Sufficient: Good Shepherd by Abidan Shah, PhD

SUFFICIENT – GOOD SHEPHERD by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  We use the word “sheep” in various ways in our daily conversations: “I’m the black sheep of the family,” “They are just a bunch of sheep,” or the biblical phrase “wolf in sheep’s clothing” to refer to someone who is evil but pretends to be good. We also suggest “counting sheep” if someone cannot fall asleep. In today’s message, we come to Jesus’ statement, “I am the Good Shepherd.” As you know, we’re in our series titled “Sufficient,” in which we’re looking at how Jesus is sufficient for us. To understand that, we’re studying the 7 “I am” statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John. Here’s the main point: Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Unlike the false shepherds who come to steal, kill, and destroy, he comes so that we may have life and have it more abundantly. He cares for us and is willing to lay his life down for us. 

John 10     14 “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”

Context: As you know the pattern of this series, we should not try to interpret the metaphor or the allegory of these statements by today’s standards. When Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life,” he did not have our modern bread in mind. When Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World,” he did not have the benefits of electricity in mind. When Jesus said, “I am the Door of the Sheep,” he did not have the doors in Monster’s Inc. or the bedroom door, closet door, shower door, or cabinet door in mind. So also, when he said “I am the Good Shepherd,” what did he mean by that statement in its original context? How did the people who were listening to him understand it? Why did the apostle John include it in his gospel?

Once again, don’t forget that when Jesus made the statements with the words “I am,” the Jewish people heard the name of God. Even though, many believed, many also rejected him and tried to stone him, but Jesus didn’t recant.

Application: What do you believe about Jesus? Let’s look again at C. S. Lewis’s options again (paraphrase), “Jesus is a liar, lunatic, or Lord. You have to pick.”

Now, to understand the true meaning of Jesus’ statement, “I am the Good Shepherd,” we must look at the context to see what was going on at the time. If you remember from last weekend, it was the Feast of Dedication. We know it today as Hanukkah. It celebrates the restoration of the Temple and the dedication of the altar by Judas Maccabeus in 164BC. Remember, three years earlier, Antiochus Epiphanes had desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem by slaughtering a pig on the holy altar. This feast was also known as the Festival of Lights, where one candle per day was lit on a 7-candle menorah. The candles were to symbolize the return of worship in the temple. What does the Feast of Dedication/Lights (Hanukkah) have to do with the Jesus’ statement “I am the Good Shepherd?” This feast was also the time when they read from Ezekiel 34 about the bad shepherds of Israel, those who failed to protect the sheep from the Antiochus Epiphanes, Jason, Menelaus, and even the corrupt priests from their own time. At a time like this, Jesus walked into the Temple and declared John 10:10 “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…” When Jesus said that, he had more than just Antiochus Epiphanes and the corrupt priests, past and present, in mind. He was also referring to the Pharisees and the scribes who specialized in binding the people with their legalism. In other words, they were also thieves! By the way, the Pharisees and the scribes practiced what was known as “table fellowship.” They treated their tables at home as the altar in the temple. They called on all Jewish people to live according to the priestly laws, especially with regards to everyday meals. Hence, the meals had to be tithed, prepared, and served in a certain way. Their meals were exclusive and hierarchical because they believed that what you put inside of you matters and who you have around also matters. They also gained the reputation of finding loopholes in the law to help the common people live a guilt free life. Most people respected them and even liked them even though they had a self-righteous condescending attitude towards them. They couldn’t stand Jesus because he didn’t bow to their rules. Remember, the man born blind. Instead of rejoicing with him over the fact that he could see, they had a problem with the timing of the miracle (Sabbath) and the source of the miracle (Jesus, a sinner!). Here’s the point: What Jesus was saying is that the bad guys are bad, but the good guys are also bad. He has come to replace them all. John 10:10 “…I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

Application: Are you trying to fit Jesus into your corrupt degenerate altars? He comes to replace it all.

Then he declared – 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” Here, Jesus was making a general statement about shepherds from the shepherd heritage of the Jewish people. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were shepherds. They each had to be patient. Moses was a shepherd when God called him. He had to lead a flock of sheep for forty years in the backside of the desert before he could lead the flock of God. Even the Exodus was described in Psalm 77:20 as “You led Your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” When time came to pass the baton to Joshua, listen to Moses in Numbers 27      16 “Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, 17 who may go out before them and go in before them, who may lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the LORD may not be like sheep which have no shepherd.” Judges were also referred to as shepherds by God in 2 Samuel 7:7Then came David, the most prominent shepherd king of Israel. 2 Samuel 7:8 “Now therefore, thus shall you say to My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘I took you from the sheepfold, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people, over Israel.’” David fought a lion and a bear to rescue a sheep! Of course, he wrote Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.” Can you sense the care of the good shepherd?

The Messianic prophecies portrayed Jesus as the Shepherd. Notice the tenderness in each of them. Isaiah 40:11 “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young.”Micah 2      12 “I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together like sheep of the fold, Like a flock in the midst of their pasture; They shall make a loud noise because of so many people. 13 The one who breaks open will come up before them; They will break out, Pass through the gate, And go out by it; Their king will pass before them, With the LORD at their head.” Ezekiel 34      23 “I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them—My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken.”

Application: How do you see Jesus in your life? We have all kinds of caricatures. May I suggest a shepherd. Think of him as a tender, loving, caring, and protective shepherd.

There is a shift now in Jesus’ tone here. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. When did the wolf come? I believe that Jesus is giving a prophecy here that John remembered and put it in his gospel. In AD70, the Roman Army destroyed the temple. It began with the Jewish rebellion in AD66. This is what is referred to as the Jewish Wars from AD66-73. The Roman Emperor Nero sent his general Vespasian to fight against the Jewish people. In the meantime, Nero died and Vespasian was the new Emperor. He went back to Rome leaving his son Titus in charge, who broke through the Jerusalem defenses, killed thousands of people, and, worst of all, destroyed the Temple. Not only were the Jewish people scattered, but the church in Jerusalem was scattered as well. Where were the leadership of Israel? They didn’t stand and fight. Instead, they ran away! Zechariah 10        2 “For the idols speak delusion; the diviners envision lies, and tell false dreams; they comfort in vain. Therefore the people wend their way like sheep; they are in trouble because there is no shepherd.” 3 “My anger is kindled against the shepherds, and I will punish the goatherds. For the LORD of hosts will visit His flock, the house of Judah, and will make them as His royal horse in the battle.” This is what Jesus is referring to in John 10      13 “The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” Here is the true shepherd. He not only protects his sheep in real time, but he also forewarns us for the time to come and promises to be there. He does this because he knows us and is known by us. There is a relationship.

Illustration: I heard years ago about a pastor who spent one night out with the shepherd and his sheep. The shepherd built a fire, and, just then, they could hear the coyotes howling in the distance. The sheep started bleating. The shepherd simply threw more logs on the fire. As the flames shot up, the pastor could see the eyes of the sheep all over the hillside. They were looking to the shepherd. 

Application: Are you afraid of the future? Our Good Shepherd is already in the future looking out for us. There is no need to fear. Just trust and obey. Do you have a relationship with Christ? Just look to him, and you’ll be okay.

Our Good Shepherd is working on something very important. 16 “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” Previously, Israel was to be a light unto the Gentiles. Those who responded to the light were saved. Now, the shepherd goes looking for the lost sheep who are not of the fold, as prophesied by Ezekiel. There was a new kind of search and rescue effort about to begin. How far was the Good Shepherd willing to go?17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” 19 Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings. 20 And many of them said, “He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

At one time, the Good Shepherd analogy was very common in the early church, but it ceased when Christianity became mainstream. Where our world is headed, this will have to return. The Shepherd analogy is the answer to all our anxiety, fear, and doubts.

Invitation: Have you met the Good Shepherd? Are you saved? Are you reaching the other lost sheep?

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