Summary: Christ will never abandon you, though your feelings may tell you otherwise, at times.
John 10:11-18 THE GOOD SHEPHERD WILL NEVER ABANDON YOU
This morning, I would like to describe someone to you, and I want you to tell me who this person is. This person has been taking care of you long before you even understood who this person was. This person has endured many sleepless nights because of you. When you were hungry, this person fed you. When you got hurt, this person did everything possible to make you feel better. When you were far from home, this person was thinking of you. This person has made more sacrifices for you than you’ll ever know. This person is even willing to die for you. And, on days like today, this person appreciates it when you acknowledge everything this person has done for you.
Who am I talking about? If your answer is “a mother,” you are wrong. This is not who I’m talking about. It’s true that a mother fits this description, and since today is Mother’s Day, these thoughts are not far from us. But the person I am talking about is Jesus Christ, the person who cares for you far more extensively and far more perfectly than even the best of mothers possibly could.
As your Good Shepherd, Jesus has been taking care of you long before you really understood who he was. Jesus has suffered many sleepless nights for you. Think, for example, of the night before he was crucified – he suffered all night to take away your sins. When you were hungry, both physically and spiritually, Jesus has fed you, through the people in your life. When you were hurt, Jesus was there, working through doctors and caretakers to heal you. When you are far from home, Jesus does more than worry about you - he sends his holy angels to protect you. And as far as sacrifices go, you and I will never fully understand just how much he has sacrificed for us. And, on days like today, really every day, Jesus appreciates it, welcomes it, when you acknowledge everything he has done for you.
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. Every year in the Christian church, three weeks after Easter, we celebrate the picture of Jesus Christ as our Good Shepherd. Sometimes this day falls on Mother’s Day, and when that happens, we spend the majority of our energy focusing on this picture of Christ as shepherd, and less energy focusing on motherhood, although those thoughts aren’t far from us today.
Why is this picture of a shepherd so common in the Bible? Today, in our society, shepherds are very uncommon – you could go through your entire life without ever seeing a live shepherd. But that wasn’t how it was back then. Every time you traveled, you would see flocks of sheep dotting the hills, and shepherds watching over them. Just as the 18 wheel truck is a very common sight as we travel from place to place today, so also then, the shepherd and his flock were very common sights as people traveled from place to place.
Back then, sheep-herding was a very common trade. Most shepherds were hired to watch over someone else’s flocks. And these hired people were paid to basically to one thing – keep the herd alive. You did this by leading them to water, and you did this by leading them from pasture to pasture. After one area of grass was all eaten up, you would lead them to another area of grass, another river of water. You would call out to them, and after awhile they would begin to recognize your voice and follow you. Leading them was one of your main jobs.
Your other main job was protecting them. Wild animals would prey on the unsuspecting flock. Thieves would try to pick one up here and there. King David, who at one time was a shepherd early in his life, recounts how he would fight off lions and bears in order to protect the flock. Now, for those hired shepherds, this wasn’t their favorite part of the job. Many of them would run off if the threat was too much – it wasn’t worth risking your life to protect one lousy sheep.
Jesus compares himself to a shepherd when he says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” This picture of a wolf attacking the flock is a picture of Satan attacking the church. There are leaders in the church, shepherds, who will abandon the church when things get difficult, when the Devil is doing everything he can to destroy the flock of God.