John, The Love of God
Sheep, to me, are hilarious fluffy balls of awkwardness. As Ken Davis quips, “They don’t even run right!” Why do I say this? I used to watch sheep on my grandpa’s farm. I would stand at the fence and try to call for them like Grandpa, but it didn’t work. My kid voice only scared them. The sheep would scatter and huddle together in another part of the pasture. So, not to give up, I would move around and get close to where they settled. I would call to them. They scattered again…away from the sound of my voice. Then I watched Grandpa come from the barn. The sheep picked up their heads. ALL of them ran to him at the mere sight, smell and sound of HIS voice. They knew who their real care giver was and were not going to follow a mere visiting grandkid who had nothing for them.
Sheep are mentioned many times throughout the Old and New Testament. In the Old Testament perfect lambs were used as sacrifices for the sins of the people. “Lambs without blemish” were the only acceptable offerings by the priests. If you didn’t raise sheep then you had to buy one, a perfect one, to present for sacrifice.
The New Testament opens with sheep and their shepherds being among the first to hear the glorious news that the long awaited Messiah came to earth in the form of a baby. Yes, the Perfect Lamb of God has come as the One without blemish or sin, willing and powerful, to lay down his own life as our final sacrifice, to take away our sins in this one act of pure, perfect Love.
Jesus is not only the Lamb of God who took our place and bore the punishment for our sin. Jesus is also The Shepherd. We are His sheep. He knows our name. Those who know Him hear His voice and follow. Other voices fade into the background. We follow because we know He cares for us and will take us to where we need to go. “He makes me lie down in green pastures”, David writes. “He restores my soul”.
Jesus is also the Gate for the sheep. Sheep go through Him to get to the free open spaces of the pasture, to feed on the good grass, to drink from refreshing waters in the quiet streams. They know The Gate will not let in those who would harm them. “I put the sheep before myself.” “I have other sheep (the rest of the world) who also recognize my voice.” One flock, one Shepherd. Yes!
John 10, The Message
He Calls His Sheep by Name
1-5 “Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good—a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it.”
6-10 Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.
11-13 “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him.
14-18 “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.”
19-21 This kind of talk caused another split in the Jewish ranks. A lot of them were saying, “He’s crazy, a maniac—out of his head completely. Why bother listening to him?” But others weren’t so sure: “These aren’t the words of a crazy man. Can a ‘maniac’ open blind eyes?”
What do we learn? Going deeper still…
–Watch out for those who try to get to the Sheep without going through The Gate. Jesus is the ONLY WAY.
–Jesus knows His Sheep individually, not as a herd. He knows your name. He knows my name. He calls us by name. He knows our hearts. He knew us before we were a twinkle in the eyes of our parents!
–Jesus has the power to lay down is life and raise it up. And He did. For us. How does that make us feel?
–The Shepherd cares for His Sheep. He leads us out of harm’s way. He protects us from evil as He leads us through the dark places.
–The Good Shepherd’s authority comes for our Heavenly Father.
–The Good Shepherd is calling us…are we listening?
–The Jewish leaders were split. Jesus is a maniac or Messiah.
Who do you choose? Our lives will reflect what we believe in our hearts.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We have so many thoughts about Your Word to us this morning! You are great and greatly to be praised! You sent Your Son to save us! You gave us Your Holy Spirit to guide and direct us away from and around the obstacles of this life. Jesus, thank you. You are indeed our daily manna, Bread of life. You are the Living Water that quenches all our thirst. You are THE Light. You are our Shepherd. We are Your sheep. Thank you for laying down your life for us. Thank you for taking us to the wide open spaces of your love, mercy and grace. You defeated death. You have overcome evil. Why would I not listen to Your Voice?!
In Jesus Name, Amen