Summary: Jesus the "Good Shepherd"; is a very under estimated phrase. What does this truly mean, and where is the power in this expression? Does the enemy have a similar policy? You will be surprised.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
Today we look at that passage again where Jesus tells us that he is the Good Shepherd, and there are a lot of references to sheep, so I warn you before hand, ... it has a powerful ending though.
The 23rd Psalm is obviously in there somewhere, but I really want you to go home today knowing without a doubt, that Jesus is your Good Shepherd and he wants a personal relationship with you every single day and at any time that is relevant.
This sermon was delivered to St Oswald’s in Maybole, Ayrshire, Scotland on the 26th February 2015 by Gordon McCulloch; St Oswalds is a Scottish Episcopal Church in the Dioceses of Glasgow and Dumfries.
Our Gospel reading this morning comes from John 10, verses 11 to 18
Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away-- and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father."
“Please be seated, and join me in a short prayer.” Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord. Amen. (Psalms. 19:14).
What is a Shepherd?
Maybole is a market town, and so we all know that a shepherd looks after sheep, but, … what does a typical shepherd look like?
This is a strange question because shepherds to us are pretty normal human beings, and they wear the same clothes we would wear if we were working in fields all day, in all weathers; ... but this was not the case at the time of Jesus, because shepherds were really poor despicable creatures. They were treated as outcasts, being the scum of the earth; considered unclean, … and so was anyone associated with them.
There were in fact nobodies, not wanted nor desired by society, and they certainly were not welcome in any church; ... yet, it is amazing that God the Father choose shepherds to be the first to witness the light, and announce the birth of Jesus.
So not only was Jesus birth humble in a manger, but the announcement of his birth was also done with humble means by these lowly Shepherds who lived most of their lives in the fields. ...
And when I thought about that, I just loved it, … because to me that is saying that Jesus was so outstanding, that he needs now grand ceremony announce his presence, ... his majesty was so powerful, it just could not be hidden. "If ye have got it, you don't need to tell everybody, because they know it", and Jesus certainly had it.
The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep.
And this brings us to our Gospel reading this morning where in verse 11 Jesus boldly says, "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep, ... you know after what I have just said, Jesus is comparing himself with these unclean lowly outcasts, ... but this time he is saying, … I recognise the good work they do for the sheep, but I am the shepherd for all mankind; in a similar way he described himself as he said to Peter, I will make you fishers of men, … but here Jesus is going further by saying, I will even lay down my life for them.
And did you notice that Jesus said it three times in this short passage that he will lay down His life for us in verses 11, 15 and 17. Jesus wants us to hear that fact that he loves us so dear, ... and he wants us to know that His death is not a victory for His enemies, ... his death was a voluntary sacrifice for us.