St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Jesus is the Good Shepherd

Sermon on John 10:11-18
Text: “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns 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. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
     14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me– 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen.  I must bring them also.  They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again. 18 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.”
     Many of us have religious pictures in our homes.  I would imagine one of the more popular ones would be Sallman’s “Head of Christ.”  One of the more popular subjects of these paintings is inspired by the words of our text.  Jesus, pictured as the Good Shepherd, is a loved picture by many people.  We enjoy thinking of Jesus guarding and protecting us as a shepherd guards his sheep.  This morning we would like to add a little life and deeper meaning to our favorite picture of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.  JESUS IS THE GOOD SHEPHERD.  1. He Lays Down His Life For The Sheep.  2. He Gathers His Flock Together.
     Jesus spoke the words of our text some six months before his suffering and death.  Yet, he speaks of his death and resurrection as an already accomplished fact.  He is speaking to the Pharisees who had criticized Jesus for his healing of a blind man.  These were the religious leaders of the Jewish people.  Often, in the Old Testament, the religious leaders of the people are called “shepherds.”  They were to watch out for and take care of God’s flock, his people, Israel.  But their attitude toward Jesus showed that they were not being the type of shepherds that God wanted them to be.
     Instead, Jesus characterizes them as “the hired hand.”  What is the difference?  The sheep belong to the shepherd.  They are his.  The hired hand does not own the sheep.  He is, instead, only there for the wages.  He is only there because of what he can get out of it.  This was true of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.  If you were a member of the Sanhedrin, Israel’s ruling body, you were greatly respected.  You received a great deal of honor.  Of course, with the honor also comes a certain amount of financial gain.  But, in their pursuit of wealth and honor, they had often forgotten the flock they were to look after.  They did not show the loving concern that they were to show.
     But Jesus tells us that, “when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away.”  Whenever any trouble, whether it be danger or persecution, suffering or even martyrdom, comes, the hired hand leaves the flock as quickly as he can.  He shows that his main concern is for himself.  Whenever any pressure comes up, whether from within and without, the hired hand leaves the flock to fend for itself.  Since he was only concerned about himself, he has no trouble going off, leaving the flock which was entrusted to him.  As Jesus says about the hired man type of person, he “cares nothing for the sheep.”
     When we see the way that these hired hands act, we may be shocked.  Yet, it all the more shows how much better our shepherd is.  Jesus calls himself the “good shepherd.”  Our English translation of the word “good” falls short of what is meant by the word in Greek.  It means that Jesus is the ideal shepherd.  He is the ultimate.  He is in a class all by himself.  He is the shepherd that all the others model themselves after.
     Jesus shows that this ultimate, ideal by the way he cares for the sheep.  “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  Sheep are often pictured as being harmless, docile and rather stupid animals.  Sheep have been known to crowd together in a corner of a pasture during a storm, actually smothering one another to death.  If a sheep ends up on its back, it is incapable of righting itself.  They are without any type of defense.
     So they are in need of a shepherd to defend them.  Jesus has done this.  Jesus laid down his life to defend the sheep from the power of the devil.  We all would be easy prey for the devil because of our sins.  We were in his jaws, condemned to hell because of our sins.  Then Jesus came to our defense.  He did so by laying down his life for us.  As Jesus suffered and died on the cross, he was ransoming us back from the debt of sin that we owed God.  When the good shepherd laid down his life for us, we were saved from the situation that we had gotten ourselves into.  Jesus’ death sets us free.
     Jesus also points to his resurrection.  Remember again that this was six months or so before he was crucified and rose from the dead.  Yet, he told his disciples and those around him exactly what would happen.  Not only would he suffer and die, but he would also rise from the dead, showing that he had broken the power of death, as well.  Notice that Jesus says, “I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.”  Jesus shows us that he is true God, for no one has the authority to take up one’s own life.  Jesus’ resurrection seals our forgiveness of sins.
     What Jesus would do would be directly in agreement with his Father’s will.  He says in verse 17, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again.”  What Jesus would do would be exactly what the Father wanted.  He lived his life, died and rose again all in accordance with his Father’s will.
     Normally, if a shepherd would die, it would mean that his flock would be scattered, falling easy prey to enemies.  But this is not the case with the good shepherd.  His death and resurrection do not scatter the flock.  Rather the good shepherd gathers his flock together.  Jesus actively goes out and seeks the sheep so that he might bring them all together.
     Jesus says in verse 16, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen.  I must bring them also.”  Jesus was revealing something to the Jewish listeners.  For many years Israel had enjoyed the distinction of being God’s special people.  God had spoken to them directly through Moses and the prophets.  Now a new period in history was dawning.  Jesus was going to extend the people of God to include all nations.  Before this, there were Gentiles who were saved.  Now the emphasis would be on the Gentiles, for the Jews were rejecting the promised Messiah.  He would gather together his flock from all of the nations of the world.  His flock is what we call the Holy Christian Church.  They are all those who believe in Jesus as their Savior.  Note the urgency when he says, “I must bring these in also.”  Jesus wants all people to be gathered into his flock.  There they will listen to his voice and there will be one flock and one shepherd.  This is not saying that there is only one correct church body and belonging to it automatically assures you of being in Jesus’ flock.  Whether or not you are a member of Jesus’ flock all depends on whether or not you believe in Jesus as your Savior.  When the Holy Spirit calls you to faith, you become one of Jesus’ sheep in his flock.
     What a privilege it is to belong to the flock of Jesus.  He tells us, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”  Jesus knows those who are his.  This knowledge isn’t just an acquaintance with facts, but there is love behind this knowledge.  Jesus knows his believers through and through.  He knows each of us by name.  He knows all of our needs, pains and sorrows.  He knows everything about us.  He knows if we are hurting and how to heal.  He knows if we are straying and how to bring us back.  He knows if we are hungry or thirsty and how to satisfy us.  He leads us to the Bible where our souls are fed.  Just as a good shepherd is aware of every single sheep in his flock, so all the more Jesus is deeply concerned about every single member of his flock.  He loved us so much that he was willing to die for us.  Surely he will take care of all of our physical needs.  Our good shepherd knows us.
     We are also told “my sheep know me.”  We know our good shepherd.  We don’t have to wonder what Jesus is like.  We read about him in the pages of Scriptures.  We have heard his voice through the pages of Scriptures.  Because of the way Jesus has taken care of us, we are sure that we can trust in him and follow him wherever he leads.  Even though the way may seem to be dark and gloomy, yet because we know Jesus is our loving shepherd we gladly follow.  We know our shepherd as our loving God who makes all things work out for our good.  Jesus is our good shepherd.
     We have a good shepherd, who loved us so much that he laid down his life for us.  May each of us gladly follow our shepherd wherever he may lead us, for he always does what is best for us.  This morning, we close with the words of Psalm 23: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.  He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”  Amen.