Monday, November 30, 2015

The Good Shepherd

John 9:40-10:23

“And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?

Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” (John 9:40-41)

Jesus had just said that he had come so that those who had never seen or understood the gospel would have the chance and that those who had the opportunity would be shown not to have seen what was right in front of them.  The Pharisees asked him if he thought they were blind, and  said that if they were truly blind they would be innocent, but their insistence  they knew made them guilty. 

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.  But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.

And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.  And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.  This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.” (John 10:1-6)

Jesus then gave a parable based on herding sheep, an occupation they were very familiar with.  At night Herds of sheep were kept in large corrals with armed guards.  The owner of the sheep would come openly to the gate where the guards would let him in with no hesitation.  Anyone caught sneaking in obviously was up to no good.  Most animals are very aware of any possible threat and sheep are no exception.  They quickly learn to trust their herder, but will flee from anyone they don’t know.  The shepherd who has spent time with his sheep soon learns to know each one, and often names them.  When they know him, they will come when they recognize his voice, while a stranger’s voice will drive them away.   The Pharisees understood the story but didn’t see how it related to them.

“Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.  All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.  I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.  The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:7-10)

Over the centuries there had been several who had claimed to be the Messiah.  Jesus said they were all trying to take away the people, and God’s people didn’t recognize them.  Jesus was the one the guards opened the door for, enabling the sheep to go in and out, and to be saved.  Those others were not interested in the good of the sheep, but only in satisfying themselves by killing or harming the sheep.  Jesus was and is concerned about his people, that they have everything they need in abundance and be protected from the things which might harm them. 

“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.  But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.  The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.” (John 10:11-13)

The good shepherd has an emotional and financial interest in the sheep.  As a result, he will even risk his life to protect them and keep from losing his investment.   The person who has no investment in the sheep either emotionally or financially will leave the flock to fend for themselves to avoid risk to himself, because he has nothing to lose.   Why should they put up with the problems of a shrinking attendance or low pay or buildings that need repairs?  They are not concerned about the people, but only about their own paycheck or reputation.    As a result the people are scattered and caught by wolves. 
“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.  As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.  And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” (John 10:14-16)

Jesus is the good shepherd.  He has taken the trouble to get acquainted with each of his sheep individually, and they know him.  He also has a good relationship with God, and is willing to sacrifice his life, his career and his income for his sheep.   He is reaching out to other people in an effort to bring them into the same fold.  This parable is important, not only because it shows us a lot about Jesus, but also because his is the example for pastors and church leaders.  In fact the word “pastor” means “sheepherder.”

The other sheep Jesus spoke of are the Gentiles who would turn to him.  One day, both Jewish and Gentile Christians will be united into one group.  They will no longer be Messianic Jews and Christians. 

“Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.  No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” (John 10:17-18)

Jesus said God especially loved him for his willingness to sacrifice his life for other people.  He made the point that, as God in the flesh, no one could take his life from him unless allowed them to.   He voluntarily went to the cross to be sacrificed, and at the proper time he would take it back for himself.  He was just doing what God told him to do. 

“There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings.  And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?  Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?” (John 10:19-21)

Jesus statements caused a major division among the Jews.  Some of them said he was insane and made no sense.  Others listened and said it made a lot of sense, making the point that insanity, or demon possession did not give people the ability to make a blind person see.  They were convinced there was more involved. 

And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. Joh 10:23 And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch.” John 10:22-23)

This particular event took place during the festival known as Hanukah, celebrating the rededication of the Temple in 168 BC, under the Maccabees.  It takes place about Christmas time.  

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