Greetings, everybody! Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of EDiBS, and God’s rich grace to you in our Lord Jesus. I hope things have been off to a good start for you this week and that each day you’re finding yourself mindful of our Savior’s gracious presence in your life. EDiBS is here to walk alongside you in the process of growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ, so do be sure to come along each day as you continue on in your daily walk. Today we’ll be continuing on in our study of Jesus and His role as the Good Shepherd in John 10, so let’s pray and begin.
Lord Jesus, thank you for this day, and thank you for the grace you’ve given us to be able to read and understand your Word and its message of salvation in your name. help us to always be thinking of your great sacrifice for us, the great love you’ve demonstrated for us in your life, death, and resurrection. We ask today that you would help us to grow through your holy Word, and that this time will be time blessed to our learning and growth as your people. Thank you Lord; in your precious name we pray, amen.
As we get started today, Jesus shares more with us about the role of a shepherd. Our focus: Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
11"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns 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. 13The 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— 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I 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. 17The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to 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 authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father." 19At these words the Jews were again divided. 20Many of them said, "He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?" 21But others said, "These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?"
Several years ago on a Sunday morning, I preached about Jesus being both the Gate for the Sheep (like we talked about yesterday) and the Good Shepherd for sheep, wrapped into one. It’s kind of a hard concept to grasp, and so when I did the children’s message up front, I demonstrated for the kids how Jesus could be both of those things at the same time. I wanted them to be able to visualize the Scriptures. The funny thing, though, is that when church was done and we were all out talking on the front lawn, it was the adults who appreciated the visualizations more than anyone. What did I do to help them picture what Jesus is talking about here in John 10? I got down on the floor, stretched out my body, curled my arm under my head, and pretended to take a nap. After the giggling and the joking stopped, I simply explained to everyone that when shepherds are out in the wilderness tending their flocks, they don’t have barns and corrals to hold their animals at night like they would on the farm. Instead, they have makeshift pens, or caves, or low-lying rock walls where they gather the sheep when the sun goes down. How do they keep them in? How do they protect them from predators? How is it that the shepherds make sure everything is okay until morning? The shepherds themselves lie down across the opening of the makeshift pen, and they use their own bodies as the gate. They literally put themselves in harm’s way to protect the flock, and the sheep are comforted and quieted by the sight of their shepherd stretched out across the opening. True story, and in fact, that is the very picture that Jesus gives us in our Bibles when He describes Himself first as the Gate for the sheep, and then, just a couple of verses later, as the Good Shepherd of the sheep.
Jesus as the Good Shepherd, of course, is the supreme focus of today’s reading, and while we could take each verse and dissect things very thoroughly, what I’d like to do in our limited time is paint with a bit of a broader stroke. Much of what our Lord is saying here is very clear; it needs no special interpretation on our part. In verses 11-15, for example, Jesus explains the actions that the Good Shepherd takes on behalf of His flock. He differentiates these things from the actions and attitude of a hired hand, emphasizing that the Shepherd has a vested interest in, a relationship with, His flock and would never leave it in a time of danger. It’s not just a living; it’s a life...something that my fellow pastors and I would do well to remember ourselves, by the way. The one thing that we do want to make special note of here in the opening verses, however, is that the Good Shepherd is radically different from any other shepherd in one important respect: the Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep. We want to make special note of that because Jesus Himself makes special note of it here in the passage, mentioning it three distinct times with increasing clarity and focus each time He sets it forth. Shepherds come and shepherds go, and most of them are conscientious; but the Good Shepherd has come to give His life for the sheep. Extraordinary indeed.
And just which sheep are counted worthy to die for? That’s the next point of emphasis we would do well to pick up on today. Notice that in verse 16 Jesus makes a statement about other sheep, sheep from another sheep pen. Who is He talking about here? Gentiles. In other words, salvation is not just from and to the Jews, but it will be for all people, Gentiles included...and it is God’s saving love in Jesus Christ, shown to all people at Calvary, which will make them all one flock with one Shepherd. This is an incredibly difficult concept for the Jews to accept, which is one reason that Jesus is so intentional in bringing it up here. And as He does so, note, please, just one more thing about our Savior’s words. Who is it that takes the Good Shepherd’s life? Verses 17-18 remind us that no one takes the life of Jesus away; instead, He lays it down of His own accord, and He will, equally so, take it up again. He retains His divine authority over all things – even those things having to do with His death and resurrection.
When we come to the last portion of today’s reading, we see the reaction of those who are listening to our Lord, and as we are used to by this time, the response of the people is a divided one. Some believe that Jesus has a demon to be talking in such a ridiculous fashion, yet others take the Savior’s words in concert with His actions, and in weighing them find no evidence of a demon whatsoever.
Wrapping up for the day, that’s actually a good thought to end on – one we’ve visited before, but one which is always good to return to as we continue to follow the life and ministry of this Man named Jesus. William Barclay, the great commentator, was right when he wrote "Either Jesus was a megalomaniac madman, or He was the Son of God." By what we know of Jesus, is it fair to say that He was a consumed-with-self madman? The words of Jesus were not the words of a madman; instead, they were words of great wisdom and moral excellence. The deeds of Jesus weren’t the deeds of a megalomaniac; they were utterly unselfish. And finally, the ongoing effect of Jesus on the world is by no means that of a madman. Rather, He has changed millions for the good. As you hear Jesus and witness His deeds, what do you say about Him? Is He self-possessed and insane…or is He the Savior? God bless you as you continue to consider His claims – and I’ll see you again next time to continue the conversation. What a mighty God we serve!
Christ’s peace everyone — take care, and have a great day!