[SW123] 1/11/14 message notes by Rev. Susan J. Wynn ©2014
“The Good Shepherd”
(These are just brief notes that I wrote after the message; there is much more if you watch it on Vimeo.)
Ezekiel 34:11-15 God’s promise, but keep your place there, because I think the Lord will take us back to Ezekiel 34.
John 10 God’s promise fulfilled by Jesus Christ!
The Jewish leaders had just rebuked Jesus Christ for healing a man born blind, because He did it on a sabbath, the day of rest when absolutely nothing was to be done. They rebuked Him for doing something no one had ever done before in history — he healed a man who was born blind, not one who became blind later, but one born without the ability to see.
It was truly only something God could do! By rebuking Him, the Jewish leaders denied that Jesus was God in the flesh.
And so Jesus says, in John 10:1, “Truly, truly . . .” He is telling them truth, He is saying “Amen, amen,” He is saying, “Believe!” There are those who are thieves and robbers who have climbed over the fencing where the sheep are kept, and have stolen sheep.
In Matthew 21:13, Jesus clearly identifies those who have made the Temple of God a place of shady business deals that cheat people coming to make offerings to God. The leaders of Israel, and those who work for them, have made the house of God a house where robbers live and plan their next caper!
But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. There are two ways sheep are protected at night:
1) In cities and towns, there were large sheep pens that contained several shepherds’ flocks. In the morning, each shepherd would come and call his sheep, and his sheep (and no others) would come out of the pen and follow him, because they knew his voice. Another shepherd could dress up in that shepherd’s clothing, but the sheep still would not follow the stranger. It was the voice, not the appearance, that they followed.
2) In the fields, the shepherd would protect his sheep by building a hedge, usually of thorn bushes, to deter any wild beast from coming over it to grab a sheep and run off with it and eat it. The shepherd left an entrance open for the sheep to go in, and then he himself laid down in that space. Thus, he laid down his life in order to protect the sheep from being stolen and eaten. He fought off wild beasts that tried to attack him in order to get to the sheep.
So the one who enters the sheep pen in a city or town, that one is a shepherd. The doorkeeper opens, and he calls his own sheep, and they follow him because they know his voice. These sheep won’t follow a stranger’s voice, because they do not know his voice, only their shepherd’s. They know his voice, and that word “know” means a full knowledge. There is no hesitation; they gladly follow!
The disciples and the Jewish leaders and the crowd didn’t understand. So Jesus spoke plainly, saying:
I am the Door! I am the One who lays down His life for the sheep! And what about all those religious leaders who said you must follow rules and dot i’s and cross t’s but never ask the Lord to change your heart? They are thieves and robbers. Personal gain is their motive. They use false scales and rob, they make money on rule-following. They take from you what is of ultimate importance — entrance into life as God has it, eternal life! But Jesus says His sheep refused to heed these false teachers.
Then He repeats that He is the Door. Just as in the fields, His sheep will freely go out and come into the pen He has made for them, and He will lead them to good pasture, the very best pasture. He will feed them His truth, and His truth will set them free, indeed!
But the thief, those false teachers and Satan who is behind their teaching, they have come to steal the truth from the sheep, to kill them and eat them. They have come for personal gain, for prestige, for power, for selfish reasons. Their teaching will make them rich and send their followers to hell.
In stark contrast, Jesus says He has come that the sheep who follow Him will have life, zoe, life as God has it, abundantly, superabundantly, until it overflows! Oh, yes, His life will overflow you if you enter into life in Him. You will see that you merely existed before, once His life comes into you!
He is the good shepherd. He is not a hireling, who does not care for the sheep. He takes care of you, He leads you out and brings you into great spiritual nutrition, to places of rest, where you rest from your own works and let God do His through you.
Hirelings, when they see trouble coming, will flee, because they’re in it for their own gain. They really don’t care about you. Then you’re wide open for wild beasts to carry you off.
God speaks to today’s hirelings in Ezekiel 34, starting in Verse 1. Today, the Lord prophesies through me to the shepherds of the church who are hirelings. Woe to you, hirelings, for you have fed yourselves and not the sheep! You are in it for personal gain, prestige, and power. You do not love the sheep, but you love the money they give you. You love being famous. You love the power that comes from that.
Hirelings, the Lord says you shear the best sheep — the fat ones — and you eat them. You do not feed them. They feed you. Hireling, you have not done Isaiah 61. If Christ was in you, you most assuredly would. But He is not, so you do not. You have scattered My flock, says the Lord, but I will gather them.
They will hear My voice. They will get to know it in My word. They will know Me (John 10:14), and I will know them, in holy intimacy, in relationship, experien-tially, they will know Me by experiencing Me. And they will have the choice to turn from following hirelings, and return to Me. I will gather My sheep to Myself.
Beware, O church, of hirelings. You cannot tell who they are if you are not in the Word, knowing the voice of Jesus Christ who is the true and Good Shepherd! He is the Door who laid down His life and took it back up again so you may not only have life as God has it, but His resurrection power in you. See Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1, when Paul calls the Ephesians to know experientially God’s resurrection power by being filled with His Holy Spirit!
The Door, Jesus Christ, gives His life for you that this may happen. The Father loves Him because He lays down His life. And it is not just for Israel that He does it, but for those who are not of Jewish blood lines — those who are often called Gentiles, in the Bible. The Gentiles, and Jews who believe in Christ, will be one flock, and He will shepherd them. They will know His voice, and run from the voices of the hirelings and the voice of Satan himself!
Just as Jesus lays down His life of His own initiative, so must we. He says we must lose our lives to gain His life, not by literally dying, but by turning away from mere existence and toward life as God has it, by believing into, by moving through, the Door and into life!
Pilate had no authority over Jesus. The Jewish leaders who cried out for Him to be crucified had no authority over Him. God the Father gave God the Son authority to lay down His life of His own accord, and to take it back up again. He was commanded to do it, and He was an obedient Son!
In John 10: 25-28, Jesus responds to the Jews who came against Him for healing a man born blind on the sabbath. He has told them He is the Christ, the Son of God, by what He has done. No one but God could heal a man born blind! He says, “Believe the works I do!”
But He also says that there are some who won’t believe, because they have chosen not to. They are not His sheep, not because He excludes anyone. God says that He doesn’t desire any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But some will refuse. It is sad, but it is true.
The sheep that are Christ’s hear His voice. They heed it. He knows them experientially, in a holy intimacy, and they know Him in the same way.
He is the Good Shepherd, and He says to those who are listening to hirelings that tickle their ears, “Come!”
He is the Good Shepherd, and He says to those in the world, “Come!”