The Sheep and the Shepherd: Key Characteristics of God’s True Sheep
John 10:22-30 The Sheep and the Shepherd (Key Characteristics of God’s True Sheep) Introduction: For the last two weeks we have been discussing the work of Jesus as our Good Shepherd. Jesus is again going to talk to us about the Shepherd and the sheep which gives us a good opportunity to talk about who exactly the sheep and what they do…We have discussed the many blessings and securities of Jesus being our Good Shepherd these last weeks and I hope that they have touched our hearts and minds, but the most important part of the Good Shepherd teaching is to know whether or not we are a part of this scenario. Are we sheep? Are the benefits of this amazingly powerful, faithful, ever loving, personable, life giving, creation redeeming Shepherd ours? Jesus gives us the criteria by which we can test ourselves to know whether or not we are his sheep and he is our shepherd. This is one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves. 1. The Context 1. “At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.” 2. The feast of dedication is what we know today as Hanukkah. Hanukkah was a eight day holiday that commemorated the recapturing of Jerusalem and the rededication of the temple from the Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanies. This similarly to the feast of Tabernacles was a festival of light, but not looking back to the light of God’s presence in the wilderness, but the future light of glory and renewal that Messiah would bring. There was a Messianic expectation in the hearts and minds of the people during this festival. 2. The Question: 1. “So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 1. Knowing the context, we understand the Jews question to Jesus. Because they are already in expectation they want to know plain and simple if he is Messiah. No more holding them in suspense, they want a yes, or no answer. 3. The Answer: 1. “Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.” 2. Why doesn’t Jesus just tell them, yes? Isn’t that part of the claim of the Gospels- that Jesus is the Christ? As we’ve studied this book we realize that this is not a simple yes or no answer, because of the false assumptions on the Jews part. 3. Jesus cannot answer with a yes or a no, if misunderstanding is to be avoided. If he said yes, they would assume that he claimed to be the Messiah of Jewish patriotic expectation (a military leader to overthrow the tyranny and oppression of Rome); and this he is not. If he said no, he would be disavowing his mission. 4. Jesus shows that he has answered this question in both his words and his deeds, by both defining who and what God’s “anointed one” (messiah or Christ) is and what he does. 1. The issue is that they do not believe, because they are not his sheep. 2. We said last week that the great story or narrative of the scripture is this: That God was at long last restoring his broken creation through the work of redemption by his Son, Jesus Christ. God created the world good, it was defiled and broken through man’s disobedience, causing individuals, families and nations to continually turn from God towards futility leading to greater depravity and death. Because God is Just he is righteously angry with our sin and must punish sin. Because God is love he sent a savior who through his perfect life, substitutionary death, and victorious bodily resurrection would redeem all the creation, bringing it back into harmony with God. This is why Jesus is called the door. He is the one way to get back to God, to be a part of his new creation, his redeeming of the world. This is why Jesus is called the Good Shepherd because he came not only accomplish this work of redemption but to bring us individually, and personally into it. 1. Now it is only by faith, trust in Jesus, that we are made a part of this renewal. But what does that faith look like? What is the proof of true faith or what are the marks of true Sheep? 4. The Proof 1. This is the main question of this section: Who are the sheep of the Good Shepherd, who belongs to the fold of God,and what is their assurance in that place? 2. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 1. Jesus sheep are people who, first and foremost, fundamentally listen to Jesus’ voice. 1. Jesus’ sheep are in a constant and continual state of hearing and listening. They are “Christophonics” - Christ-listeners, whose passion is hearing, listening to, seeking out again and again, like food for the soul, the greatest piece of news ever given to the world - The Voice, the word of God through the work and word of Jesus. True sheep hang onto the word of Jesus. -Bruner 2. There are so many voices speaking into our lives. Voices telling us where to get our value and identity. Voices telling us what is most important. Voices telling us what is true and what is false. Who do we listen to? It implies that we aren’t listening to any other voices… 3. For the true sheep, One Voice defines all truth for us, and that is -The Voice- the Word of God, both written and incarnate. We must be people of the book, people that listen to The Voice. 4. The word of God is of utmost importance and top priority in our lives. “Keep these Words in circulation. Speak and preach them! Hang on to them for Life! Be filled with his words and so be filled with His Spirit.” -Bruner 2. True sheep are the people that Jesus is getting to know experientially. Jesus says, “I know them.” 1. Conversation is the key to relationships, and the better we listen, the better we enter other people’s lives and the better they enter ours. 2. The Idea here is that we are conversing with Jesus, as we take in and hold on to his word we are speaking back to him in prayer. There is a constant conversation happening between the Shepherd and the Sheep and as a result we are getting to know one another better and better, we are growing in our fellowship with God through prayer. 3. You think about how in so many of the Psalms, the author is speaking directly to God about his troubles or about God’s truth that he is wrestling with. It’s clear that the author has a personal relationship with the one he is talking to. 3. They are the people who are starting to walk with and to follow Jesus. 1. Joining Christ in action.. We are walking where Jesus walks we are joining him in his deeds love and of mercy. The idea once again is an ongoing continual action of companionship. 2. Again the picture of the Shepherd and the sheep. The sheep only nowhere the shepherd goes. They follow and walk with him, they aren’t trail blazers. True sheep are those that speak and act like Jesus - the beatitudes, the fruits of the Spirit. 3. Since we are walking with Jesus it implies that we are not walking in the ways of the world and the ways of sin. 4. These are the marks of Jesus true sheep, and it is only such, that have the assurance of God’s preservation and providence over their lives…. 5. The Assurance -Six things Jesus wants his sheep to know. 1. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” 1. “I give them eternal life” -They are the people, therefore, who are receiving deep, lasting life from Jesus 1. Because they are now experiencing a relationship with the living God - the source, the well, the spring of all Life. 2. “They will never perish” -They are people who are given special assurance of an indefectible security. 3. “No one will snatch them out of my hand” - They are People who are forever safe in Jesus’ grip 1. These people are in Jesus’ grip and that is stronger than anything else in heaven or on earth. 2. The first question of the Heidelberg Catechism expresses this truth powerfully. 1. Q. What is your only comfort in life and death? 2. A. That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him. 1. It is so important for us to remember that my eternal security is not dependent upon my feeble grasp on Christ but upon his firm grasp of me. 4. The People the Father gave me are greater than any reality on earth - the preciousness of God’s church 1. Though most translations interpret this verse in references to the greatness of God the Father the literal reading of this verse is: What my Father has given me is greater than all else. The “what” is probably the Church. It is, probably to our great amazement, the single greatest human reality. 2. Ephesians teaches us a similar truth when it refers to “Christ inheritance in the saints.” 3. The meaning appears to be that the flock that the Father has given the Son is greater in his eyes than anything else on earth. It is top priority, he will look after it to the end. 5. No one will ever snatch them out of my Father’s grip. 6. “I and the Father are one.” 1. "I and the Father are one.” - The plural “are” assures the distinction of persons in the Godhead: the neuter “one” assures their identity of essence in the Godhead. 2. Where this sentence is usually used as a proof text for Jesus divinity, while showing distinct identity, and yet equality, the context is a one-ness in the mission of God and of the preservation of God’s precious sheep. Yet there cannot be unity of oneness unless there is equality..more on that next week. 3. We could appropriately paraphrase our passage to read like this: I and the Father are one great grip. Followers of Jesus are in one good pair of hands. A double grip! e have nothing to fear we are safe in the loving hands of the almighty Father and Son and nothing can separate us from this love -“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 4. This sentence is in the exact middle of our 21 chapter Gospel, and it sums up the main message of the whole gospel. Does one want part of God’s redemption of the world? Go to Jesus. Does one want to know God the Father? Look at Jesus. Does one want to know this Father’s will? Listen to Jesus. Does one want to know the Father’s love? Look where Jesus goes. Does one want to live? Walk with Jesus. Conclusion: The doctrine of the Security of the Believer must be inseparably linked to the doctrine of Perseverance. It is not an either/or option, but a both/and, biblical reality. a. While the Bible teaches that those who believe in Jesus are eternally secure it also teaches that those who believe must continue to believe to the end. Christians, while eternally secure, have the responsibility to continually listen, believe and repent, to continually cultivate a relationship with Christ and to walk with him by pursuing righteousness, love, and to continually flee sin. b. So what about us, are we a part of Jesus true sheep? i. Do we continually listen and desire the Word of Christ? Are we listening to his voice or are we listening to the voices of philosophy, self help, and the surrounding culture? ii. Are we in conversation with Jesus? Is our relationship alive? Is it personal - can we say I am his and he is mine and we are growing in our knowledge of one another? iii. Can we say we are walking with Jesus, that our lives are following his path, the character of Christ, the fruits of the Spirit are at work in our lives?