Summary: A sermon about the beauty of following Christ.

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“The Good River Raft Guide”

John 10:11-18

A friend of mine came back from Scotland and Ireland and talked about all the pictures she had taken of the countryside.

But when she got back and looked at the pictures she noticed that in almost every picture, there were sheep!

And yet, how often do we, here in East Ridge and North Georgia see sheep as we drive along the road?

And then, here we are…

…we read about sheep in the Bible and speak of our congregation as God’s flock…

…but the imagery of sheep, shepherds and flocks of sheep are pretty foreign to most of us.

Speaking for myself, at least, when I think of sheep and shepherds what often comes to mind are those nostalgic characters and serene images from stained glass windows.

But in Scripture, shepherds were tough and resilient.

They had been trained from their youth to be tough in all circumstances, and in some cases they might have to lay down their lives for the sheep.

So, a good shepherd is not only a guardian of the sheep, but almost like a Marine with eyes in the back of his or her head…

…knowing at every turn that the sheep’s enemies are hiding and ready to pounce.

The good shepherd is scarred and weather worn.

His clothes are dirty and ragged.

He smells nasty.

And he guarantees that the sheep will be safe no matter what.

So, the life of a shepherd was anything but picturesque.

It was dangerous and risky.

Shepherds were also pretty rough characters around the edges.

By this I mean that they spent their time out in the open fields rather than in “polite society.”

So for Jesus to say, “I am the good shepherd” would have been kind of a “turn-off” to the religious elite and the well-educated snobbity snobs.

A modern day equivalent might be for Jesus to say, “I am the good janitor.”

Or, “I am the good migrant worker.”

Or “I am the good river raft guide.”

Now, why do I say “river raft guide?”

A year or so ago, Clair and I took a ride down the rapids of the Ocoee River.

And we had a great raft guide.

He was so “into his job and always telling jokes.”

I know this is somewhat inappropriate, but one of his jokes went like this, “What is the difference between Big Foot and a female River Raft Guide?”

“One is hairy, smelly and lives in the woods.

The other is just a myth.”

Of course, a good River Raft Guide, male or female, does keep you safe!!!

“I am the good shepherd,” Jesus says.

And most of us are familiar with this, and comfortable with it.

But as we take a closer look, the portrait Jesus is painting of Himself is one in which our gentle, loving Savior is also a Man of Steel Who will not allow any of the sheep to be trampled on or exploited in any way without having to run over Him first!!!

Can we think of Jesus Christ this way?

Can we think of our God as careful and loving, but tough in guarding His beloved at the same time?

Jesus is, after-all, the One Who overturns the money changer’s tables, but also touches the leper to bring about healing.

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