" I Am the Good Shepherd"
Sermon Series The 7 “I AM” sayings of Jesus in John’s Gospel – Good Shepherd.
John 10:11 -18.
Main Preaching Theme: When we make our relationship with the shepherd central, we will find safety, salvation & unity.
Main Preaching intention: I believe that the congregation will be challenged to put aside those things which harm and cause division and will focus on Christ who brings safety, salvation & unity.
Scene 1/ It is said that blood is thicker than water
Now to understand that point I would like you to think of an old style hillbilly feud.
For those of you who are younger and haven’t had the privilege of watching the old Disney cartoons.
Let me explain.
On two opposite hilltops there would be some hillbillies.
For some reason they had gotten to feuding over something.
The cartoon would have all these funny scenes of people shooting at each other from the farmhouse, up trees, in boats.
And on and on it went.
Until they needed a break then there would be some moonshine drinking, sleeping and when they woke up it would start all over again.
It was real slapstick stuff.
Somewhere about here a couple of young people would see each other and fall madly in love.
With the usual result that the feud would escalate.
The end result, sometimes, was that the happy couple would ride off, into the sunset and everyone would get along fine after that.
Although in this particular cartoon everyone died and they all continued the feud in the clouds, except for the young couple.
When this cartoon was released in 1946 it sparked outrage in the mountain communities of the USA.
The residents were not happy about how they were portrayed and rightly so, they had just made an enormous sacrifice for the war effort and didn’t appreciate being portrayed as dim witted, violent, drunken and lawless.
Anyway Aussie kids in the 1970s thought it was hilarious.
Such feuds did occur in early American history, two of the families involved in the most famous feud of the 1800s, the Hatfield’s & McCoy’s have in recent times jointly started a major community festival which makes a significant contribution to the local community.
One of the concepts that we simply don’t understand in contemporary western society is that blood ties really matter.
Whether it be the kinship system of indigenous culture, or the wontok system of Melanesian culture, or the tribal and clan alliances of the Middle East there is this overriding cultural imperative that people must put clan first.
The religious leaders of Jesus day were blood relatives of the people; there was a cultural imperative to care for their blood relatives.
That is why Jesus’ words in this parable of being firstly the gate to security and provision and then being the shepherd that lays down his life for the sheep are so strong.
Scene 2/ When Jesus made the statement that he is the Good Shepherd he was illustrating the truth that his love is for the sheep.
He was contrasting his motivation and actions with those of the religious leaders of his day.
Their motivation was for self and their actions were leading the people into slavery not salvation.
There was no way they would lay down their lives for the people; they had no intention of upholding the obligations of kinship
But Jesus said that he was willing to do so.
He uses the illustration of a shepherd putting his life on the line for his flock and makes the point that the hired hands would run away.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.
It was in fact hyperbole as shepherds rarely died protecting the flock, but it made the point, his love means he will sacrifice his life to save the sheep where as the religious leaders were looking after themselves. (John 10:10b-13)
It was a stinging rebuke; the shepherds of Israel, their own blood relatives were failing in their duty to protect the flock, the people of Israel.
They were failing the people because they were rejecting the Messiah.
They would not accept Jesus’ claims and the proof that he was the Messiah, the Shepherd who would save the people.
They were failing the people because they were wearing them down with empty religious legalism instead of relationship with the Lord.
Throughout the Old Testament the image of a shepherd is very strong.
John 10:11 picks up the theme of the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want”
The same theme is repeated in Revelation 7:17 where Jesus is the Shepherd of the people of heaven.
Isaiah 40:11 speaks in a similar way of God being the shepherd of Israel, caring and protecting.
Isaiah 46 & Ezekiel 37 all continue with a similar theme.
The Lord is portrayed as Israel’s shepherd.
But so were the leaders of Israel; Jesus’ parable of the good shepherd condemns them.
Listen to these words from Jeremiah 23:1-4
1 “What sorrow awaits the leaders of my people—the shepherds of my sheep—for they have destroyed and scattered the very ones they were expected to care for,” says the Lord. 2 Therefore, this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to these shepherds: “Instead of caring for my flock and leading them to safety, you have deserted them and driven them to destruction. Now I will pour out judgment on you for the evil you have done to them. 3 But I will gather together the remnant of my flock from the countries where I have driven them. I will bring them back to their own sheepfold, and they will be fruitful and increase in number. 4 Then I will appoint responsible shepherds who will care for them, and they will never be afraid again. Not a single one will be lost or missing. I, the Lord have spoken!
In Ezekiel 34:1-10 this same concept is repeated in more depth.
Jesus was declaring that the leaders were failing in their duty to their own people; they were breaking all the expectations of kinship.
Jesus was also putting himself on a par with the Lord as the shepherd of Israel; the one who loves and protects the sheep.
Scene 3/ This concept of love and relationship is expanded when Jesus goes on to talk about his relationship with the sheep, with the Father and his sheep’s love for him.
Have a look at John 10:14-15
John 10:14-15 “14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.”
The good shepherd’s relationship with his sheep is far more than simple factual knowledge.
The word used here is ginōskein(“know”), in this context it speaks of closeness & intimacy; it is far more than just factual knowledge, this is the knowing of relationship.
It is this knowing that is critical in the Middle Eastern idea of a shepherd.
You could mix several flocks of sheep together around a well.
You could put two or three flocks together in a sheepfold.
But each individual shepherd could call their flock out of the mixed up group and every single one of their sheep would follow them out into the pastures.
Verse 15 tells us that the relationship between Jesus and his sheep is modeled on the relationship between Jesus and the Father.
It is this relationship that supplied the rationale for the self-sacrifice of Jesus for his sheep.
It is a sacrifice of love.
The idea of loving sacrifice and relationship is taught in John 15:12-15 when Jesus said, “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.” (John 15:12–15, NLT)
Over and over again this parable speaks of relationship, a relationship of sacrifice on Jesus’ part and security and provision on the part of the sheep.
We are those sheep.
Actually we are the sheep of verse 16 which says,
“I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.” (John 10:16, NLT)
We are not the people of Israel; we are the people of other sheepfolds.
We too are loved by the same shepherd, called to listen to his voice and join his flock.
It is an incredible illustration.
Sheep from many different locations, many different groups, all united into one flock with one shepherd, Jesus.
One group whose kinship is no longer based on nation or language.
Instead we are one group whose kinship is based on relationship with the shepherd Jesus.
This idea is what Revelation 5:9-10 talks about when it says,
9 And they sang a new song with these words: “You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 And you have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they will reign on the earth.”
Scene 5/ It is Jesus’ relationship with the Father that leads him to be the shepherd who sacrifices his life for the sheep. (John 10:17-18)
Normally a flock would be scattered if it’s shepherd was killed out in the fields because now the wolves had free reign to attack the flock.
But not in this case.
In this case the Shepherd is victorious over death.
John 10:17-18 explains how the shepherd’s life is intentionally given for the sheep and intentionally taken back up, for the sheep.
This speaks of the death and resurrection of Christ.
Being crucified, buried and then rising from the dead.
There is a simple question for us today.
Is our relationship with the shepherd or not.
When we listen to his voice, when our relationship is with him we will find safety, salvation & unity.
 Borchert, G. L. (1996). John 1–11 (Vol. 25A, p. 335). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.