"Who Is Jesus?" part 4
The Good Shepherd
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
April 25, 2010

This is our fourth week in our message series titled, “Who Is Jesus?” And guess what question we’re trying to answer? “Who Is Jesus?” Very good. Yeah, through this series we’re trying to get to the core of who Jesus is. We’re trying to understand His nature, we’re trying to understand His priorities, we’re trying to understand how He can be God and Man at the same time, we’re trying to understand how He fits into this whole idea of The Trinity… we’re going to be doing a bit of a character study of Jesus, we’re going to look at His teachings and His miracles, we’re going to look at how the people of the day saw Him… we’re going to examine His compassion as well as His anger… we’re going to see how Jesus is unique, even among the founders of other religious leaders… In fact, we’re going to see how Jesus Himself wouldn’t consider Himself to even be “religious”. Jesus actually had a problem with organized religion and with religious hypocrisy, so we’ll be talking about some of that, too.

We’re trying to discover everything we can about the man, the mission, the message. Which, as I’ve told you over the past couple weeks, makes this the most important series we’ve done here. Because the message we have, the hope we have, the power we have, the purpose we have, all comes from Jesus. Without Jesus, there wouldn’t be a Church. Without Jesus, there wouldn’t be any hope. And without knowing Jesus, there’d be no point in you and I choosing to follow Him.

We started out on Easter Sunday examining the Resurrection of Jesus as the hinge-pin of history… the most important event in the history of this planet. We moved on to that to establish Jesus not just as some abstract comic book character but as a real person in history… walking, breathing, and living among us. The Christian faith is not just a collection of nice ideas; it’s grounded in history. Which as we’ll get to later on in this series, is one of the things that sets Christianity apart from other faiths and world religions.

Last week, we came to understand that Jesus was God in the flesh… He is the divine Creator of everything that exists who entered into His own creation. And as mind-boggling as it may sound, Jesus is truly God and truly man. It’s an incredible thought, but it’s exactly how the earliest disciples of Jesus came to view Him, it’s what Scripture teaches about Jesus, and it’s what the evidence supports.

If you missed any of those messages, you can read them on our website.

This morning, I want to look at one of the ways Jesus described Himself. Virginia read it for us earlier… where Jesus made this statement…

John 10:11 (NLT)
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.”

Well, isn’t that nice? Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd.” Of course, depending on how you take that, you could easily be offended. I mean, think about it: If Jesus is the shepherd, what does that make us? We’re the sheep! And what are sheep like?

Sheep have to be the dumbest creatures on the face of the earth. Have you ever seen a trained sheep? Have you ever seen one in a circus? Of course not. It seems like every other creature can be trained to perform, but not sheep. They’re too dumb for that.

Plus, they really stink. They’re dirty. And they get lost a lot. They can wander away, they can get caught up in bushes… Go and find them, what are they going to do? They’re going to wander away again. They never learn from their mistakes.

On top of that, sheep are easily confused. Any of you ever get confused? Oh, and they scare easy, too. And when they get scared, in the confusion they’ve been known to actually plunge off cliffs. Especially if one sheep goes, the rest of them are basically followers and will follow them right over the edge of that cliff.

And that’s why they need a shepherd. They’re so dumb, they get lost so often, they probably wouldn’t be able to survive without someone watching over them… protecting them from predators and protecting them from themselves.

That’s right. If you’re like a sheep, that’s what you’re like.

Okay, that’s not the most flattering picture of ourselves. But do you think there might be some truth to it? I mean, sometimes we really aren’t all that bright, are we?  And I think we are prone to wander away from where we know we should be in life, away from where we need to be with God, and we can get so easily tangled up in other things, and often we find ourselves just following the crowd, even if they are heading in the wrong direction or if they’re lost.

And what happens when we hit one of those storms of life? Aren’t we easily frightened by them? Aren’t we confused by them? Don’t you from time to time find yourself in need of someone to protect you, even from yourself?

Yeah, I think there are some pretty credible parallels we can draw between sheep and us. But you know, I don’t think that’s what Jesus was actually trying to communicate. I don’t think He was trying to tell us how dumb and helpless we are; I think He was communicating how good He is. And so He used an analogy that the people of the day would easily understand and identify with. He’s the Good Shepherd.

So we’re going to talk this morning about what makes Jesus a Good Shepherd. We’ll be looking at three different ways Jesus is a like a shepherd. And you can use your notes to follow along and fill in the blanks as we go.

So first, if you were to go out and get a job as a shepherd… what would you expect would be part of the job? Caring for the sheep, right? Well, as a shepherd cares for the sheep, Jesus cares for us.

How Is Jesus like a Shepherd?

1. Jesus cares for His sheep

Think about it like this: In a family, the head of the household typically has the responsibility to care for the family. And it’s not simply out of obligation, it’s not out of duty… at least it shouldn’t be. No, it’s because they genuinely love and care for their family.

And it’s that way with Jesus. He’s the head of our spiritual family. And He cares for us. Let’s take a look at what verse four tells us…

John 10:3 (NLT)
“…The sheep recognize [the Shepherd’s] voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

He knows each of his sheep by name.

Maureen… how many cats do you have? Do they have names? I don’t know their names. I don’t even like cats (unless they’re served on a bun with a slice of cheese and lots of ketchup.) But Maureen, you love your cats, and they each have a name, don’t they?

Well, back in the day, it was common for shepherds to have every one of their sheep named and they were able to distinguish them from each other because of their markings or peculiar traits. A shepherd could say, “See that sheep over there? Notice how its feet toe in a little. The one behind it with a limp in his walk, that’s Limpy; the next one has a spot of wool missing off its back, he’s Patch; there’s one with a black mark below its eye, that’s Blackie, while the one closest to us has a small piece torn out of its ear, Tag.” The shepherd knew each by name.

When I look at flock of sheep, they all look alike to me because I don’t care about them. They’re not my responsibility, and I don’t take the time to really get to know them. I’m certainly not going to name all of them.

To know someone’s name usually means you have either spent time with that person or you have taken the effort to remember them. It means you care. How many times have you run into someone you know but you just can’t remember their name? It’s embarrassing, isn’t it? In fact, it’s so embarrassing that you don’t even ask their name. You just kind of fake it… “Hey, there… Buddy. How are you, my friend. You go, girl.” And the worst thing is, when you’re with another friend and you’re supposed to introduce them to each other. Yeah, I hate it when that happens.

Dale Carnegie in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, says we don’t remember a person’s name because we don’t make the effort, we don’t spend the time trying. But the Good Shepherd knows every one of his flock by name and cares deeply about each and every one of them. In fact the good shepherd cares so much for the sheep that in the event of an attack he even lays his life down for them.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd and he knows each one of us by name. You are not just another nameless face to Jesus. He knows you more intimately than you even know yourself. Jesus knows your peculiar habits, your traits, and your characteristics… and He loves you anyway. He loves you enough to lay down His own life in exchange for yours. We recognized that earlier this morning when we had communion. Jesus willing laid down His life for us, because of His great love for us. That’s how much He cares for us.

There’s even a story Jesus tells… the story of a shepherd who has a flock of 100 sheep. And one day he goes out and counts them, and discovers one of them is missing. What does he do? Shrug his shoulders and say, “Oh well, stuff happens”? Does he decide he’s just going to write it off on his taxes as a business loss? No, he goes out searching for that one lost sheep. And he keeps searching until he finds it.

The truth is, we were all at one point of time like that lost sheep. We had wandered far from God, far from where we should have been, and Jesus came searching for us. And for many of us, He found us. Others, maybe you’re still hiding from Him. Maybe you’re still wandering like a sheep without a shepherd. But He’s still searching for you, and He’s going to keep searching. Because He wants more than anything to find you and bring you to where you belong… He wants to bring you into relationship with God the Father.

Oh, and I want you to notice something else in this verse. Notice that it’s not all on the Shepherd. It’s not just Him calling the sheep by name; it’s also the sheep recognizing His voice and following Him. He leads and they follow.

2.    Jesus leads His sheep

We saw that in verse 3, and Jesus reiterates it in the very next verse… John 10:4. He’s still talking about the Good Shepherd, and He says this… read it with me…

John 10:4 (NLT)
“…He walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice.”

The shepherd doesn’t follow behind them, poking at them and prodding them and forcing them to go in a particular direction. He leads, and they follow. Because even though sheep may not be the brightest of animals, they’re bright enough to recognize the voice of their master.

I read a story this week… I don’t know if it’s true or not, so take it for what it’s worth. But apparently, years ago in Australia, a man was arrested and charged with stealing a sheep. But when the case went to court, the man vigorously protested that it was actually one of his own sheep that had been missing for many days. Well, the judge didn’t know how to decide the matter, so he finally asked that the sheep be brought into the courtroom. He ordered the plaintiff… the accuser… to step outside into the courtyard and call the animal. “Here, Sheepie, Sheepie, Sheepie…” Okay, I have no idea how to call a sheep. And apparently, neither did this plaintiff. Because the sheep made no response.

So the judge then asked the accused to call the sheep. And you know what happened, don’t you? As soon as the man began to make his distinctive call, the sheep ran toward the door and toward that voice. It was obvious that he recognized the familiar voice of his master. “His sheep knows him,” said the judge. “Case dismissed!”

When the Good Shepherd calls, when Jesus calls, those who are His recognize His voice and they follow Him. And where does He lead them? Well, one of the most famous passages in the Old Testament answers that question…

Psalm 23:1-3 (NLT)
The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honour to his name.

Now, when you picture a shepherd out with his sheep, maybe you picture them grazing on this huge field with more grass than they could ever eat. But that’s not how it would have been in Israel. Because it’s not like the terrain was particularly friendly toward grass growing. No, there wouldn’t be huge fields that would go on forever. Instead, you’d have a green patch here, another patch over there, and then you’d have to travel a ways to find another one… and sometimes you had to go through rocky or even dangerous areas to move from green patch to green patch. And that’s why it was so critical that the sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd and that they followed Him. Because if they didn’t, what would happen? They’d get left behind, they’d wander off in another direction, they’d be left all alone, and in all likelihood, they’d end up dying.

Listen, Jesus wants us to follow Him to green pasture. And we can trust His leading. Sometimes He may lead through some rough terrain, but we can still trust Him because He knows where He’s taking us. But we must keep following Him. We have to keep listening to His voice.

Now, quite honestly, it can get hard to hear His voice. I know from personal experience that His voice can easily get drowned out by my own selfish desires, by the pressures and stresses of life, by my own pride and my own fears… by so many things. And that’s why I need to listen intently for His voice. Have you ever been in a crowded restaurant with lots of noise and still been able to carry on a conversation? How can you do that? Because you can isolate the voice of the person you’re talking to.

Or even better, have you ever been talking with someone and then realized that conversation at the next table was much more interesting? So you just kind of tune out the person talking to you and you eavesdrop on the other conversation? Of course I’ve never done that, but I’ve heard it’s possible.

Or like on Survivor. You know that one competition where both tribes are blindfolded except for one person, and that person has to shout instructions to their tribe to guide them through an obstacle course and to find specific objects? All kinds of yelling and shouting going on, and the people who are blindfolded have to isolate the voice of that one team member and follow their directions.

So how do you tune in to hear the voice of Jesus? Well, it starts by spending time with Jesus in prayer. And if you’ve never done that, let me just tell you that it’s not nearly as scary as it sounds. Praying is simply talking with God and carrying on a conversation with Him. I know you can’t actually see Him, but realize that His Spirit is right there with you as you pray. So talk to Him. You don’t even have to pray out loud, because He knows your thoughts. And spend some time in silence waiting for Him to speak to you. And eventually you’ll begin to sense His proddings in your life. You’ll start to recognize Him speaking into your thoughts and into your heart. And as long as you keep at it, you’ll begin to really recognize His voice.

[As kids illustrated earlier, they knew the voice of their parent even though they were blindfolded because they have been with them their whole lives.] My son Noah is almost 6 months old now. And I think he’s starting to recognize my voice now. But when He was first born, he wouldn’t have had a clue.

Well, the more time we spend with God… the more time we spend with Jesus… the more we learn to hear His voice, and recognize what he is saying and what he wants us to do.

Another thing you can do: Read God’s Word. Read the Bible. He will speak to you through His Word and you’ll be able to sense His leading and recognize His voice that way, too.

And just ask Him. Maybe when you get up in the morning, ask… “Where are you leading me today? What do you want me to do? Where do you want me to go? Are you leading me to talk to someone, to say a prayer for someone? Do you want me to reach out and help someone? Do you want me to carve out some extra time for You today? Do you want me to deal with an issue in my family? Is there a conflict I need to resolve? Tell me where you’re leading me today.” And when He answers, trust His voice. Trust His leading.

3.    Jesus protects His sheep

Jesus paints a picture in John 10 about having the sheep protected by a gateway. Maybe an actual gate… you know, a region fenced in with a gate… or maybe a natural boundary like a cave or a cavern with only one way in or out.

John 10:9 (NLT)
“Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved.”

So Jesus says that, as the Good Shepherd, He’s also the gate. So there’s kind of a double metaphor going on here. But try to understand what He’s saying.

It would have been common if, say, the sheep had to stay in a cave overnight, for the shepherd to get all the sheep inside and then he would lie down in the entrance. He would get them all inside in order to protect them from predators like lions and wolves, and the he himself would become the gate. Anyone or anything that came in would have to come through Him. And any sheep trying to leave would have to go through Him. He was the shepherd, and He was the gate. He was there to guard and protect. He would watch over them that way at night, and of course he would protect them through the day as well.

We know that David in the Old Testament was a shepherd as a teenager, or maybe even younger. And one day while he was taking care of the sheep, his father Jesse asked him to deliver a message to his other sons who were serving in the Israelite army under King Saul. Well, when David got to where the soldiers were stationed, he heard this great big guy named Goliath… yeah, you know the story… he heard Goliath the giant from the Philistine army come out and challenge the Israelite army to send out its best soldier to fight him. Which ever one of them won the battle, the other side would surrender to them. And that was one of the ways that battles were fought back then. You even saw that in that Brad Pitt movie Troy a few years ago.

Well, David showed up and heard Goliath’s challenge, and saw that nobody… absolutely nobody… was about to go out and fight him. So David decided he’d volunteer. But King Saul looked at him and said, you’re only a boy. We’re not going to send you out. But look at how David pleaded his case…

1 Samuel 17:34-37 (NLT)
But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. I have done this to both lions and bears… The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!”

David had been a shepherd, and a big part of his job was to protect the sheep. And that’s exactly what he had done and it prepared him to face Goliath. And if you know the story, you know how David did go out and did conquer Goliath.

Well, going back to that passage in John 10, Jesus goes on to say in verse 10…

John 10:10 (NLT)
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

So again, Jesus as the Good Shepherd is going to protect His sheep. Of course, a lot of this depends on the sheep, too. Will they wander away from the flock? Will they follow the shepherd into the cave or into the sheepfold to begin with? Or will they choose to go their own way? The shepherd can only protect those sheep who are there with Him.

So the question for you and for me is, will we stay with the Good Shepherd? Or do we just hang around Him and the other sheep when it serves our own purposes? Do you just kind of do things your own way and go in your own direction the rest of the time? Because let me tell you, when you’re going your own direction, when you’re ignoring the voice of Jesus and His leadings in your life, then you’re much more vulnerable to attacks by predators. But with Jesus, no one and no thing can defeat you. Later on in this chapter, Jesus said…

John 10:27-28 (NLT)
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me…”

Even Satan is described in the Bible as being like a roaring lion seeking who he can devour. Wander away from Jesus, and that roaring lion will have a much easier time attacking and defeating you. Stay with Jesus, and that old lion doesn’t stand a chance.

Okay, so in our quest to discover who Jesus is, we see that one of the ways Jesus referred to Himself was as a Good Shepherd. And so that helps us understand a bit better not just who He is, but who we are in our relationship with Him. Who we are as His flock. You may have heard of Churches being referred to as His flock before. Well, that comes from this analogy of Him as our Good Shepherd and us as His sheep… Sheep who listen for His voice, who respond to His promptings, and who trust Him with our lives.

Main source: “I AM… the Good Shepherd” by Matthew Stoll



Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2010 SunriseOnline.ca