The Sheep and The Shepherd (Part The Last)

We have covered a lot of information the last few days, and finally we reach a spot where Jesus lays down the point of the whole parable:

I am the good shepherd! And the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. You won’t get that kind of dedication and devotion from a hired hand because he isn’t a shepherd and doesn’t actually own the sheep. The hired hand is simply paid to keep the sheep. When he sees a wolf coming, he runs away and leaves the sheep alone. Then the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them. He is just a hired hand and does not really care about the sheep. His only concern is what he is going to get paid. “But me, I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep as the Father knows me. Not only that, my sheep know me as I know the Father. I give my life for my sheep (John 10:11-15)

I read that and immediately remembered something the prophet Zechariah declared:

How terrible it will be for the worthless shepherd     who abandoned the flock! A sword will strike his arm and his right eye.     His arm will lose all its strength and wither away,     and his right eye will go blind” (Zechariah 11:17)

I believe that the primary characteristic of our Good Shepherd is that he loves us even to death. He was (and still is) willing to die for His sheep! This is a reality I don’t believe any of us can get over! As Paul said, “Finding someone who would die for a godly person is rare. Maybe someone would have the courage to die for a good person. But, Christ died for us while we were still sinners. This demonstrates beyond any doubts of God’s love for us!” Many of the letters from Paul, John and James and even Peter have references to this. They seem awestruck at this reality! John wrote in Revelation, “Glory and power forever and ever belong to the one who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” (Revelation 1:5). Paul wrote, “God didn’t spare his own Son but handed him over to death for all of us” (Romans 8:32). Peter wrote, “Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross so that freed from our sins!” (I Peter 2:24). The writer of the Hebrews declared, “Through the eternal Spirit he offered himself to God and cleansed our consciences from the useless things we had done. As a result of that we can now serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:14). All of them were amazed that this Blessed One, this Sinless Lord, this Matchless Christ would willingly die for his own. But that my friends, is the evidence of a Good Shepherd! Go ahead, you can start celebrating now! This is the exact opposite of someone who has no vested interest in the sheep! Some of the other religious voices out there always want something for themselves. In their minds the sheep are something to be exploited, to be used to advance and to build themselves up. When the sheep get into trouble, when the enemy comes, when the wolf strikes, they split. Once the enemy shows his face, the sheep have to fend for themselves. I showed you yesterday how Jesus declared that the end result of his laying down his life was that He would share his life with the sheep. Notice how he puts it, here in John 10:

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father!”

I remember clearly, almost as if it was yesterday and although I cannot tell you the exact date or time, I can tell you that it was at night in the mid-summer of 1983. We were living at 2296 Oakland Dr and I knelt beside our bed and said, “Father, I have obviously known the joys (and the sorrows) of being a son. Please, before you return to take us to be with you, give me the opportunity to experience what it is to be a father. I want to see life through your eyes.” Yeah, it may have seemed like a silly prayer to many of you, but I was quite sincere in my prayer. I was in my mid-twenties and already knew what it was to be a son of my very imperfect dad, and finally met my Heavenly Father. That was when I was able to experience the joys of being His son. But before the rapture, I wanted to experience life through His eyes as a Father. Yes, I was able to read the stories of His dealings and experiences with his children, the Israelites. But reading the stories weren’t the same as experiencing the real thing! Finally, in 1985 our twins boys were born! Our daughter in 1987 and our youngest was born in 1993. So over the years I have had the opportunity to see life through my Father’s Eyes! And, although I was by no means the ideal father, I can see exactly the resemblance of my kids to the children of Israel. For me, it is amazing! This is how I relate to my Heavenly Father. We know each other. He knows me inside-out, and I am slowly seeing His heart in the most fascinating ways. Friends, I believe this is what Jesus was talking about in His parable. He was talking about an intimacy of fellowship, a beauty of life which was evident in Jesus as he loved the Father and the Father loved him. This, he promises, is what comes to us as a result of laying down his life for us: richness of fellowship; that beauty of life which is imparted by His willingness to lay down his life for us. Then the final figure is what we can properly call the Great Shepherd.

“I also have other sheep that are not from this pen. I must lead them. They, too, will respond to my voice. So they will be one flock with one shepherd. The Father loves me because I give my life in order to take it back again. No one takes my life from me. I give my life of my own free will. I have the authority to give my life, and I have the authority to take my life back again. This is what my Father ordered me to do” (John 10:16-18)

The first thing in his work as the Great Shepherd is that he has “other sheep that are not of this fold.” The fold, is of course the nation Israel. But Jesus was lifting his eyes beyond the cross, beyond the resurrection, to where the gospel was spread to the whole earth. Frankly, I am moved when I consider that not one of us would be reading this message, as Gentile believers in Jesus, if he was not willing to lay down his life for the sheep. Because He was willing to lay down his life, the gospel broke out beyond the boundaries of Israel and spread throughout the earth! He brought all of us together as one flock — not one fold, but one flock– and one Shepherd! As Paul proclaimed in the fourth chapter of Ephesians, “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5) We all belong together. You don’t see two flocks; there is only one! That only came about because Jesus obeyed His Father’s instructions. He laid down his life. He had the power to do it, so don’t let anyone tell you that Jesus was hounded to death or that he was crucified against his will. He chose to die. He could have prevented it; he could have resisted it. He had the chance to back down. Do you remember the bloody sweat in the Garden of Gethsemane when he said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup of suffering away from me” (Luke 22:42). But much to our benefit, and not His, He said, “However, your will must be done, not mine!” His honor and obedience to His Father is what brought our Redemption! He gave Himself up to the hands of evil. However, that was not the end of the story! Three days later He took His life again so He could share it with us! Then, and get this, He turns to His Father and offers US as the prize of His victory! Wait a minute and think about that! The Church is Christ’s gift to the Father (Ephesians 1:11, 18). It is all well and good what we receive through Jesus’ obedience. But what does His Heavenly Father get out of sending His Son to die on the cross? He gets us! And, hallelujah, He thinks that’s a treasure! Before I end this look at the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel, we need to recognize how our Great Shepherd actually causes a division on the earth:

The Jews were divided because of what Yeshua said. Many of them said, “He’s possessed by a demon! He’s crazy! Why do you listen to him?” Others said, “No one talks like this if he’s possessed by a demon. Can a demon give sight to the blind?” (John 10:19-20)

Oh, people are still saying those things today:”Why pay any attention to him? He lived 2,000 years ago!” “We’re much smarter, much more understanding, much better educated today.”  “We don’t go in for those primitive ideas anymore.” “He has a demon, and he is mad; why listen to him.” But I’ll tell you what, Jesus is able to do for us what no one else can do. No one else will satisfy your heart, no one else will solve the problems of your mind, no one can answer the questions about life after death like Jesus can. No one can touch the human situation of conflict and strife and bring healing and deliverance like Jesus can. I often feel like Peter, when he said, “Lord, where could we go? You have the words that give eternal life” (John 6:68). Over the last few days, we covered many things, and maybe you didn’t get anything out of it. But, if you got anything in the last few days, I hope you caught how many times we read, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep!” You won’t find a more eloquent description of our Lord’s death. He suffered and died on our behalf. Our Redemption not easily done. It has been expensive. He did not want to do it. He made himself do it on our behalf — that we might receive ZOE, the Abundant Life, the gifts of Joy and Peace, deliverance from the guilt of our sins, and the fragrance of fellowship and companionship with Him. As you go through you day, I hope you can remember these things. I obviously don’t know how you feel about it, but it always awakens a deep sense of gratitude in my heart. His Grace IS Amazing! Our hearts should be filled with gratitude for what He has done for us, and given to us

Nickolas

(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add you to the list: Mail List)

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