Friday, April 18, 2014

THE GOOD SHEPHERD (John Chapter 10)

Years ago, while driving down a county road near Roseburg, a strange sight caught my attention.  A sheep in the adjacent field had caught its head in a wire fence.  I pulled over to the side of the road.  The sheep, stuck and confused, was crying out, “Baa, Baa,” but there were no other sheep around and no shepherd nearby to hear.  I supposed that it might have eventually freed itself, but decided to go to the nearby home and tell the owner. 

We humans are like sheep.  The Bible frequently uses this apt description.  The English dictionary does too.  Amongst the various definitions given is “a person who is too easily influenced or led.”  In other words—“vulnerable in their stupidity.”  Why would a sheep stick its head in the fence?  Didn’t it know any better?  Being stuck there, how would it then be delivered from its predicament? 

Isaiah 53:6 speaks to our need: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way.”  We’ve all gone astray.  We’ve all, in sin, made stupid choices.  We’ve wandered down dubious pathways and gotten our heads stuck in places where they didn’t belong.  The Apostle Peter likewise spoke of this human tendency to waywardness: “For you were continually straying like sheep” (1 Peter 2:25).

Jesus declared Himself to be the “Good Shepherd” (John 10:11, 14).  In contrast to others who were “not concerned about the sheep” He does care (John 10:13).  “And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).  We are, in sin, “distressed and downcast,” the good news is that there is One is sympathetic to our need.  The good shepherd came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).  “The tax-gatherers and sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him” (Luke 15:1).  They were wayward sheep in need of a shepherd who would care for them.  “Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’  And He told them a parable saying, ‘What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ (Luke 15:2-6).  He has sought us out and heaven itself rejoices once we are found (Cf. Luke 15:7).

He is the good shepherd.  He is good by nature and good in all that He does (Cf. Psalm 119:68).  His loving concern for us is without question because He has sacrificed everything for us.  King David was a shepherd and a good one.  “When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock (he) went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth” (1 Samuel 17:35).  Jesus, the good shepherd, demonstrated His loving concern in “laying down His life” that he might conquer our greatest enemies—sin and death.  Four times in eight verses this expression, “laying down His life,” appears (John 10:11-18).  His essential goodness, as a loving and well-qualified shepherd, has been demonstrated in that He willingly gave His life for us.  No one took it from Him, He laid it down on His own initiative (John 10:17-18).  He cared that much for His wandering sheep.

In the laying down of His life He bore our sins.  Isaiah 53:6, “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”  “He gave His life, what more could He give?”  The Good Shepherd “bore our sins in His body on the cross that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.  For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian for your souls” (1 Peter 2:24-25).

How good it is to have a Good Shepherd loving us and caring for us and watching over us!  From time to time we might find ourselves, like that stupid sheep, in some pretty strange predicaments.  It’s good to know that we have in Jesus a Guardian for our souls, a Good Shepherd who cares (Cf. 1 Peter 5:7).  “Savior, like a shepherd lead us, much we need Thy tender care!”

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