment a person exercises faith in Christ. “You are not on a probation period; you have salvation. Period.” Jesus does not say, “I will give them eternal life at some time in the future.” He says, “I give them eternal life!” If Christ is your shepherd, this precious gift of eternal life is already yours.
Christ guards you and will keep you forever. This is promised to us in John 10:28-29 which reads, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
Conclusion Let us revisit the story at the start of this message and ask yourself which of the two readers of the scripture best describes you? You know about Jesus, you study the scripture, and you know the story, but how well do you really know the Good Shepherd?
How much do you trust Him to lead you better than you can lead yourself? Do you listen for His voice or do you let His voice be drowned out by the noise of the world?
Jesus understands the circumstances of our life: our trials and problems, our needs and fears, our strengths and weaknesses, and even all our sins. He knows every last one of them and still loves us all the same. Everything about Christ meets our needs.
Why would we not want to follow the one who gives us not only security in life but also salvation? What a blessing it is to know and to have this “Good” Shepherd!