Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Men do not want a Messiah unless he is tame; men want what they want. Becoming a sheep with a powerful shepherd is humiliating, because someone else is in control.

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly." Jesus answered, "I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one."

John Wesley wrote: "Never did any prophet before, from the beginning of the world, use any one expression of himself, which could possibly be so interpreted as this….if he was not God he must have been the vilest of men." [1]

The religious leaders did not want to hear what Jesus said. With that last statement, the Father and I are one, Jesus made a claim that was considered blasphemy. They considered Jesus a heretic and an enemy. It was a claim that others have made, but only Jesus had his claim validated; all the other tombs still have dead men in them!

The question is, Why did it make the religious leaders so mad?

The answer lies within human nature. Men do not want a Messiah unless he is tame; men want what they want. Becoming a sheep with a powerful shepherd is humiliating, because someone else is in control.

As I was preparing to enter this world about sixty years ago, Mom and Dad were hoping I’d be a girl. (I have but one sibling, a brother who was born first – you do the math!). They even confessed they had a name picked-out for me…’twas not a manly one! (Do all the guessing you want – I’m not telling!).

Well, the fact is, I wouldn’t cooperate – I was (and still am) a boy! Now, they didn’t send me back to the manufacturer, but that’s what the Pharisees wanted to do with Jesus. They didn’t have any more control over him than Mom and Dad had choice with me.

The hostility of the Pharisees was what Jesus meant when he said they weren’t part of his flock. And with that statement Jesus set up the analogy by which God’s flock has been known ever since…sheep!

This morning, let’s look at some of the realities of the relationship between the Shepherd and His sheep.

I. Sheep Wander, Shepherds Seek

My friend, Rev. Tom Goode sent me a quote by Margaret Guenther: To be fully known is not possible in our human relationships, but it is the foundation of our relationship with Christ. To be known, fully known, is both painful and profoundly comforting. We accept the humble status of sheep, let our masks and defenses drop away, and allow the shepherd to carry us on his shoulder and occasionally poke us with his staff. Sometimes we are thwarted - the edge of the cliff doesn’t look too dangerous ... I wasn’t going to wander very far, honest!

Sheep do wander! There is a story of an American tourist who was traveling in the Middle East. He came upon several shepherds whose flocks had intermingled while drinking water from a brook. After an exchange of greetings, one of the shepherds turned toward the sheep and called out, "Manah. Manah. Manah." (Manah means, "follow me" in Arabic.)

Immediately his sheep separated themselves from the rest and followed him. Then one of the two remaining shepherds called out, "Manah. Manah." and his sheep left the common flock to follow him. The traveler then said to the third shepherd, "I would like to try that. Let me put on your cloak and turban and see if I can get the rest of the sheep to follow me."

The shepherd smiled knowingly as the traveler wrapped himself in the cloak, put the turban on his head and called out, "Manah. Manah." The sheep did not respond to the stranger’s voice. Not one of them moved toward him. "Will the sheep ever follow someone other than you?" The traveler asked. "Oh yes," the shepherd replied, "sometimes a sheep gets sick, and then it will follow anyone." [2]

The point is hardly strained for us here – wandering from Christ, be it worship, stewardship, lust…choose your poison…it is a case of brinksmanship with the cliff. We all do it, but we should all be encouraging one another….bleating our little bleaters till we’re hoarse…keeping the flock together, following the Master.

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