The Good Shepherd Part 2
Three-Part Blog Series
Now that we’ve discussed what pastoring has become in our culture and shed light on the things that pastors are unwilling to self-reflect on, I want us to take a look at John 10 to find out what a good shepherd is so that we can find Jesus and walk with him through our life. In John 10:1-21, Jesus tells us that he is the good shepherd. Let’s dig a little deeper into the context of the book of John and this passage.
This passage is based on the Old Testament images of God as the shepherd of Israel (Gen 48:15; 49:24; Ps 23), Israel as his flock (Ps 74:1), and of abusive or unfaithful religious leaders as destroyers of his flock (Jerimiah 23:15). Historically, during the cool winter months, sheep were kept inside a pen at night. The stone walls would usually have briers on top of it as a protection from wolves (10:2) and other predators. In the timeline in this book, Jesus is responding to the religious leaders after he had healed a blind man. Now, it is important to note that John (who is the writer) is teaching us to discern the presence of God in the mess and muddle of historical reality. The Jesus in the book of John seems to be more inclined and expressive about his divine status than the Jesus we read in Matt, Mark, and Luke. Jesus talks more about eternal life than the kingdom of God.
John 10 says…
'Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.' Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them. Therefore Jesus said again, 'Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 'I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own 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. 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— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 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. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 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.' The Jews who heard these words were again divided. Many of them said, 'He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?' But others said, 'These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?'
Now, let’s break this down to see what the good shepherd does. My hope is that as you read these points, it will lay the foundation for you to begin to allow the son of God to be the shepherd of your heart. These points are to give you assurance and peace, knowing you are being led with care and love.
1 - The Good Shepherd is an Honest Shepherd.
A thief and robber will never try to come in through the gate. They will try to break in through the wall. The thief and the robber are the Pharisees and religious leaders that were trying to find a way to kill Jesus. They were about getting their own way. They were not honest or humble. They had hidden agendas for their personal gain and self-righteousness. Jesus enters through the gate, in humility and no hidden agenda or deceitfulness. He is trying to enter in the lives of the sheep with nothing but full honesty of who he is, the Good Shepherd.
I'm reminded of the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles with Steve Martin and John Candy. Steve Martin's character, Neal Page has finally had enough of John Candy’s character Del Griffith as they are traveling together to see their families. Neal yells at Del in the hotel, telling him he is obnoxious, never shuts up and also attacks his kind character. Del looks at him and says… “You wanna hurt me? Go right ahead if it makes you feel any better. I'm an easy target. Yeah, you're right, I talk too much. I also listen too much. I could be a cold-hearted cynic like you... but I don't like to hurt people's feelings. Well, you think what you want about me; I'm not changing. I like... I like me. My wife likes me. My customers like me. 'Cause I'm the real article. What you see is what you get.” Jesus is at the gate, in full honesty, full of trust and truth, laid out in humility with no hidden agenda and he is telling us, his sheep “What you see is what you get”. He isn’t pulling any tricks. Jesus wants us to know that we can trust him and that he is in front of us, filled with honest humility. He is ready to lead us in and out of the sheep gate.
2 - The Good Shepherd is the gatekeeper of his sheep.
Jesus is confidently revealing to us that he is the gate for the sheep. He takes his position as the shepherd and functions as a door or gate. The sheep can go out to the pasture in front of the sheep pen, but if rattled or afraid, they can retreat into the security of the sheep pen. But this goes further: Jesus, in his divine nature, becomes the only way to access the Father. In verse 9, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture” Later Jesus goes into detail in John 14:6, Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” He is the only way to the Father; through Jesus we find a shepherd who goes before us making the way. He comes to us in front of the entrance in honesty and truth, and he is the gatekeeper to eternal life and finally gives us the path to our heavenly Father. Our relationship is restored. Better said spiritually, Jesus is the only Gate by which people can enter into God’s provision for them.
3 - The Good Shepherd knows his Sheep.
When Jesus calls his sheep by name and leads them out, they listen because they know his voice. Jesus emphasizes the importance of the relationship between shepherds and sheep. That “knowing" does not mean a teacher going off their roll call sheet to ensure each student is “present” in their classroom. Knowing meant a relationship. To know someone, or in this case, the sheep was to have a communal relationship. Knowing Jesus means that he cares deeply and protects us, his sheep because he would never want to see the sheep he cared for to be attacked. Jesus wants to know us just like how he knows the Father, to have a loving and intentional relationship with him. He wants us to know his voice, to discern his voice so when we’ve wandered too far off that we will go running back to our good shepherd.
I would like to pause here and I want to encourage you to reflect on these points before we go further into the next part of this blog series. Reflect on how Jesus is honest, is the gatekeeper, and how he wants to know you as he shepherds you. When you begin to reflect on these points, you’ll begin to find that peace and allow the good shepherd to shape and care for your heart.
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Read Part 1
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