Who Is Jesus? #4: The Good Shepherd!

Sermon Notes (Sunday August 30th, 2015)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

Who Is Jesus? #4: The Good Shepherd!

Psalm 23; John 10:11-21

 

A mother was once asked by a census-taker how many children she had. The mother replied, “Well, there’s Billy and Harry and Martha and…”. “Never mind the names,” the census-taker interrupted, “Just give me the numbers, please.” The mother angrily replied, “They don’t have numbers, they all have names!” While this might be a funny story, in our modern world this is so true. We are often reduced to numbers and statistics. In this day and age, we are no longer identities, only our “number” is. No wonder many people today have an “identity crisis.” Thankfully, the Lord Jesus Christ is not like this. He knows each and every one of us by our names, just like a shepherd knows each and every one of the sheep in his flock. After all, Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

 

We Need a Shepherd

“I am the good shepherd,” Jesus said more than once in John chapter 10. Of all the “I am” sayings in the gospel of John, this one is the most beloved and I think it is for two basic reasons. We are drawn to this particular “I am” saying because each of us instinctively knows how desperately we need a shepherd. Deep down inside we realize that we require guidance and leadership. Deep down inside we realize that we need shepherding to make our way down the roads of life. I mean, think about it. How many times in the past week have you asked someone for their opinion on a decision that you face. I am sue numerous times this week we all asked for help and guidance.

 

Everyone knows deep inside that they do need guidance in life. It’s a commonly held belief that sheep tend to wander off easily, perhaps because they can’t see very far ~ less than 15 yards. And, no matter how many times you bring wayward sheep back, they are prone to wander off again because they can’t learn from their mistakes. Moreover, sheep are defenseless and dependent. They don’t have much of a bite… no natural defense—no claws, no horns, no fangs. They have no camouflage, so when they are being chased by a wolf they are out of luck. They are vulnerable to all kinds of diseases. To make matters worse, sheep are easily frightened and confused. It doesn’t take much to scramble the simple mental yolk of a nervous sheep. They’ve even been known to plunge straight over the edge of a high cliff in a panic, one following right after another. The definitely need guidance!

 

Jesus is the Only One who is Qualified for this Task

So, one reason so many Christians are drawn to this particular “I am” statement is because they understand this need. Not only do we need a shepherd, but second, Jesus is the only One who is qualified for this task. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” Jesus says in John 10:11. I want you to know this morning that God doesn’t compare us to sheep so often in His Word to put us down. The Israelites knew what sheep were capable of and so they didn’t take offense at being called sheep. God makes this comparison in His book so often because He wants to communicate these two important truths to us: First, He wants us to know that we are designed to need a Guide in life. So when we read Scriptures like Isaiah 53:6 where it says, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way”…or Mark 9:36 where it says, “When Jesus saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” you know what they mean. Texts like these should remind us that we have an inborn need for a Shepherd and second, Jesus is the only One who is qualified for this task.

 

The Good Shepherd: Comfort and Challenge

The fourth “I am” statement puts before us today a great comfort and at the same time brings to us a huge challenge. The comfort, as you can figure out, in knowing that we have the best Shepherd ever. In Psalm 23 we see the Shepherd as our friend, our leader, our sufficiency, our comforter, our assurance, and our eternity. He is the only one who could say in Hebrews 13:5, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Best friends might leave us. Parents might abandon their children. People may fail us. But Jesus will never disown His followers. John chapter 10 puts right before our eyes the comfort and the challenge.

 

Hearing the Voice of the Good Shepherd

Again, the comfort is we have the best Shepherd ever. John 10:14 Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. The challenge is found in John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” The sheep can hear and recognize the voice of their shepherd. Not only that, but they will only follow the voice of that one shepherd.

 

If you meet up with a group of Bedouins today at an oasis in the Middle East you will see a scene very similar to what was common in first century Palestine. Although several flocks might gather at a sheep pen or at the same watering hole, the Bedouin shepherds don’t try to keep them apart, because when the shepherd is ready to leave, he or she gives off a distinctive call or whistle and the flock gathers to that shepherd. They know whom they belong to; they know their shepherd’s voice, and it is the only one they will follow. It would seem that sheep aren’t all that dumb after all; they know whom they can trust and whom not to trust, and they respond only to that one voice. If, then, we are part of Jesus’ flock, then we’ll recognize His voice and follow Him.

 

Friends, in our day there are many voices calling out to us. They appeal to our emotions, our needs, our desires, our pride, and our fears. They prey upon our sense of rootlessness, that nomadic spirit that has infected our age. And into this spiral of confusion, we hear Jesus saying to us: “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me.”

 

Friends, we should always be expecting to hear from God, because God always has something to say. Remember God is the Word in John 1:1. God the Word, is always and ever speaking and so we need to pay attention – to be in right place, at the right time, with the right attitude; we need to shut out distractions. We need to reduce the clutter and the noise; to have a clear focus when we gather to worship God, when we read Scripture, as we pray.

 

In the Reformed-Presbyterian tradition we are taught to listen both individually and collectively. Left to our own devices, without the wisdom of the community, individuals can sometimes imagine that God is saying all manner of things, but all individual understandings are to be checked out within the community of the faith. It is as part of the Body that we can best clarify all that God has to say to us and for us. Therefore, we need one another in the church, we need one another so that we might all hear, understand, and rejoice in the Master’s Voice. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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