The Shepherd

It’s often said that sheep are stupid animals which is why they need a Shepard. However anyone who’s spent a little time around sheep know that they are not exactly stupid, stubborn but not stupid. They are actually quite smart. The problem lies in their stubbornness. It’s really no mystery to me why Jesus used the parable of the Good Shepard to describe our very different roles in the Kingdom of God. People can be like sheep in that we are social, and we tend to follow the herd. That can lead to trouble, we often need someone to guide us and to keep us on the path. The path to destruction is broad and paved while the path to salvation is narrow and difficult. It’s very easy to wander onto the broader path and never know it, especially with a little help from a friend. Jesus tells us “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. [10:1-2] I heard a story a long time ago, I don’t remember where about shepherds and sheepdogs. There’s this shepherd who was moving his flock along the road when a guy in a flashy car drives up. He’s wearing rings and an Armani suit with a Rolex, obviously well to do. He tells the shepherd that he would like one of his sheep and would the shepherd give him one if he guessed how many sheep he had. The shepherd thought about it for a while and said Ok. The guy pulls out a cell phone and taps into a satellite, googles his position with google earth and plugs in some numbers beep boop bop. Bingo, he tells the shepherd you have 1056 sheep. Impressed the shepherd tells the man to grab the sheep he wants. The guy goes and grabs one and gets ready to leave obviously pleased. The shepherd says to the guy, wait a minute, if I tell you your occupation will you give me back the animal. The guy says sure, why not. The shepherd says you’re a consultant. Amazed the guy says yes, how did you know. Well the shepherd says, three things. 1] you came to me uninvited. 2] You charged me for something that I already knew. And 3] you obviously don’t know my business. Now, may I please have my sheepdog back?… I know it’s amusing but it also has a bearing on today’s lesson. A thief comes in many forms and always comes prepared to take your sheep, but they are usually easily spotted because there’s always something slightly off. The shepherd though is easily spotted, he’s direct and knowledgeable about his sheep. I think how true this is, often I hear someone do buffet style preaching and I think wow, that sounds really good. Then I really listen to what it is their saying and it is just window dressing. I stopped to listen because they got my attention, but they were telling me things that I already knew but in the wrong context and if I just did what they did I would enjoy everything they enjoyed. Believe as I believe. Jesus was talking about the Pharisee in this parable, you have to put it in context, He had just healed the blind man with mud on his eyes and the Pharisee were investigating Jesus to refute His claims. He has rebuked them for spiritual blindness, using the blind as a parable, about a man who had been blind. They still didn’t get it. So He shifts to one that anyone could get considering the context of when and where He’s speaking. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” [10:3-5] We know when the Lord calls us to Him because He knows our names. We belong to Him, he has shown us the way and He has gone before us. We know we have salvation and eternal life because He is risen. He has gone before us and lights our path. And we know when another is leading us wrong, we have no excuse. Still consultants can be very persuasive, but we know the voice of our master. We know his voice and we follow only Him and only where He leads. When you hear that other voice, run, don’t stand around debating with it, unless of course you’re trying to get your sheepdog back. Only the shepherd is able to protect His sheep and the wolves are hungry, because they know nothing else and sheep are quite tasty. Still, Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. [10:6-7] Now Jesus is telling them that not only is He their leader, their provider, and their protector, but their only way to salvation. In the fold was safety, the stone walls would provide safety from animals but there was no gate, so the shepherd often slept across the only opening, effectively becoming the gate. The Pharisee would know this with surety, just like we know with surety that water is wet and still their hearts were hardened. Jesus starts to get personal with them, all who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. [10:8-10] Jesus came to give life, the flashy guys preaching the stuff out of left field, are certain death, they come only to lead us to destruction. Only through our faith in Christ are we made safe from within and led to green pastures without. Only the shepherd can care for the sheep. When we try to do it on our own or when we put our faith in the consultants we fail.

Because only Jesus is the shepherd, only he will protect us, only He has died for us. No matter what the other guy claims he never will die for you. Listen, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. [10:11-15] I lay down my life for the sheep…no hired gun is going to die for you, no TV preacher can provide you with salvation, they are parasites, does the butcher feel sorry for the sheep? Only the shepherd, knows the worth of His flock. The butcher is only out for his pound of flesh and nothing more. Only through the Shepherd can we come to know the Father and we know the Shepherd because He knows us. The greatest thing about this though is the fact that throughout this parable Jesus is only speaking of the Jews. Until now there is no salvation for us, for the rest of the world, until now only the nation of Israel is offered salvation, only they will be redeemed. Until he speaks for us, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd”. [10:16] Stop right there, salvation, redemption, it’s no longer just for Israel, it’s for all nations. The entire world must be brought into covenantal relationship with Jesus, and it’s “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.” [10:17-18] Only by command of the Father does Jesus take up His power, He lays His life down for us, it’s His choice to die for us. Would anyone else, ever, I mean ever, give their life for trillion of people not even born yet. Knowing, just like we know that water is wet. Knowing that those trillions of people would still be born to sin and death, that many would never ask for redemption, yet still pay that price, even if it’s never redeemed. I wouldn’t, and I know I wouldn’t because I’m too selfish.  I thank God for His grace every day, that Jesus made that choice for me and you and all the world. That He chose to be the “Good Shepherd” and not the hired hand. That God chose to seek our redemption and provide for us the means of our salvation, for without the shepherd we would have been devoured by the wolves long ago.

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