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Sunday, 10 January 2016

Jesus said: “I am the Good Shepherd.”

John 10:11-18

Jesus in discussion with the Pharisees said:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me just as the Father knows me and I know the Father and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.’

New International Version - UK (NIVUK)

John records these events after Jesus had healed a man who had been born blind. The Pharisees had looked into the healing and had declared Jesus to be in error because he had healed the man on the Sabbath. Our passage is part of Jesus' discussion with the Pharisees. He had already used the sheep pen and the sheep as an illustration in his discourse. He had been referring to God's people as His sheep and Himself as the gate which keeps His sheep in safety over night whilst they were locked safely away in the fold. The Pharisees did not understand His illustration and so Jesus moved into territory that they really should have understood. That is the Good Shepherd! There are many occasions in the Old Testament that God refers to Himself as a Shepherd and His people as His sheep. Two examples are:
Ezekiel 34:11-12 For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.
Isaiah 40:10-11 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.
He 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 have young.
The Pharisees were expert theologians and as such were scholars of the Old Testament scriptures. They knew exactly what Jesus was implying by the “I am” statement especially as Jesus linked it to the shepherd theme. God's people were historically a nation of sheep farmers. Abraham the father of the nation was a sheep farmer as was Isaac and Jacob but there is an even more famous shepherd in the scripture. David was a shepherd boy when God called him to be king. It was because of this background that when Jesus' listeners heard Him declare that He was the Good Shepherd there was much confusion. They knew that He was taking to Himself a title that was reserved for God. In their confusion some claimed Him to be devilish and mad!
When Jesus spoke those words “I am” many would immediately relate what he was saying to the time when at a burning bush in the desert God met with Moses. Moses asked what God's name was the reply being “I am who I am!” Moses was to tell all that it was “I am” who was his authority. I am is Yahweh, the special name of God. God as we have seen reveals Himself to be the Shepherd of His people who are simply like sheep.
Therefore the combination of I am and Good Shepherd is conclusive.
It should have been like a trigger in the mind that reminded Jesus' hearers on that day of all of the Shepherd passages of scripture. What Jesus was declaring was that he fulfilled all that the Old Testament promised of God as Shepherd. The wording of the phrase “I am the Good Shepherd” is also important. We are at a disadvantage using English because we have one word for good and it has been downgraded to a soft and weak moral goodness. In Greek which is the language of the New Testament there are at least two words used for goodness:
  1. Agathos from which we get the name Agatha which simply means morally good as we are used to.
  2. Kalos which is the word that Jesus used on this occasion means to be good not only in the sense of moral quality, but it is a more encompassing word. It means to be beautiful, to be magnificent, to be winsome, to be attractive, to be lovely, to be excellent on all levels, not just in that which is unseen in terms of character, but in all aspects. I am the shepherd, the excellent one is the order that Jesus spoke making the emphasis more emphatic. I am the shepherd, be it the lovely one, the beautiful one, as contrasted in the passage by Jesus to “kakos” the ugly ones, the dangerous ones. Jesus was quite deliberate in what He was saying which in effect is “I Am the unique one and only Good Shepherd” as he addressed the ugly ones who are wolves in sheep's clothing.
The logical Shepherd passage that comes to mind is of course Psalm 23 where the shepherd king David speaks of God as his Shepherd. Let us consider briefly how Jesus fulfils all that Psalm 23 speaks of:
1) The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures,he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
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 have young.
Just think of our Lord's ministry whilst here on earth, how he loved and cared for His disciples and for the people who followed Him. On at least two occasions He saw a large hungry crowd and had pity on them and miraculously fed them. At the tomb of His good friend Lazarus the tears of the grieving sisters caused the shortest verse in our bibles to be recorded. Jesus wept! Jesus tended superbly His little flock of 12 disciples and a number of ladies who were always with Him.
He also gathered them to Himself, we remember after His death and resurrection Jesus gathered His disciples to Himself, he made breakfast for them and comforted them in many ways. He carried them close to His heart in fact He promised that he would never leave them nor forsake them. He promised to be with His people ALWAYS.
But there is more:
He cares for the youngsters, for those that have young. That is for the ongoing church. For those who like the disciples have been born again of the Spirit of God. God continues to care Always! That means that he is caring for His people today, Christian that is you and me, the Good Shepherd is holding us close to His heart in whatever circumstances that we find ourselves in. It was he who said to His disciples in the storm to come to Him and he will give peace. Our Good Shepherd leads us, rests us, cares for us feeds us, refreshes us and leads us in the right way that will take us eternally into heaven.

2) He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
He guides His people: Again we consider the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus. Just consider the number of times that he guided His disciples. One time springs immediately to mind is leading up to His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. He guided the disciples to a certain place to where the donkey that He would ride on would be ready and prepared for Him. He also guided the owner to release the animal for service to the Lord. A week later he guided the disciples to find a room prepared for Him to celebrate the very last passover meal. He led His people in the right way in those days and He continues to do so today.
What are the right paths?
Remember how when He first met His disciples He called them to forsake everything else and follow Him. They followed Him to the cross and then to his tomb and then to the place of His ascension into heaven and from there throughout their lives and finally into heaven to be with Him eternally. The Good Shepherd leads His people along the right path of salvation!

3) Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Prior to His resurrection the disciples were a scared and defeated group of people but after Jesus had ascended into heaven and the Holy Spirit had come upon them they were fearless!
What is it that had happened?

Acts 1:4-9 records the facts for us:

On one occasion, while Jesus was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’
Then they gathered round him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’
He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
As Jesus departed from this world He promised that He would send God the Spirit to be with His people to embolden them and to help them in all things; and that is exactly what happened. Immediately after the coming of the Spirit Peter was a changed man. Instead of being scared for his life he immediately declared Jesus fearlessly for which he eventually became a witness or martyr for Jesus. As did the rest of the disciples apart from John who died in his old age.
The Good Shepherd promises to be with His people especially in the darkest of times. Any one who has witnessed the death of a believer can witness to the fact that the Good Shepherd is there in a very special way escorting a saint into the presence of God the Father. We can be assured that Our Good Shepherd will never leave us nor will He forsake us. He has us safely gathered into His pen, He is tour protector and none can ever remove us from His safe keeping.
This is the most wonderful promise mad e to us we are saved by Him, protected and kept by Him for all of eternity.

4) You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

And then in the twinkling of the eye we are in the presence of Jesus who said:

John 14:1-4

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.’
The Pharisees did not want Jesus to be who he claimed to be but He was!
They did not want this kind of Saviour even though Jesus is exactly who God had promised!
The Good Shepherd sacrifices His own life for the life of the sheep, what a wonderful Saviour is Jesus my Lord!
He is not like the hired hands (the Pharisees and the other blind guides of Israel) Jesus didn't abandon His sheep, He paid the ultimate price to rescue them.
He is the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep. That in itself is amazing; God the Son knows His people. In fact He knows us intimately even down to minor details like the number of hairs on our heads.
But there is more in that we as His sheep know Him. We are related to Him by adoption, called into His family and as such we are heirs and co-heirs of heaven with Christ. We not only know Him we also belong to him and we will always be with Him.
His sheep are gathered from all over the globe from every age that has been and is to come! And we all belong not only to Him but we also belong to each other. We are all one in Christ Jesus as one flock, that is the church universal. All listening to the Word of God which is the voice of Jesus!
Do you love to hear His voice?
The Good Shepherd was sent by God to call out the people of God from every walk of life on planet earth. His work will continue until every one of them is called by name as was the Apostle Paul whilst still Saul of Tarsus, Jesus called from heaven Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me and Saul was converted.
He knows us by name even whilst we are still sinners, he loves and calls His people by name! Has He called


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