Summary: The Good Shepherd Laid Down His Life for the Sheep.
John 10. In March of 2004 a group of people on an expedition in Israel came up to a cave, and discovered the mangled body of a man dressed as a shepherd. His half-eaten body was lying across the mouth of the cave, and as they were examining things they began to hear the bleating of sheep inside the cave. When they drug the body away from the mouth of the cave about 100 sheep came out and stood over the body of their dead shepherd, licking his wounds. It became apparent that this shepherd had moved his sheep into the cave to protect them from wolves, and then he himself was attacked and had given up his life for the sheep, literally sprawling his bleeding body across the mouth of the cave to prevent the wolves from killing the sheep. Jesus says in verse 11, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” The title of my sermon is very simple: Jesus died that we might live. See just as that shepherd spread out his body, covering the mouth of the cave and protecting the sheep inside, so Jesus spread out His body on the cross, and laid down His life so that according to verse 10 we might have life to the full. Jesus died that we might live.
Now, I just want to give us some background, to set the stage for this entire chapter. When Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd” He was announcing the fulfillment of a passage in the Old Testament that the Jews had been waiting thousands of years for. Ezekiel chapter 34, and let’s look at the background of Jesus’ announcement “I am the Good Shepherd.”
Now we should know by now, that everything Jesus did was to fulfill the Old Testament. Jesus said He did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. Now as we look at Ezekiel 34 what we find is God denouncing bad shepherds, shepherds that had no iniative.
“1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ’This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. 6 My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.”
These shepherds were not caring for the flock, and God wants His flock cared for. So God removes them. You can see that in vs. 10: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.”
Now God says that He Himself would be their Shepherd. And He would be a good Shepherd. Look at vss 15-16: 15” I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy (Because they are not humble and obedient.) I will shepherd the flock with justice.” In other words, “I will be the Good Shepherd.” So for thousands of years, the Jews were waiting for God Himself to come and shepherd them.
And Jesus Christ steps onto the scene of history and announces in John 10: “I am here! I said I was coming, and now I’m here. I am the Good Shepherd” in direct fulfillment of God’s promise in Ezekiel 34. Ezekiel 34 tells us how God would shepherd His sheep: He came to feed the sheep. He came to clothe the sheep, He came to heal the injured sheep, and He came to rescue wandering sheep.
And I want us to notice today that He does all four of these things, through His death. In John 10 immediately after He says the words, “I am the Good Shepherd”, He says “the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” thereby connecting His work as a good Shepherd with His death for the sheep.