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Sermon 07 - John 10 - The Good Shepherd and His Sheep

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1.      ((illus)) Most of us are familiar with the now syndicated TV program called Candid Camera.

Perhaps you remember the “Candid Camera” TV program that took place at an exclusive prep school where all of the students were well above average.

The “Candid Camera” people posed as career consultants who were going to advise these brilliant young men concerning the careers that would be best suited to them, on the basis of “tests” and “interviews” that seemed (to the students) quite authentic.

One young man eagerly awaited the “counselor’s” verdict. Surely the adviser would tell the boy to be a college president or a bank president, or perhaps a research scientist. But, no, the “counselor” had other ideas.

You should have seen the look on the boy’s face when the “counselor” said: “Son, after evaluating your tests and interview, I’ve decided that the best job for you is—a shepherd.”

The student did not know whether to laugh or cry. After all, who in his right mind would want to be a shepherd to a bunch of dumb sheep?

2.      As we continue looking at the life of the Intimate Jesus, our text is John 10 which focuses on the image of sheep, sheepfolds (sheep pens), and shepherds.


a.    Included in this text is one of the most striking features of John's gospel  - the presence of what are known as the "I AM sayings" of Jesus.

b.    In the gospel of John, Jesus defines himself with such famous statements as:

i)        "I am the bread of life....

ii)      I am the light of the world....

iii)    I am the resurrection and the life....

iv)    I am the way, the truth and the life....

v)      I am the true vine…."

c.    And in the portion of the  10th chapter of John this morning, we find two of the I AM sayings.

i)        A third is in :36

ii)      "I am the gate (door) of the sheep..." and

iii)    "I am the good shepherd..."

3.      Here’s the problem with this text:

a.    ((illus)) Imagine yourself in the year 4,000 A.D. You are on an archeological dig, and you uncover a document that appears to be very old, 2,000 years old to be exact. It’s a remarkable find. As you examine the document, you are able to read its contents. It says, "Yesterday, after a round of Ultimate Frisbee, we drank a Coke while watching Jeopardy on the TV in our split-level home. Pop drive some of the dudes home in our minivan, while the rest stayed to play Mother-May-I."

b.    Now being two-millennia in the future, do you think you would have any clue as to what this letter was referring to?

c.    Worse yet, imagine the pastor of your church taking these unfamiliar terms and then using them to convey important spiritual truths!

d.   But believe when I say that this rural Middleeastern image has a great deal to do with us today, even in our urban industrialized world.

4.      The truths that cluster around the image of the shepherd and the sheep are found throughout the Bible.

a.    God uses these images for Himself - Psalm 23, etc.

b.    OT kings and prophets were sometimes spoken of  as “shepherds.”

c.    Paul used this image when admonishing the spiritual leaders in the church at Ephesus (Acts 20:28ff).

d.   The title “Pastor” literally means “shepherd.”

5.      The symbols that Jesus used HELP US UNDERSTAND WHO HE IS AND WHAT HE WANTS TO DO FOR US.

6.      But as much as we may treasure this image of Jesus as our shepherd, the downside of the metaphor is that it makes all of us sheep.

a.    ((illus)) I recently read about a man who grew up in Montana, where, he claims, they have so many sheep that he pronounces the state's name "Mont-aaaa-na."

b.    One of this man’s topics was the stupidity of sheep.

i)        He said that on a cold night, sheep will pile on top of one another to stay warm; the sheep at the bottom of the heap often suffocate.

ii)      Unless prevented, a sheep will eat until it becomes bloated, falls over and dies, a victim of its instinctive "slop 'til you drop" mentality.

iii)    When he transported his horses and cattle, they always leaned in the proper direction when his truck went around a corner. In contrast, sheep often leaned in the wrong direction, fell over and could not get back up.

c.    A frightened sheep will sometimes walk right off the edge of a cliff.

d.   And so my dear Grace Community Church flock, as we look at this morning's scripture, we must acknowledge our massive, one-way dependency on our shepherd Jesus Christ.

7.      Let's read John 10, verses 7-18 (page)

7 so he explained it to them. “I assure you, I am the gate for the sheep,” he said.

8 “All others who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them.

9 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. Wherever they go, they will find green pastures.

10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.

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

12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will leave the sheep because they aren’t his and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock.

13 The hired hand runs away because he is merely hired and has no real concern for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,

15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.

16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice; and there will be one flock with one shepherd.

17 “The Father loves me because I lay down my life that I may have it back again.

18 No one can take my life from me. I lay down my life voluntarily. For I have the right to lay it down when I want to and also the power to take it again. For my Father has given me this command.”

8.      PRAYER

Lord, we are gathered before you this morning in our great sheep pen. Sheepishly aware of our weakness, we wait to hear our shepherd's voice. We are eager to feed on your Word. Come to your flock now, Lord, and fill this room with your mighty shepherding presence. Lead us into the ways of life and truth. Guide us along the paths you wish us to take. In Jesus' name. Amen

9.      ((illus)) A famous novelist Frederick Forsythe tells a story about Christmas Eve 1957. A young Royal Air Force pilot is stationed at a base in Germany. As Christmas approaches, he yearns to visit home, but his hopes are dashed when his commanding officer tells him that he has to stand duty on Christmas day.

He resigns himself to the prospect of a lonely holiday, when suddenly late on Christmas Eve, the word comes: he is released from duty and can fly home to England.

At ten o'clock on Christmas Eve, the young aviator climbs into the cockpit of his single-seater Vampire fighter jet and takes off under a moonless sky for the 400-mile flight home to Kent, England.

But just ten minutes out over the North Sea, there's a short in the jet's electrical system. His instrument panel goes dark, and both the compass and the standby compass fail.

Fighting a rising sense of panic, the pilot realizes he only has 80 minutes worth of fuel for the flight home. Recalling what he has been taught to do in such an emergency, he descends in altitude, slows his airspeed and flies in an emergency triangular pattern in order to be picked up on radar.

He wonders: Will anyone see me? Will help come in time? He begins to pray: "O heavenly Father, lead me home..."

Suddenly, from out of nowhere there appears beneath him a dark object - a plane that dips its wing as a signal for him to follow.

This plane leads the young aviator to a landing field with a lighted runway. As he gets into his landing pattern, the plane disappears into the night.

In aviation parlance, such a plane is known as a shepherd. As he touches down, the young pilot breathes a prayer of thanks for that unknown shepherd who found and led him home.

10.  My friends, today we live in a dark and dangerous world.

a.    In John 10, Jesus speaks of robbers, thieves and wolves.

b.    In modern times, we can add terrorists to the list of dangers.

c.    Did you ever dream that America would have a daily terrorism index?

i)        Right now it's yellow.

ii)      Not long ago, it was orange.

¨      Yellow means you should go about your business very carefully, keeping an eye out for anything suspicious.

11.  Today's business climate is also frightening.

a.    Who knows when we'll find the bottom of the stock market?

b.    Some of you in this congregation have been hit hard in the recent past.

c.    ((illus)) A cartoon in the Wall Street Journal some time ago showed a high- powered CEO behind his big desk, phone receiver in hand. The caption read, "Security? Bring me my blanket…"

12.  Where do we find security in today's world?

a.    Some parents and individuals have taken up the unofficial hobby of collecting personal protection devices: pepper spray, screecher alarms.

b.    Now cell phones have some type of GPS chip in them so you can be located by authorities if needed.


a.    :11 - Jesus says, "I am the good shepherd."

b.    I used to think that the phrase "good shepherd" meant a nice, kind-hearted shepherd.

i)        However, that's not what the word "good" means here.

ii)      Translated precisely, Jesus is saying, "I am the excellent shepherd."

iii)    Our Lord is claiming to be the Tiger Woods / Shakel Oneil of shepherds: "No wolf ever laid a paw on one of my sheep. I am the good shepherd."

c.    To drive his point home, he says in :14, I know my own sheep, and they know me,

i)        Here's a RIDDLE for you. What is the one thing God can't do?

ii)      Philosophers pose hypothetical questions about God's power: can God make a rock that would be too heavy for himself to lift? That would be some rock, wouldn't it?

iii)    I do know one thing God can't do: look out on this room and see a crowd.

¨      You and I walk in and say, "Hey, there's a nice crowd today at GCC."

¨      God looks and says, "There's Bill, and Mary and John and Barbara...and Kelly and Ken and Gladys, a Georgeann, a Ray."

d.   Maybe you are painfully aware that not everybody knows you by name, but the good shepherd knows you through and through.

i)        As we entered his sheep pen this morning he was standing there looking over each one of us, scanning our lives, saying,

¨      "Look at that cut, I need to take care of that bruise….

¨      Here's some salve of the Holy Spirit for that nasty comment that left a terrible gaping wound….

¨      Here's a momma sheep bringing her baby lambs, she looks tired, I'll give her some time beside still waters....

¨      There's a big old daddy ram who's been butting heads a lot lately; he needs time out in green pastures, the ones with 18 holes…"


¨      When we need to be out in green pastures, he answers that need.

¨      When Jesus says, "I am the good shepherd" he means, "I know my sheep completely - their diseases, their fears, their dreams and joys."

14.  And then Jesus says :14, "and they [My sheep] know me."

a.    Here's a little more "shepherdology."

b.    In ancient times, every night all the sheep from all the flocks would be herded into a single pen. That way one shepherd could have night duty, while all the other shepherds got some sleep.

c.    The shepherds didn't worry about intermingling all the sheep from all the herds. Why?

d.   Because in the morning the shepherds would line up and whistle, or call a name, and each sheep instinctively recognized the call of its particular shepherd.

e.    I have even heard that if someone tried to impersonate a shepherd by simulating his call, the sheep would sense danger and scatter in panic.

f.     Jesus says, :4 -  "My sheep know my voice."

15.  In this passage Jesus seems TO MIX HIS METAPHORS, because he also says, :7 & :9 - Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved…

a.    And so we ask, “Well Lord, are you the shepherd or are you the gate?”

b.    The answer is: BOTH.

i)        Several kinds of gates are referred to here in John 10

¨      Communal pen

(a)    At home

(b)   A gate keeper is hired for the night so shepherd can go home.

¨      Out in fields

(a)    Shepherd would lie down across the doorway to sleep, so no intruders could enter.

(b)    The shepherd became the gate.

ii)      Jesus is saying, "I'm not only the shepherd, I am also the gateway through whom you must pass into the presence of God."

16.  The implications of this statement are very controversial in our society today.

a.    We live in a marketplace of religious options.

b.    It seems that nearly every belief subscribed to in the history of human civilization is available for us to believe.

c.    And so many people take a "mix and match" approach to religion:

i)        This is called by some “pluralism”

ii)      "Let's see, I need a God...Okay,

¨      I'll take the Christian God, New Testament, not Old Testament.

¨      Now I need a code of ethics…the Eastern concept of karma seems pretty cool.

¨      What is it they say, 'may your karma run over your dogma'?

iii)    Okay, I've got a good mixture, let's try this recipe for a couple weeks."

d.   People actually attempt to create a "make your own" salad for the soul.

i)        But we are not saved by a recipe - we're saved by a relationship.

ii)      I can control a recipe by varying the ingredients.

iii)    My relationship with the shepherd is mysterious and wonderful, and it is beyond my control.

¨      Here is the issues of OWNERSHIP - Jesus is to by my only shepherd

¨      Here is the issue of CONTROL - Jesus longs to guide me - He knows what is best for my life.

17.  As a central doctrine, Christianity states that a Jewish man who lived in the first century is the sole gateway through whom all people must pass into the presence of God.

a.    It is the official doctrine of our Evangelical Free Church denomination,

b.    Article 6 - That the shed blood of Jesus Christ and His Resurrection provide the only ground for justification and salvation for all who believe, and only such as receive Jesus Christ are born of the Holy Spirit and, thus become children of God.

c.    Some may ask, "How can you put down other religions like that?"

i)        Jesus' statement is not a declaration against other religions, for the simple reason that no founder of any other religion made the claims Jesus made for himself.

ii)      Friends, there is simply no parallel figure to Jesus in all of history. Mohammed, Buddha, Confucius, Moses - none were as egomaniacal as this Galilean carpenter.

iii)    The "I am" statements are a prime example of this.

d.   Jesus actually ends the New Testament by saying, "I am the Alpha and the Omega" - the beginning and the end.

i)        There is nothing before the letter alpha in the Greek alphabet.

ii)      If we go back through endless ages to a time when there was nothing - there was already God.

iii)    Go beyond Omega into a future unimaginable, and God will be there.

iv)    There is no before God and there is no after God.

v)      God is.

e.    That is the meaning of the encounter Moses has with God at the burning bush. Moses asks God's name and God replies,

i)        "I am..." Tell Pharaoh "I am" sent you

ii)      . We wonder, "'I am' - what?"

iii)    Finish the sentence, God.

¨      But God maintained his sovereign silence, leaving us hanging on his words for centuries, until one day an awestruck John writes, "I am has come among us. In the flesh…"

¨      God's perfect self-expression has come to finish the sentence:

(a)    "I am the bread of life....

(b)   I am the light of the world....

(c)    I am the resurrection and the life....

(d)   I am the way, the truth and the life....

(e)    I am the true vine….

(f)    I am the good shepherd….

(g)   I am the gate…."

¨      And in case we miss his point, in John chapter 8:58 Jesus says, "Before Abraham was, I am..."

f.     One of the more intriguing "I am" moments in John comes in the garden of Gethsemane.

i)        The posse is closing in. Soldiers are dashing through the trees, torches are lit and swords are flashing as they swarm around him.

ii)      | X |

But Jesus has to pull back and rein in his power before they can even touch him.

iii)    Cool as a cucumber, Jesus asks, "Who is it you want?" They answer, "Jesus of Nazareth."

iv)    When Jesus says, " I am …he" Scripture says, "They went backward, and fell to the ground." (KJV)

v)      So Jesus dims his glory and power enough to allow himself to be taken prisoner, to die for you and me.

18.  :15 - Jesus says, I lay down my life for the sheep.

a.    The statement would have surprised Jesus' listeners:

i)        "What?

ii)      God was a shepherd in the Old Testament, we have no problem with the metaphor, but what shepherd would go so far as to die for his sheep?"

b.    ((illus)) Well, I recently heard of a man living in Houston, TX who was fishing in Galveston Bay when his hat blew off. The man dove in the water to retrieve the hat, and he never came up. People in Houston were sick over that - it seemed so senseless to die for a six-dollar hat.

c.    Jesus' audience probably felt the same - die for a sheep?

i)        It made no sense.

ii)      But what Jesus had in mind with this metaphor was even more incomprehensible: that God himself would die for sinners like us.

19.  My friends, you've been bought at a great price.

a.    This shepherd created you

i)        and has right to ownership

ii)      has right to control

b.    we have been separated from him by our willing wandering

i)        he has come and purchased us by his blood.

ii)      We are TWICE OWNED.

20.  Now are you willing to be owned?

a.    Can you say with complete personal confidence this morning, "The Lord is my shepherd"?

b.    ((illus)) Let me tell you candidly about a disturbing experience I often have. It highlights the thing that bothers me most about being a Pastor.


I'll meet someone who says, "I grew up in the Church. I was baptized, went to Sunday School, was involved in the youth group.

None of it meant anything to me; my parents made me do it. I went off to college and ran wild, did things I still regret.

Then I met some Christians, and they led me to the Lord."

A story like that makes me want to go screaming into the night.

21.  Friends, what was missing for these folks was a living relationship with the Shepherd.

a.    In the church, we have wonderful activities, but we must not mistake going through the motions of devotion for a real relationship with Jesus Christ.

b.    Not even baptism will make up for the lack of a living, personal relationship with the Shepherd.

c.    If you wear the brand, you must live the life.

d.   What matters in Christianity is not a recipe, but a relationship.


a.    How sensitive am I to Christ’s voice?

b.    How obedient am I to Christ’s leadership?

c.    How confident am I of my destiny?

d.   How secure do I feel in Christ’s care?

23.  Join me this morning in saying with confidence: "The Lord is my shepherd."


Lord, long ago you wept over the people of Jerusalem, saying they were like sheep without a shepherd. How you must weep over Englewood this morning because so many wander aimlessly. Lord, we pray that you would make your Church bold enough to proclaim our wonderful Shepherd. And may we who wear the brand live the life. Amen.

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