Two shepherds were standing in the field leaning on their crooks at the end of a long day. After hours of silence the first asks the second, “So, how’s it going?” The second one sighed and shook his head, “Not good, I can’t pay my bills, my health isn’t good, my kids don’t respect me, and my wife is leaving me.” The first replied, “Well, don’t lose any sheep over it.” I know…that was really bahhhhhhd!
In our devotion for today we will be considering John 10 and the Good Shepherd. In our culture, we don’t run in to too many shepherds. It’s just not really part of our experience. But, in Jesus’ day, sheep and shepherds were quite prevalent. Jesus often taught using every day illustrations. But, as we will see, Jesus is tapping into something far deeper.
This idea of a Good Shepherd meant more than just a benevolent keeper of lovable little lambs. Ezekiel had prophesied about the coming of a Good Shepherd. As Jesus teaches about the Good Shepherd, realize that this is more than a lesson on agrarian life. Jesus is revealing foundational, transformational truths that help define our faith, the nature of the church and her mission, and our ultimate destiny. Jesus is also demonstrating without ambiguity that HE IS GOD!! As we focus on the Good Shepherd and His sheep, let’s open our hearts and minds to what the Spirit wants to teach us.
Read John 10:14-15, 27-31 – The Good Shepherd
Verse 14 leaves no doubt that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and those who are following Jesus are His flock – that’s us! Notice that the Shepherd and Sheep have a relationship. Jesus said, “I know my own, and my own know me.” Are you aware that Biblical “knowing” suggests intimacy. To know Jesus – to truly know Him is far more than knowing about Him!
In verse 15, Jesus reveals to us the nature of our intimate relationship with Him. He says, I know my sheep, “…just as I know the Father and the Father knows me.” Do you grasp the unbelievable privilege we are given? God the Father and God the Son are inseparably united. Jesus says we are known just like that! John 14:20 helps me understand this. Jesus said, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”
This is far more than being a nameless face in the flock. He knows us, intimately. Jesus says in verse 27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” The sheep hear and know the Shepherd. Sheep are not the smartest animals. They have absolutely no defenses. Without the shepherd they would struggle to find food and water. Sometimes they can’t even figure out how to lie down! So, early on, they learn to hear the voice of their Shepherd. The familiar strains of his voice mean safety and sustenance. His commands are welcomed because, as Psalm 23 tells us, the shepherd leads them to green pastures and still waters. Rough waters and sheep don’t go together. Sheep go in the water to drink and if the water is rough, they may fall over. Their already heavy coats quickly become soaked and they are unable to get up. They drown because they don’t realize the danger. Sheep get into trouble when they wander off, or, when they are separated from their Shepherd. Sheep have been known to follow other sheep. One sheep might fall of a cliff, and like lemmings, the others follow right after. Sheep are safe only when they follow their shepherd. It is a matter of life and death to know him and to listen for his voice.
The sheep know the shepherd and the Shepherd knows the sheep. Have you ever had someone come up and enthusiastically greet you and call you by name? The only problem is – you have no idea who they are? They seem to know you – but you don’t know them! That’s really awkward. The sheep know the Good Shepherd, but, He also knows every one of the sheep. He knows their characteristics and quirks, and He knows them by name! The Shepherd is not a rock star with a nameless fan club. He is intimately familiar with every sheep. The sheep know the Shepherd and the Shepherd knows the sheep.
A famous actor was a guest of honor at a large gathering where he received many requests to recite favorite excerpts from various literary works. An elderly pastor who was in the audience asked the actor to recite the 23rd Psalm. The actor agreed – but only on the condition that that pastor would also recite it. The actor went first, and his recitation was everything that you might expect. It was beautifully intoned, with great dramatic emphasis added to the words. When he was done, he received a thunderous round of applause. The elderly pastor went next. Age had taken a toll on his voice, …and his diction was anything but polished. But when he finished there was not a dry eye in the room. When someone asked the actor what made the difference, he replied: “I know the Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd.”
The Shepherd leads them the flock to eternal life. Verse 28 reveals two vital truths about our faith: the giver and the gift. As sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd, we receive an amazing gift. We don’t earn this gift. In fact, we don’t deserve this gift. If we did earn it, it would cease to be a gift! What is the gift? It is nothing less than eternal life. What a blessing to be in the flock of the Good Shepherd. In this earthly life He leads us beside the still waters. He makes us lie down in green pastures. We have abundant life in the here and now. But, he also restores our soul!
Jesus said in John 10:15, “I lay down my life for the sheep.” By His atoning death, our sins are forgiven. By His resurrection to life, we too are raised to new life. This means Jesus will not only lead us to green meadows, He will lead us to the pastures of paradise. Jesus said, “I give unto them eternal life.” He adds that we are held in the hands of God, and no one can remove us!! That is blessed assurance!
We have already seen that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Now, let’s see a clear presentation that the Good Shepherd is God. In John 10:30 Jesus says, “…I and the Father are one.” Those who wish to dismiss the Trinity and Jesus’ divinity try to reinterpret this very clear verse. They say, Jesus is one in purpose with the Father, or, Jesus is one in agreement with the Father. Let’s not miss the simple, literal truth here. Jesus is saying that He is God. This is revealed by the reaction of the people. The Jewish people are furious with Jesus and pick up stones to kill him. Those who wanted to stone Jesus knew what He meant. They accused Jesus of blasphemy. Why would they do that? Because Jesus was claiming to be God! But, we have further compelling evidence of Jesus’ divinity. Read on…
Read Ezekiel 34:11-15 – The Bad Shepherds
In this passage, the Ezekiel prophesies that the Good Shepherd would come. God, through the prophet, rebukes the bad shepherds who happen to be the religious leaders. Those who should have cared for the flock have actually abused them. Rather than feed them, these men have fed on the sheep! A day was coming when those bad shepherds would be cast down. They would be replaced by the Good shepherd. And who would that shepherd be? God says that He, Himself will be the Shepherd of the sheep. He says, “I, myself will make them lie down”! Jesus, said, “I am the Good Shepherd.” As the Good Shepherd, He is the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy, and without hesitation we can affirm that, Jesus is God!!
Now, let’s turn our attention to The Flock. In John 10:16, Jesus says, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” Ezekiel prophesied that the flock would be restored. Now, Jesus tells us that the original flock will gain other sheep. There will ultimately be one flock and one shepherd. This flock is found in two places. Part of the flock is on earth and part of the flock is already in heaven.
Let’s look first at the Earthly Flock. Let’s see how the original flock is expanded with sheep not of this fold. In Acts 13:43 and following we read…
“And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God. The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you.”
To the Jew first. Paul and Barnabus are in Antioch in Pisidia (Asia Minor). They have gone to the Jewish Synagogue to preach. The Gospel is for the Jew first. This was their pattern to preach to the Jewish people first. But, what happens when they share the Gospel. Many became followers. But verse 45 tells us that many others were filled with jealousy and contradicted Paul, rebuking him. Paul said their reaction was necessary because God’s plan was for the message to be taken to the Jew first and then to the Gentiles.
Acts 13:46 and following says, “And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.”
From the time of Abraham, this was the plan. Abraham’s offspring would be blessed and then be a blessing to the entire world. The Gospel came to the Jews first. They are the first flock, then to the Gentile. The Gentiles are the sheep from the other fold. But, Jesus said, they would become one flock and have one shepherd – Jesus, the Good Shepherd! We are part of that flock here on earth. But, part of the one flock is not here. They have gone ahead to be part of…
The Heavenly Flock. In Revelation 7:10 we see the result of the Gospel message being shared with Jew and Gentile. In John’s great vision of heaven, listen to what he sees!
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Here we see the flock in heaven. It was a great multitude that no one could number! This is Abraham’s promise fulfilled. God promised Abraham that, “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. …and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” Now, the one flock that Jesus described exists on earth and in heaven. At this very moment the saints of old, and our loved ones who died “in the Lord,” are standing with that great multitude around the throne. My mother and grandparents, and many other loved ones are there!! Imagine what they see. In the middle of the great throng, they see…
The Lamb who is a Shepherd. Revelation 7:13 says, “Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
They are washed in the blood of the Lamb. Notice that we will not be there in filthy robes. But, they will be washed in the blood of the Lamb. Our righteousness is as filthy rags, but, clothed in His righteousness, and washed by His blood, we can boldly come before God’s throne!
And notice one last – astounding truth: The Lamb is our Shepherd. Revelation 7:15 states, “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
The Lamb is our shepherd. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, God Himself, wants to know you, to guide and guard you, to bring you to eternal life. As we walk this Pathway to the Passion, realize that the Shepherd is leading us. He is leading us to green pastures where we will feed in peace. The upper room is just ahead where Jesus will share a sacred meal and give us His peace. The Shepherd will lead us beside the still waters. Soon, water and blood will flow from His side. The Shepherd will lead us with his wooden staff. Just over the hill, we see the wooden altar where the Lamb will be slain – the Lamb who is our Shepherd.