Posted by: Johnold Strey | April 25, 2010

Sermon on John 10:24-30

JESUS, SHEPHERD OF THE SHEEP

  1. He knows his flock
  2. He blesses his flock
  3. He guards his flock

Text: John 10:24-30

Introduction

The hymn you just sang from Christian Worship: Supplement, “The Lord’s My Shepherd, I’ll Not Want,” is a paraphrase of Psalm 23.  There are also three hymns in Christian Worship that are paraphrases of Psalm 23.  I’m sure you will agree that Psalm 23 is one of the most familiar and cherished sections of the Bible.  I’m sure that’s why so many hymn writers have paraphrased its words and transformed the psalm into metrical hymns.  But what makes this psalm so popular?  Is it the beautiful poetry?  Is it the peaceful imagery?  Is it something else?

We can appreciate the beauty and imagery of Psalm 23’s words.  We can appreciate the psalm for its “aesthetics.”   But you and I have even greater reason to appreciate the familiar words of Psalm 23.  You heard the reason earlier.  The reason comes in the Gospel for today.  We have a divinely inspired commentary on Psalm 23 that appears in John chapter 10, the “Good Shepherd” chapter of the Bible.  The words of John 10 help us to understand Psalm 23 better.  John 10 answers questions for us such as, “Who is the shepherd?” and “Who are the sheep?”  Jesus, of course, is the shepherd; you and I are the sheep.  In fact, there is a hymn in our hymnal that picks up on the words and imagery of John 10.  The hymn is, “Jesus, Shepherd of the Sheep,” and it is today’s closing hymn.  This morning we are going to use the title of that “Good Shepherd” hymn as the theme of our sermon based on John 10.  Let’s take a closer look at the Gospel for this Good Shepherd Sunday, and together we will learn about Jesus, the Shepherd of the sheep, who knows his flock, blesses his flock, and guards his flock.

I.

People in our world long for relationships.  Despite the technology that keeps us in constant communication, people are lonely.  Everyone lives in his or her little bubble; we long to get rid of the loneliness and find a closer connection to someone.  We’re looking for something that’s more than an email relationship and that goes deeper than instant messaging.

In the Gospel for today, a group of people who thought they had a close relationship with God confronted Jesus.  In fact, because they thought they had a close relationship with God, they didn’t like Jesus all that much.  They didn’t like the idea that this prophet from Nazareth was the Christ, because he wasn’t the kind of Messiah they were looking for.  For some time, these people wondered what Jesus was all about.  They finally cornered Jesus in the temple in the midst of the annual Hanukkah celebration and directly asked him what was on their minds.  “The Jews gathered around [Jesus], saying, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’  Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe.  The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.’” 

The answer to their question should have been obvious.  It’s not every day that you see a man perform the miracles they had seen Jesus perform.  They should have figured out that Jesus was the long-promised Christ and that he was the way to have a close relationship with God.  But they wanted God on their terms, not his.  Jesus was not the Christ they wanted, so consequently they continued to refuse to believe in him.

Contrast that attitude with the description of his followers, his “sheep,” in verse 27.  “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  There are two different Greek words that mean “to know” someone (or something).  One simply means to know about someone.  The other means to know someone well, to know them firsthand.  Jesus uses the second, stronger term here.  He knows his sheep well.  That means he knows you well.  He doesn’t need you to give him your social security number before you can access him in prayer.  He knows you, the members of his flock, by name.

Now we can see one reason why this picture of Jesus, the Good Shepherd of the sheep, is so comforting.  He knows you personally.  By faith in him, you have a relationship that is closer and more special than even the “family feel” of a little church like ours.

But stop for a moment.  He knows you through and through?  Better than your best friend?  Better than you know yourself?  Is that really comforting?  He knows you well enough to see your every fault?  He knows you well enough to hear your biting comments to others?  He knows you well enough to witness your life which often looks like anything but the life of one of his followers?  Maybe that’s not such a good thing that Jesus knows me so well!

Jesus’ personal knowledge about you and me would be scary were it not for the fact that he is our Good Shepherd.  As members of his flock, Jesus’ relationship with us is not one in which he vaguely knows about us.  He knows us well and cares for us more lovingly than we could imagine.  And that is why the Good Shepherd became one of us.  He becomes a sheep, a lamb, the Lamb of God.  For every time we wandered from his fold in our sin, the Lamb of God was spotless and innocent in our place.  For every time we rejected our Good Shepherd’s will, the Lamb of God was slain, his blood was shed to cleanse us from our sin and guilt.  For every time we succumbed to temptation and found ourselves dead in sin, the Lamb of God was slain, but rose again to assure us that sin’s power is no more.  Through faith in the Lamb of God, we have been adopted into the loving arms of our Good Shepherd.  That’s why the picture of the Good Shepherd is so comforting: Jesus, the Shepherd of the sheep, knows us and cares for us, the members of his flock.

II.

Very few things today come with a lifetime guarantee.  Your car warranty will expire after five years or 50,000 miles (or maybe more), because sooner or later your car isn’t going to run like it used to, and eventually it won’t run at all.  Your computer warranty won’t last forever.  Sooner or later the technology will advance to the point that your up-to-date top-of-the-line computer will be yesterday’s news.  We live in a world that expects decay, a world that expects that things won’t last.

That’s why Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel strike us.  Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”  Look at Jesus’ words carefully, especially in verse 28.  “I give them eternal life.”  Give.  Not “might give.”  Not “will give sometime down the road.”  He gives you eternal life, right here, right now.  Often we think of eternal life as something that begins in heaven, but the fact is eternal life begins on earth at the baptismal font and finds its culmination in heaven.  He gives you eternal life now, and Jesus assures emphatically that you shall never perish.

Now we can see another reason why the picture of Jesus, the Good Shepherd of the sheep, is so comforting.  He blesses you personally.  By faith in him, you have blessings of far greater value and lasting quality than anything you could ever imagine.  A heavenly adoption into God’s family; sins forgiven and guilt removed; a promise from God that he will bless you in every life circumstance; certainty about the future and where you’re heading; strength to get you through the tough times.  And all these blessings are yours now.  No waiting list.  No “check is in the mail” claims from God.  You have his blessing and assurances at this very moment.  That’s why the picture of the Good Shepherd is so comforting: Jesus, the Shepherd of the sheep, richly and graciously blesses us, the members of his flock.

III.

There is a lot of talk in the news right now about health insurance.  The insurance industry as a whole certainly makes up a major chunk of our economy.  Think of how many kinds of insurance policies are out there – homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance, life insurance, health insurance, disability insurance, car insurance, and the list keeps going on.  The purpose of all the insurance policies you have is to protect you.  Heaven forbid that your home should burn down, but if it does, your insurance policy will help you get back on your feet again.  If you end up in the hospital for surgery, your health insurance will cover costs that would otherwise put you in bankruptcy.

 Did you know that you have a spiritual insurance policy as a Christian?  You do, and the protection plan is literally out of this world.  At the end of today’s Gospel, Jesus said, “No one can snatch [my sheep] out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”  Parents know how protective they are with their own children, especially when they are young.  If you’re crossing the street with them, dad might take his child’s hand, mom might take the other hand, and they’ll walk that way across the street.  When you take your child by the hand like that, you’re protecting them.  You are making sure that they won’t get in harm’s way, and you’re probably giving them a little sense of security, too.

As we cross the metaphorical street known as life on this earth, we have the guidance and protection of our heavenly Father and our Brother, Jesus Christ.  God the Father and God the Son take us by the hand and protect us from spiritual harm in this life.  Given our nature that is so prone to straying away from God, we might wonder if we can make it to heavenly safely.  And if we were on our own, we’d have good reason to wonder about that.  But wonder no more!  As lovingly and faithfully as a shepherd watches over his flock, so your Good Shepherd watches over your faith.

Now we can see still another reason why this picture of Jesus, the Good Shepherd of the sheep, is so comforting.  He guards you each moment of your life.  He uses his Word to build you up and protect you from the assaults of temptation and sin.  He uses his Supper to build you up and guard your faith through the trials of life.  He never allows anything to enter into your life that you cannot bear.  And when he allows hardship to come, he only does so to build you up and strengthen your confidence in his rock-solid gospel promises.  That’s why the picture of the Good Shepherd is so comforting: Jesus, the Shepherd of the sheep, constantly protects us, the members of his flock.

Conclusion

The hymn we sang before this sermon was a paraphrase of Psalm 23.  “Jesus, Shepherd of the Sheep,” the hymn we’ll sing at the end of the service, reflects many of the thoughts contained here in John 10, the “Good Shepherd” chapter of the Bible.  I pray that our brief study this morning will give a little added meaning to those cherished hymns.  After all, the real beauty and comfort doesn’t lie in the beauty of the words or the familiarity of the words, but in the substance of the words.  Jesus, the Shepherd of the sheep, knows you by name, blesses you each day, and guards you constantly on your heavenward journey.  Amen.

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