Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Good Shepherd

As you read through the book of John, you will encounter 7 different conversations in which Jesus makes very specific, far reaching, and some might say, outrageous statements about Himself. Jesus does not just claim to know these things, or explain these things.  He blatantly claims that He
is these things.  If true, the implications, and impact are tremendous.  The implications reach deep into our real, daily lives.  The impact involves life-changing transformation with everlasting consequence.

John 6: 35, 48 I am the bread of life
John 8: 12, 9:5 I am the light of the world
John 10:9 I am the gate
John 10:11 I am the good shepherd
John 11:25 I am the resurrection and the life
John 14:6 I am the way, the truth, and the life
 John 15:1 I am the true vine

You can personalize the implications of each statement by inserting your name in place of “the” in each statement. For example, “I am Cedric's bread of life”  , “I am Cedric's gate." I encourage you try that in your devotional life in the coming week and see what an impact it has on your belief and behavior. Perhaps reflect on what difference these statements should make in your personal inner life, your work life, your church life, your family life, etc.

Before us today is: I am the Good Shepherd. People would have pricked their ears up when they heard that ... people perhaps listening in on another conversation would have heard that in the background and would have turned to listen. Why? ... because the people of Israel were longing for good shepherds, they knew that the shepherds over them, the scribes, pharisees, teachers of the Law, the Sadducees, were not the best shepherds. They saw the arguments (of which we see a glimpse of in the gospels) and the divisions between them, they'd seen the market place God's temple had become and now someone is standing up and saying, not "I am a good shepherd" but "I am the Good Shepherd." Isaiah the prophet had written about God's people being like sheep which have gone astray, David, the shepherd king had written about the Lord (God Himself) being his shepherd

Ezekiel, the prophet during the terrible time of God finally exercising judgement on His beloved chosen people through Nebuchadnezzar, prophesied a time when God Himself would be Israel's shepherd:

“‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, .... I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd.  I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.... You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.’”

I myself will search for my sheep and look after them: All Israel remembered the time when God searched for His people (in Egypt), gathered His people together in one flock and led them (at the Passover), defeated the pursuing wolf (pharaoh and his army) and then led them as a shepherd in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night for forty years. During that time He fed them, led them beside still waters, disciplined them, sometimes severely with plague or death or letting an enemy defeat them (they had to learn that you don't mess with the Lord who is your shepherd), but always He was with them, He was Emmannuel, God in their midst, they just had to open their eyes and they would see God, their shepherd, in fire or cloud. Then, after 40 years, no more cloud, no more fire, no more manna.

The Bible does not tell us specifically when the pillar of cloud and fire stopped leading the children of Israel, but two Scriptures come to mind which may bear on this question.  Numbers 33 tells us about all the places where the Lord led His people, step by step, obviously by the cloud and fire – but it ends on the Plains of Moab (Numbers 33:49).  In Joshua 5:11 we learn that the manna stopped after they crossed the Jordan River and were in the Promised Land.  Maybe the miraculous guidance by cloud and fire stopped as well once they had arrived.

And, just as you and I would, they missed the presence of God and weren't always pleased with,or well led, by the judges, prophets and kings who were meant to shepherd God's people until eventually God pronounces judgement on the prophets through Ezekiel and says:"You know what, one day I will become your personal shepherd again" ... can you imagine how they looked forward to that. They understood that when that happened, God's long awaited kingdom on earth as in heaven would happen in their midst ... and they wanted that, they longed for that ... God's rule, God's presence, God's kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy on earth as in heaven ... they were waiting and longing for that, because that would change everything

And now this chap from Galilee who has been preaching that the Kingdom of God is near, is now saying: "I am the Good Shepherd." Do you understand why this "I am" statement of Jesus' turned their heads. If you read on a few more verses to v 20 you will find the crowd divided because of this simple statement, "I am the Good Shepherd" ... some say He is stark raving mad (they probably used the word meshuggah, a yiddish word for bonkers), but others ask a little later in v 22: "How much longer will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly." But Jesus couldn't just tell them plainly because He was redefining the notion of messiahship. He would be the type of Messiah and king that God wanted and Scripture predicted, not the type of Messiah and king that the people wanted, and that messiahship and kingship was ultimately defined on the cross, which is foolishness to some and wisdom to others. To the world it is foolish to let your enemy kill you, but not in the kingdom of God. The resurrection showed that everything has been turned upside down, the resurrection showed that something new has begun, the resurrection showed, in the surprise appearances of Jesus, sometimes behind closed doors, sometimes as a person walking on the road, sometimes as a gardener, sometimes as a man having a braai on a beach giving advice about where to fish, the resurrection of Jesus showed that a new age had begun, the resurrection showed that the kingdom of God has now come in us as Jesus said it would, the resurrection of Jesus showed that the Good Shepherd is now amongst His people, guiding, leading, comforting, convicting,disciplining, forgiving, renewing, strengthening. Doing all the things a good shepherd does. 

And so their heads turned when they heard the words: I am the Good Shepherd.
As their heads turned that day, may our hearts turn this day.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own 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. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

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