Jesus, The Good Shepherd

Advent 2023 - The Names of Jesus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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I think its safe to say that one of the most familiar metaphors in the Bible for God, is that of a Shepherd. I say that because so many are familiar with a Psalm in the Bible that begins with the words, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” I daresay it is one of people’s most favorite.
And it’s understandable why. God, according to Psalm 23 is One who takes me to calm places, he restores my weariness, he’s my protector who keeps me safe, he’s my provider who gives me deep satisfaction and peace, he guides me through challenges and struggles, and assures me of life forevermore with Him. It’s understandable why this is a favorite of so many.
The Lord is my Shepherd.
And without question, when Jesus taught the words that we are about to read in John 10, he had Psalm 23 in mind. Not just Psalm 23 of course, numerous other passages in the OT as well. But surely Psalm 23.
This Shepherd who takes me to calm places, who restores me, protects, and guides....
Jesus says,
John 10:11–21 NIV
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 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. 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.” 19 The Jews who heard these words were again divided. 20 Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” 21 But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
Jesus says, I am the Good Shepherd.
There are three things about this text that I want to highlight for us this morning.
We are sheep.
Life’s circumstances are like a journey through a desert. And....
We need to listen to the right VOICE.
Sheep. Desert. Voice.
“We are sheep.”
But he also says, we are like sheep. And not just we who are part of the church, but all people. According to the Bible, humanity has an inescapable identity. We are sheep.
I think John Piper expresses this truth very well:
Sermons from John Piper (2000–2014) The God of Peace Brought from the Dead the Good Shepherd

God intended from before the foundation of the world that you and I and all people, from the greatest to the least, would always be sheep. His purpose from the beginning and for all time is that all human beings would always be sheep in need of a Shepherd. He never intended that we would be sheep for a season and then cease being sheep and become something less needy, less dependent. We will always be sheep by God’s design.

God intended from the very begining for us to be the kind of people I said at the beginning of the be the kind of people who are cared for by One who takes me to calm places, he restores my weariness, he’s my protector who keeps me safe, he’s my provider who gives me deep satisfaction and peace, he guides me through challenges and struggles, and assures us of life unending with Him.
But let’s be honest…the metaphor of us being sheep is not entirely flattering. You know what sheep can be like....they’re not the most intelligent of creatures in the animal kingdom.
I’m guessing most of us have seen this short video that went viral a couple of years ago. I can’t help wondering if God had this video in mind when he was thinking carefully about how humanity ought to think about themselves and said, “sheep, that’s what they are....sheep!”
Let’s watch it.... Play sheep_in_trench.mp4
The prophet Isaiah says, “We all like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has gone our own way.”
Being sheep is not entirely flattering.
But God says, we’ve been created to be sheep because we’ve been created to need a Shepherd. Left to our own devices, our lives will inevitably get off track. We need a Centre, a Guide, a Shelter, a Compass, a North Star. We need a Shepherd.....because we are like sheep.
And that brings us to the second thing that I want to highlight.
2. “Life’s circumstances are like a journey through a desert.”
Now you might say, Andrew this passage says nothing about the desert. And of course you’re right. But what this conjures up in the mind of those who first heard it, is that sheep are cared for and raised in circumstances and surroundings that looked like this:
These pictures come from my trip last year to the Middle East.... these are taken in the Judean wilderness....
[Picture of shepherd walking a hillside with sheep]
[Another hillside with sheep]
[Picture of modern pen that I visited]
[Picture of cute sheep]
We need a shepherd because life’s circumstances are often like a journey through a desert.
In the desert water is scarce, food is rare, dangers are all around…just look at the terrrain and steep drop offs. Sheep need shepherds who will guide them safely and protect from becoming prey to either the elements or to bandits or hungry wild animals.
It’s interesting how in the Bible the desert is often the place where God’s people find themselves. Abraham travelled through the desert, Moses spent decades in the desert, God led his people out of Egypt into the desert, David cared for his sheep in the desert, he fled for his life in the desert…the desert is an important metaphor in the Bible....understandably, because the desert literally surrounded most of God’s people throughout most of their history.
And truthfully, it doesn’t take too much convincing to show that the environment and circumstances of our lives can be equally perilous and precarious.
Just being born today brings with it a whole new level of challenge.... In an article I read just recently; an article based on a book titled, The Two-Parent Privilege: How Americans Stopped Getting Married and Started Falling Behind, I read that in 1950 fewer than 5% of babies were born to unwed mothers, now the statistic is nearly 50%....almost 1 in 2 children born today will be raised in single parent homes....and all studies show overwhelmingly that children raised in two parent homes do better in every measurable outcomes. Just being born brings uncertainty and challenge.
But what about for those growing up today. All children growing up today are being raised in a moral atmosphere that teaches them “there is no absolute truth, you are your own best source for truth and happiness, find your own way.” How can that not be like sending your child into the desert and saying to them....”your on your own.” Could that be what is contributing, at least in part to unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression?
Not to mention all the uncertainties that all of us face on a daily basis.... miscarriages, financial stress, car accidents, terminal illness, sudden job loss, broken relationships, the death of those we love....
Yes it’s true that many of us live with a material quality of life that is orders of magnitude better than many in our world today and most all people who have lived before us.... but you could say we still live in a modern desert.
So, we are sheep, and we live in a modern desert....and that’s why Jesus wants us to hear Him say to all of us....”I am the Good Shepherd.”
I’m not a hired hand that just uses sheep....
You know what that statement makes me think about today? It makes me think about how big tech and social media companies like Google, Meta, FB, Instagram, Tiktoc, and Twitter, use us and treat us like sheep. They use us like machines getting us to click on their links watch their videos captivating as much of our time and attention as possible so that they learn as much as they can about us, our hobbies, our interests, our political leanings, our favorite personalities, our favorite foods, stores, much information about us as they can which they then package and sell to their customers....
These Big Tech shepherds promise us happiness....but they’re just hired hands....who don’t care a wit about the sheep. We’re just a machine for them to make more money.
Jesus says, “I’m not a hired hand that just uses sheep”
John is likely thinking of the way the Pharisees in Jesus’ day misled people and used them to prop up their own following or ego. Surely it’s true today as well…Pastors who are in ministry more because of how they can use people to fuel their own egos and their own agendas. Jesus says, there are lots of shepherds in the world who give the impression they care about the sheep but they’re really in it for themselves....and the moment trouble comes? they cut and run....
Jesus says, “that’s not me.” In fact, “not only do I care about the sheep, but I’m willing to lay down my life for them.”
[talk about entrance to sheep pen…shepherd lays down at the entrance..... so that if bandits or animals want to get into the sheep pen they quite literally have to take out the shepherd first. “I am the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.”]
Jesus goes on to say, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” a bit later, “they will listen to my voice.”
And that brings to the third aspect of this text that I’m inviting us to pay attention to:
3. Sheep need to listen to the right voice.
I think that we can all agree that it goes without saying, there are many voices in our world today. There are many voices that captivate our attention and attempt to move and direct our lives in a certain directions. Lots of voices. And not all of them are good.
Parents know this. All of us here either are parents, or we were parents or we were raised by it’s safe to say that’s most all of us.
One of the big challenges that parents face, and truly sometimes this can cause great heartache.... one of the big challenges is seeing which voices your child listens to..... How often hasn’t a parent said “I wish they would just listen to me”…but instead they listen to their peers, their professors, their youtube videos, their podcast hosts....all kinds of voices.
Jesus invites us to listen to HIS voice....and he says its actually possible to hear it....My sheep know my voice.
[share story of a shepherd calling his sheep.... you can see this pretty much anywhere in the Middle East today]
[Voice in the Garden of Eden… we listened to that deceptive voice and God said you will surely die..... ]
This is our condition… the Bible says that we indeed listened to that deceptive voice....we wanted to become gods ourselves and because of our willful rebellion against the One true Shepherd who truly cared for us, we were cast out of the Garden....we were expelled from the presence of God.....of course we could people who chose death remain in the presence of One who Himself is the only true Source of Eternal Life??
This is our condition..... and the Bible teaches that this willful rebellion, this desire to be gods for ourselves, this pride…runs right through the very centre of our being. And so what is God to do? How does he put to death this condition without killing us?
He willingly chooses to put himself in our place. I am the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”
Isaiah 53:5–6 NIV
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
An illustration from Dr. Paul Bremer. 7/7/97
Told experience of Dr. Gordon, an englishman who served as Dean of the Chapel at Princeton Seminary. These words in Isaiah 53 came to life for him when he was a prisoner during WWII. He was building bridge of river Quai. When they returned at night, one shovel was missing, guard threatened to kill all prisoners if shovel not returned. One Christian stepped out, then was beaten to a pulp..... then later Dr. Gordon found that the guard recounted shovels and found them all there. Dr. Gordon found this verse in Isaiah came to life for him that moment.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
[Tell story....54....Somalia....Muslim brotherhood....female genital mutilation....refugee....Netherlands.....politican....outspoken atheist....
-a very personal crisis of fear anxiety depression, went to best therapists money can buy.....continued to have this big spiritual hole or need, self medicate, sedate, drank to much alcohol....nothing helped.... it all explained a small piece of the are spiritually a place where she’d given up hope, darkness.....well what have I got to loose....talked about God.....God I grew up with was a horror show....explained why she hated God..... if you could design your own God....what would you do..... thought to myself it would be Jesus, Christianity at its best..... both her and her husband were atheists.... now they’re following this better story.... standards....that are high.... service, duty, selfishness, check your pride,
The voice of the Good Shepherd....spoke to Ayaan.....
[other sheep not from this pen....Gentiles.....who in your life do you long for to hear the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd]
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