Summary: From the begging to the end of our lives the Good Shepherd: provides for us, protects us and promises to welcome us home when our journey is done.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd

By: Jason Wall

Psalm 23; John 10:9&11

June 20th, 2004

This morning we are going to look at one of the most treasured passages in all of scripture, the 23rd Psalm. Echoed in every imaginable context throughout the ages, these verses are always appropriate and never fail to resonate with relevance. I am going to recite them to you from the King James Version and if you know this passage by heart I would like to encourage you to recite these words out loud along with me…

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Like many of the Psalms in our scriptures these soulful words come directly from the heart of King David. Drawing upon an earthy agrarian metaphor David calls out to God in this prayer-song and compares his relationship with God to that between a sheep and his shepherd.

David’s words embody a measure of contentment, security and hope that we long to embrace within our own turbulent lives. There is a sense of peace that radiates from his convictions. Is it any wonder that even after three thousand years these words still reflect the deepest longings of our souls?

The 23rd Psalm takes on even deeper significance when considered alongside Jesus’ words recorded for us in the Gospel of John chapter 10 verse 11. (Roger read this passage for us earlier in the service). Jesus said…

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Proposition: When we read the 23rd Psalm in the light of Jesus Christ we begin to understand that from the begging to the end of our lives the Good Shepherd: provides for us, protects us and promises to welcome us home when our journey is done.

Did you ever have a chance to see the film Cool Runnings? This movie is several years old now and it was based around the true story of the first Jamaican bobsled team. The Jamaicans made their inaugural appearance in this winter sport in the 1988 winter Olympics hosted by Calgary. The late John Candy stared as a former American gold medallist in this high-speed sport. He would become the coach and the inspiration for the motley Jamaican bobsled crew. They are enthused by his past experience; they grew from his expertise, and they would affectionately refer to their coach as the “sled-god”.

However as the story progresses a dark secret emerges from the coaches checkered past. The coach had been an Olympic gold-medallist. But when it came time for him to defend his gold medal he was caught breaking the rules by adding extra weight to the U.S. sled, thus bringing disgrace to himself, his team and his nation.

This revelation stunned his protégés. One of the young Jamaicans expressed his amazement at why anyone who had already won a gold medal would cheat. His confidence in the man he once looked up to completely dissipated and yet he asked for his coach to explain…

“I simply had to win,” he replied. “I learned something from that experience. If you are not happy without a gold medal, you won’t be happy with it either.” (Phaneuf)

You and I may never have the opportunity to represent Canada in the Olympics, but at some level I’m sure we can all relate to this story. We can spend our every last breath and every ounce of our energy trying to get more and to acquire happiness in life. But if we see contentment as a destination that lies at some point in the future we will never arrive.

It’s like the age-old trick of motivating a donkey to pull a cart by dangling a carrot from the end of a string that is attached to a pole in the hands of the driver. The carrot may only be two feet in front of the donkey’s nose, and it doesn’t matter how fast he runs or how far he moves the donkey will never get one inch closer to his goal. The contentment, peace and joy we find in the things of this world is only temporary, but…

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