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"Jesus, Good Shepherd" - John 10:11-18; Psalm 23


[John 10:11-18] Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

 

Jesus, Good Shepherd 

Sheep are creatures that must be tended to and guided by a shepherd. Going it on their own doesn’t work. Their wool must be groomed and sheared. They must be led to safe and wholesome pasture. They must be protected from predators. Sheep are not self-sufficient. They, by nature, must be cared for.

We are the same way. As a group and as individuals. It’s in our nature, it’s in our design, that we must rely on another – someone greater. Men and women are not self-sufficient creatures. We were not created to be. We were created to live by faith in our Creator, expecting from Him every good thing.

Sheep tend to go astray, as if they have no shepherd to follow – even when they do. We are very much like sheep. “We all like sheep have gone astray” [Isaiah 53:6]. The original sin, which we all inherit in ourselves, is that we do not live by faith in God our Shepherd.

It is sin that we seek to go it on our own, making up our own way, facing the challenges of life as if there is no Shepherd to rely upon.

Maybe in pride, we don’t want to admit we need a Shepherd, so we go our own way. Maybe in some form of self-righteousness, we are seeking a better word than God’s Word.

Or, perhaps very often, as if there is no Shepherd tending us – as if there is not a Creator, Redeemer, and Savior for us – we react from an inward place of fear or anxiousness or isolation, as if we are sheep who must fend for themselves.

But there is a Shepherd. And He has made promises. We find many of those promises in Psalm 23, which begins with those words, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Here we find the promises which so comfort us. Yet, in so many ways, we live as if these promises are not true.

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

In the face of financial trouble, it’s the fear and anxiety of feeling you are on your own, fending for yourself, that leads to the stress and arguments that shake up a family’s life.

But faith in the Good Shepherd says, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want” – which means, “I will not lack.” “I have a Shepherd; therefore, I will not lack. He will not leave me without what I need.”

“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.”

As if we have no Shepherd to give us good food for our soul, we occupy our days with a stream of frivolous distractions - or even with a steady flow of life’s best things – but “the one thing needed” [Luke 10:42] and the Bread of Life [John 6:35] are right in our reach - “Whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” [John 6:35].

Or you might cling to the idea of having some thing in life you don’t have but are convinced you must have – forgetting your life has a Shepherd who is leading you to what He knows is best – “green pastures; still waters” – according to His knowledge, not our understanding.  

“He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

We read in our Epistle today, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” We’ve been given the new commandment to love one another as He has loved us [John 13:34]. “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him.” [1 John 3:16-24].

We fall far short of what we should be. In the face of our failure, “our heart condemns us” [1 John 3:19]. As if there is no Shepherd, our focus is set on how much we’ve strayed – or on how much we lack in progress toward doing better – then we despair, thinking we may be lost forever or that we cannot be improved.

But “God is greater than our heart” [1 John 3:20]. And our Shepherd is greater than our straying. His work in us in greater than our sin and flesh. He does prevail in you at doing what He has promised – “He restores your soul. He leads you in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” He restores and leads sheep-who-stray. He is a capable Shepherd who can successfully keep even the most difficult sheep.

“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.”

Evils can come. Bad health can come. Untimely death can come. But these cannot harm us at all. We need not lose faith.

Your Shepherd guides you safely through every trouble. Because there is a Shepherd – who conquered the grave – there is comfort, and also joyfulness and thankfulness, during bad times – through that valley – even when in the world there is only fear.   

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

Though we are sojourning in a world that has wolves, we do not need to fear the sinfulness of the world, the craftiness of the devil, nor opposition to the Truth more than we trust the goodness and capability of our Savior.

There are wolves. But we are a flock with a Shepherd. We are not unguarded.

Your Shepherd and Lord spreads His table every Sunday in the presence of the world, sin, the devil, and all enemies – and His cup overflows with His goodness toward us. We can confidently be witnesses to the Truth by our word and life, believing that doing so will bear fruit.

Jesus is “the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” Of His own accord, willingly, Jesus the Shepherd became the Lamb who laid down His life for the sins of the sheep – “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” – “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities.” [Isaiah 53:5-6]

Upon the cross, the Shepherd-Lamb, Jesus, made His soul an offering for the guilt of His flock. He prolonged your days and made you to be counted righteous [Isaiah 53:10-11].

We, like sheep, are not creatures who are self-sufficient. In both physical and spiritual matters, we are dependent completely on that One who is greater than us.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” [John 15:3]. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” [1 John 3:16].

Because He has done this, we can say, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Amen.

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