Summary: Following Jesus is an everyday, day-in and day-out relationship... and it's good.
Title: The Good Life: The Shepherd and His Sheep
Text: John 10:1-10
Thesis: Following Jesus is an everyday, day-in and day-out, relationship… and it’s good!
Over the years I have been privileged to know and serve a lot of people. I hope my relationships have always been personal in nature… my hope is to be both friend and pastor. However, by virtue of what I do, it is also professional. So one of the most challenging aspects of being a pastor is when my relationship with someone is pretty much defined as professional in nature.
Baptism relationship. Confirmation relationship. Wedding relationship. Crisis relationship. Christmas relationship. Easter relationship. Funeral relationship. All encounters are defined as occasional events.
Another way to understand the difference between a personal relationship and a professional relationship is like that of a pet owner. You have a cat. You love your cat. You live with your cat. You feed your cat. You sit in your recliner with your cat on your lap. You have a personal relationship with your cat. Your pet veterinarian on the other hand only sees your cat professionally and occasionally…
I think it is safe to say, “Jesus does not want to only have a professional relationship with us.” Jesus wants to be personally engaged in our lives from day to day, day in and day out. In our text today Jesus develops that thought using the pastoral model of a shepherd and his sheep. The shepherd is Jesus and we are the sheep in this teaching.
Our relationship with Jesus is initially intended to be a saving relationship.
I. It is saving
“…the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and he leads them out.” John 10:1-5
There are two different kinds of sheepfolds mentioned in our text today. The first is a communal fold in a town where all the shepherds brought their sheep back at night after a day of grazing in the countryside. The sheep were all held in that communal fold. In that shepherds knew their sheep and sheep knew their shepherds, in the morning each shepherd gave his whistle or call or whatever and each flock followed their respective shepherds from the fold.
In the second portion of our text Jesus spoke of another kind of sheepfold typically used during summer months… the open-country fold. The open country fold was a crude enclosure. In the open country the shepherd would lead his flock through an opening into the enclosure. The shepherd would then lie down and sleep across the opening to protect his sheep inside the fold from whatever might be threatening from outside the fold.
In the open-country sheepfold: Jesus is both the Shepherd of the Sheep and the Gate
“Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved…” John 10:9
Understanding the shepherd as also the gate becomes clear in John 10:9 where Jesus said: “Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved…” The teaching that the way of salvation is found only in Jesus is reinforced in Acts 4:12 where the Apostle Peter, speaking of Jesus, taught, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”
This is not a familiar image for us… we do not think of fat lambs or beef cattle or fat hogs or roaster chickens as critters to be saved. They are critters to be eater!
Sheep in America… like most live stock are raised to be consumed. Ranchers have cattle herds to raise and calves to be fattened and sent to market. Pig farmers have sow herds to raise feeder pigs to be fattened into fat hogs and sent to market. Tyson hatches chicks which are transported to growers who fatten them in about six weeks to be sent to market.
We had a rule on the farm… never name a pet calf or pig or chicken! The kids will not eat a pet calf named T-Bone or a pet pig named Bacon or a pet lamb named Chops.
When Jesus was giving his teaching on the Shepherd and the Sheep he was speaking to an audience that had a vivid mental picture of what he was saying. They got it. It is even likely that as he was teaching he looked out over a valley and saw, here and there, flocks of grazing sheep.
If we want to see a sheep we either drive to across Colorado to the Yampa Valley where massive herds graze or easier yet… cut a deal with the Pony Express Pony Ride and Petting Zoo (home of Old McDonald’s Barn Yard Rescues) folks out of Longmont. And they will bring a petting zoo to your door which will include goats, sheep, ducks, pigs, geese, turkeys, rabbits, donkeys and llamas.