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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
Good Friday, April 10, 2020
The Good Shepherd
I hope the music and Scriptures we have read so far have been helpful in getting your mind off the nonsense that is going on in the world around us and to focus on the reason we have gathered here this evening whether it be the few of us physically present or those who are streaming this at home. This evening we reflect on the death of the Lord Jesus Christ as the redemption price for man’s sin. Jesus’ death and resurrection is the focal point of human history. From Adam and Eve forward, man has looked forward in anticipation of the coming redeemer. Since Jesus’ resurrection, man has looked back with gratitude for the redemption purchased by Christ’s death and the forgiveness of sin offered to man because of it.
Turn to John 10:11. This evening I want us to consider what Jesus did within the context of His role as “the good shepherd,” and especially to expand on a point I made this past Sunday that Jesus was in absolute control of His life and death. No one could take Jesus’ life from Him. He laid it down of His own initiative and He took it up again by His own authority. Jesus was not afraid of death because He knew what He would do and what would come after it. Because of what Jesus did, we also do not need to fear death for similar reasons. We know what Jesus’ death did for us, and we therefore know what our future will be after we die. We who are true Christians have a hope in Him that will not disappoint.
The Context – John 10:1-10
The context of the passage I want us to look at actually begins in verse 1 of this chapter, so I want to read through that section and make some quick comments so that the later section will make a little more sense.
John 10:1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. 2 “But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. 3 “To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. 4 “When he puts forth all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 “And a stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them.
Jesus is speaking to the mixed group of people that are present at the end of John 9. There is the man born blind that Jesus had healed and some Pharisees that happened to be with Jesus at the time. It was an astonishing miracle of a nature that had not been heard of before that the counsel of Pharisees he had been brought to had rejected. Jesus gave a warning that such men had become spiritually blind and the Pharisees that were present questioned Jesus what this meant asking Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” (vs. 40). Jesus answered them in verse 41, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.
It is immediately after this that Jesus gives this analogy to illustrate the blindness of those that claimed to see. They would have easily understood these analogies from shepherding since that was a common part of their culture. They would have easily understood that someone that climbs over the wall to get into the sheep pen would be a thief and robber while anyone legitimate would come in through the door after being recognized by the guard at the gate. They would have also understood that the sheep would know the voice of their shepherd, and that in a community sheep-fold, the sheep will come to their shepherd while the rest of the sheep will flee because he is a stranger to them. They would have understood all these things about the care of the sheep, but they did not understand that Jesus was applying the analogy to them.
If they had understood the Old Testament analogies of shepherds and sheep to God and Israel, such Psalm 23; Ezekiel 34, Jeremiah 23, and Isaiah 40, they would have also understood the metaphor Jesus was making. God is the ultimate shepherd of Israel, and Israel was to be cared for by God’s under-shepherds, but many of them, like the Pharisees, were evil. God was sending the Messiah to be their Shepherd. But the Pharisees did not understand those scriptures, so they were blind while claiming to see.
Jesus gives further explanation to these Pharisees in verses 7-18. In this section He make multiple metaphors of Himself in explaining His own nature and fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah as the shepherd. The first metaphor is in verses 7-10.
John 10:7 Jesus therefore said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 “All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 10 “The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have [it] abundantly.
It was common for sheep pens to lack a gate at their opening because the shepherd would serve as the door by staying in the opening to keep the sheep in and the predatory animals out. There is an allusion here to the Old Testament prophecies of God protecting His people. Jesus is clearly talking about a spiritual idea in that He offers salvation to all who enter through Him in verse 9 and that is the means to becoming one of His sheep for whom He will care. Jesus contrasts Himself with the evil shepherds who, like those in the Old Testament, were in reality thieves and robbers. This is Jesus’ charge against the Pharisees. They are the thieves and robbers. Notice in verse 8 that the “all who came before Me” are, not were, thieves and robbers. Jesus is dealing with both past and present reality. By contrast, Jesus sought to provide, build and give life. He protected the sheep as the door. He provides pasture for them, and He came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.
The idea of abundant life in verse 10 is not in any sense materialistic or a promise for an easy life, even though there are evangelists that imply that. Jesus’ teachings are clear that in following Him the world will give you tribulation and that you should expect to be lied about and persecuted (Matt. 5:10-12; John 16:33). Many teach a health, wealth, prosperity gospel, but that is not the good news of Jesus Christ. We are to be content if all we have is food and covering (1 Timothy 6:8). Jesus’ own example is that He did not even have a place of His own to lay His head even though the birds had nests and the foxes had holes (Matthew 8:20).
The abundance is in reference with the life itself. It is a quality of life brought about because of the relationship with the Savior. The salvation that Jesus offers is not about the extension of either physical life or spiritual life, for Christians die physically and the souls of non-Christians will exist eternally. The salvation Jesus offers is from sin and its spiritual consequences both eternal and temporal. It is a person’s sin that brings him or her under God’s just condemnation, and every human has broken God’s commandments and sinned. There are no exceptions except Jesus Christ Himself. Sin results in a broken relationship with God in the present and in the future it results in judgment and punishment shut out from the presence of God and eternally existing in the torment of Hell. Salvation from sin brings you into a personal relationship with your Creator that will continue throughout eternity. The abundant life is about the quality of life that is brought about when you live in a personal, loving relationship with the Lord God. It is a life filled with the abundance of God’s grace, mercy, and loving-kindness. It is a life filled with the abundance of eternal purpose and meaning. It is a life filled with love, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit regardless of temporal circumstances.
Jesus is the door of the sheep. The Pharisees were thieves and robbers. They steal, but Jesus provides. They destroy, but Jesus builds. They kill, but Jesus gives abundant life. Jesus is the only door to that abundant life. He is the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). Anyone among the sheep that entered by another means is false and will be separated from the sheep and cast out in judgment (Mt. 13:36-43; 47-50).
The Good Shepherd – John 10:11-15
Jesus’ next metaphor is verse 11. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. 12 “He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters [them.] 13 [“He flees] because he is a hireling, and is not concerned about the sheep.
Jesus is the good shepherd. The word “good” is kaloV (kalos) used here with the sense of excellence, and it contrasts Him with the hirelings who are evil shepherds. The true shepherd loves and cares for his sheep. The hireling loves and cares for himself. When danger approaches, the true shepherd will defend while the hireling will run away.
What is true here about Jesus as a shepherd should also be true of His undershepherds. Pastors are called to care for, feed and defend the flock of God that is entrusted to them (Acts 20:28-31; 1 Peter 5:1-4). The tragedy is that many men who are called pastors are no different from these evil hirelings of so long ago. They seek their own comfort and fleece the flock instead of feed the flock. They protect themselves and run away from trouble instead of defending and warning the flock of danger. They do not want to cause controversy, so they preach what people want to hear instead of what God has declared. May the Lord quickly remove me from this Earth should I ever act as a hireling instead of a shepherd.
In view of the varied responses that churches have had in dealing with government restrictions on churches due to the corona virus, let me encourage pastors not to be hirelings. Follow Jesus’ example and sacrifice yourself for your flock. I understand that few pastors have a biology background like I do so they may be afraid of the health concerns, but even so, what did the godly pastors do when facing the plague? They continued to minister! Be creative. Find a way to keep your congregation fed and cared for. If you have just rolled over and shut down, then you are a hireling. Repent, man up, and show your congregation how to trust God. If you have a pastor who is afraid or confused about all this, then encourage him to be what God wants him to be. He is as human as you are and will need your support to do the right thing before God. If he still refuses, then you have a hireling and not a pastor, and you will have to figure out what to do.
Jesus expands on this same theme in verse 14. “I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. As I have already pointed out, a true shepherd knows his sheep and they know him. He knows each one individually and calls them by name. In turn, his sheep know his voice and respond to him. So also it is with Jesus and His sheep. He knows them and they know Him. Jesus reveals here that His relationship with God the Father is the same way. They intimately know each other. What a wonderful thought that Jesus knows us so well and still loves us! In fact, He loves us so much that He lays down His life for us.
Other Sheep – John 10:16
Jesus is speaking to Jewish people, but He adds something in verse 16 that would have been a shock to many of them, but it is wonderful news to we who are Gentiles. 16 “And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock [with] one shepherd.
The Gentiles were always included in the blessing of Abraham, but the self-centered nature of people soon eliminated much thought of that from the average Jewish mind. They considered themselves superior to everyone else, and certainly they have a superior heritage and blessing through Abraham even to this day (Romans 9f), but the blessing was to come and be shared with all people (Gen. 12:3). We Gentiles are the other sheep that He also bought and added to the flock so that we are one flock with one shepherd. Paul describes this in Romans 11 as being grafted in. We, who were not a people, can through Jesus Christ also become the people of God (1 Peter 2:10). Jesus accomplished this through His own death on our behalf on the cross, and this is why the Father loves Him.
Jesus’ Authority – John 10:17-18
Now we get to the section of this passage that I want to emphasize. 17 “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
I mentioned this passage in my sermon last Sunday, but now you can see it in its context. Jesus is proclaiming His authority here. He is not just human. He is much more. He has authority over His own life and death. No mere human has such authority. People who plan to commit suicide want to think that in doing so they are controlling their life and destiny, but they are not. The same is true for those that want or advocate assisted suicide, euthanasia, euphemistically called death with dignity. There are those that die more nobly than others, but death itself is not dignified – worthy of honor and respect. Death is an enemy that vanquishes its victims and leaves them as corpses to rot, and man is not in control of death.
Consider first that the one who contemplates suicide could die before planned. As I have pointed out multiple times, death can come very unexpectedly by many, many different means. There are natural disasters, accidents, murder and quick onset medical problems such as heart attacks and strokes. Some things that kill people are bizarre like I had mentioned last Sunday of the man who broke his neck tripping over his own beard and the woman killed by a falling poodle. Imagine the irony of the man who is on his way to the doctor to receive the fatal injection, but is run over in the street after getting out of his car.
Second, and more importantly, mere mortals do not have any ability to decide what will happen after they are dead. That is much more scary than death. I am told that Paul, the man who lived next door to us while I was growing up, lamented as he was dying that he had no religion, for he had always rejected talk about spiritual matters. Even worse are those who think they are on their way to heaven but find out after it is too late that they believed in a false religion or false gospel. No wonder that death strikes such terror in the hearts of people when they consider their own mortality and inability to control what happens.
Jesus did not fear death because He had authority to decide both when He would die and what would happen afterward. He had authority to take His life up again. Jesus could raise Himself from the dead and He knew it! Jesus did not make this claim based on Himself, but because of the commandment He had received from God the Father.
Consider the ramifications of that fact. Jesus would not be a victim of any attempt to murder Him, and there were several. In Luke 4:29-30, those in the synagogue in Nazareth were so upset at the teaching of Jesus that they sought to throw Him off a cliff, but instead, Jesus passed through their midst and went His way. In John 7:30 the Jews were seeking to seize Jesus because of His teaching, but no one could lay his hands on Him “because His hour had not yet come.” In John 8:58-59, the Jews were again upset at Jesus’ teaching that “before Abraham was born, I am” that they picked up stones to stone Him, but Jesus hid Himself and left the temple. In John 10:30-39, the Jews again sought to stone Jesus for equating Himself with God and they tried to seize Him, but Jesus eluded their grasp. Jesus could not die until He had accomplished all He had set out to do and would lay it down of His own volition.
When Jesus’ hour had come, then no man could keep Him from dying. I pointed out when I was preaching through the Life of Christ, that as Jesus made His final trip to Jerusalem He kept pointing out to the disciples what would happen when He arrived, specifically that He would be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, condemned to death, handed over to the Gentile to be mocked, scourged and crucified, then would rise from the dead on the third day (Matthew 20:18-19). Not long after the Triumphal Entry, Jesus told several of the disciples that “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23). Jesus began His High Priestly prayer at the end of the Upper Room Discourse in John 17:1, “Father, the hour has come, glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You.” A short time later after praying in the Garden of Gethsemane He told Peter, James and John, “. . . the hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.” Judas, the soldiers, the chief priests, scribes and elders then arrived to arrest Him, but Jesus was still in charge as proven by them all falling down to the ground when He identified Himself (John 18:6). Pilate, the Roman governor claimed to have authority to release or crucify Jesus, but Jesus responded, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered Me to you has greater sin” (John 19:10-11). God, not Pilate was in charge, and He would judge Pilate and those that were seeking Jesus’ death. Jesus was still in charge while hanging on the cross as demonstrated by multiple prophecies being fulfilled: *crucified with transgressors (thieves), *pierced through hands and feet, *sneered at, mocked and *reproached, *gambling for His clothes, *praying for His enemies, *no bones broken, *His side pierced and being *buried in a rich man’s tomb. And finally, Jesus did not die from the physical suffering, the loss of blood, or even suffocation from crucifixion. Jesus died when He saw He had completed His work, then said, “It is finished!” and bowed His head and gave up His spirit (John 19:30).
Jesus was not a victim. No created entity had the ability to take Jesus’ life from Him. Jesus had authority to lay down His life and that would not happen until He had accomplished all the Father had sent Him to do. Only then did Jesus yield His life voluntarily as the substitute payment for the sin of mankind.
Jesus is the good shepherd. He lay down His life for His sheep granting to them salvation.
The question is, are you one of His sheep? What do you believe about the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ? He is God the Son in human flesh who lived a sinless life and willingly died to pay the cost of redemption. He offers forgiveness of sin and eternal life to all who will turn from their sin to trust Him based on His resurrection. Those who believe these things do not need to fear death, for Jesus’ has conquered it for us. Those who do not believe these things should fear death and the eternal condemnation that will follow – but while you are still alive there is hope to change your mind and place your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Seek the Lord while He may be found – that begins by believing that He is and that He is a rewarder of those that seek Him (Isaiah 55:6; Heb. 11:6) Today is the day of salvation for you do not know if you have tomorrow.
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