Summary: Jesus is the Good Shepherd to Whom we can entrust ourselves
Introduction: We have a problem this morning. How many of you have ever raised sheep? How many of you have ever lived near sheep? How many of you know very little at all about sheep? That’s our problem. You see, to really appreciate the point of Jn10, we have to know something about sheep.
To the people Jesus spoke to, sheep were a very common sight, and caring for them was something most everyone knew. They were an important part of 1st century, Middle East living. They provided clothing, meat, milk, and wineskins. A man’s wealth was often measured by the size of his flocks, so they took care of them. And it was natural for Jesus use sheep as an illustration of how He relates to us. Even Jesus Himself was introduced by John the Baptist as the "lamb of God."
Ill - The Camden, Maine, Herald ran 2 photos on the same page: one was a picture of Camden’s town board and town manager; the other was of a flock of sheep. Enter Murphy’s Law. As fate and humor would have it, the captions were accidentally reversed. So, under the picture of the sheep, the caption identified them left to right, as all the town officials; under the photo of the town fathers sitting around a table the caption said, “The Sheep Fold - naive and vulnerable, they huddle for security against the uncertainties of the outside world.”
Anyone who has helped take care of sheep is well aware of the need sheep have for a caretaker. They have no natural defense - no fangs or claws - so they have to be protected.
Ill - P.T. Barnum, the showman, used to enjoy showing an exhibit he called “The Happy Family” There were lions, tigers, and panthers all squatted around a lamb, not one of them touching it. Barnum’s press agent, Dexter Fellows, wrote about a minister who asked Barnum if the exhibit ever had any trouble. Listen to what Barnum said: “Apart from replenishing the lamb now and then, they get along very well together.”
OK. This morning, let’s do some audience participation. To help us all get our minds full of sheep, here’s a multiple choice pop-quiz. How Much Do Ewe Know About Sheep? (on powerpoint)
You can write the answers if you want to, but I think we’ll be OK just doing it out loud. Are you ready?
If sheep aren’t directed to suitable pasture and water, what do they do?
A. Order Chinese carry out
B. Look it up on Google Earth
C. Send around a petition to be given to their shepherd
D. Fail to eat and drink correctly
Which best describes the intelligence of domesticated sheep?
A. Top of the food chain
B. MENSA material
C. Sly as a fox
D. Mutton heads
How do sheep keep cool in the hot summer months?
A. They visit a Bah Bah shop
B. They wear lighter clothing and drink lemonade
C. They roll down the car window
D. They count on their shepherd to shear them at the right time
If a sheep gets separated from its flock, it…
A. Stops and asks for directions (unless it’s a male)
B. Finds a wolf, kills it, and eats it
C. Opens its own show in Branson
D. Most likely will die from predators or exposure
Which of the following situations poses a threat to someone hiking in sheep country?
A. Being trampled by a pack of sheep
B. Being bitten by an angry sheep
C. Being gored to death by a sheep
D. Having to wear itchy wool socks
My apologies to sheep ranchers and shepherds everywhere. I hope you get the point. Sheep aren’t self-sufficient, are they? Sheep are pitifully defenseless. They need help to live, don’t they?
We don’t mind saying that about sheep. Our dignity isn’t at stake when we’re talking about the weaknesses of sheep. But start to compare ourselves to them, start calling us “sheep,” and we have to give up a little dignity.
Let’s talk about where human beings are spiritually. We all have weaknesses to deal with. We all need someone to shepherd us and help us through. If you can’t accept that, then do this: go visit the nursery at Freeman or St. John’s, stop by the intensive care unit, and then go spend some time with some advanced care patients at one of the nursing homes in town. We enter this world helpless, and most of us leave it in a similar way.
But more importantly, we’re out in a spiritual wilderness. Spiritually, we’re just as helpless from the start to the finish, and we need a shepherd. Isaiah 53 says we all, like sheep, have gone astray.
There are shepherds available – lots of them! There are many who will be glad to work you into their flock. There are many who are working hard at gaining your trust. The question you need to ask is, which shepherd can I rely on? Which one can I trust? Because – and this may be a shock - not all of them have your best interests in mind.