Sundays: 9 & 11am LATEST MESSAGE

Good Shepherd. Best Life.

Matt Densky - 3/8/2020

(The break in our Bibles between chapter 9 and chapter 10 is not present in John’s mind as he’s writing his Gospel and therefore we should see a seamless thought from one to the other. Jesus begins chapter 10 as a response to the Pharisees in chapter 9 who have outcast the formerly blind man and especially to the Pharisees who are asking Jesus, “Are we also blind?” (9:40). Jesus’ introduction of the shepherding metaphor seems to be his response to the spiritually blind, power-hungry, toxically religious Pharisees who are not shepherding God’s people well at all. ) 

A few months ago I was on a trip in the Canadian wilderness. No map, no real trails, just territory in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta. I consider myself a seasoned outdoorsman and am extremely familiar with hiking and mountainous terrain, but oftentimes risk reveals just how much you don’t know. For all my experience in the East Coast mountains, I have only been in the Rockies three times. On one particular night, my guide and I were attempting to hike out, locate the car, and make it back to base camp. We had done a formidable amount of hiking that day and from the top of one particularly steep mountain were able to scope out the best exit strategy for the evening. Everything seemed so simple from the top. But as night fell, a storm descended. Ominous clouds rolled in quickly as well as strong wind, creaking trees, and disorienting darkness. As we attempted to find our way, there were times I was completely turned around. Sometimes the thought of how far away from home I was would creep into my head. Or sometimes I would think through hypotheticals like, “What happens if something happened to my guide right now? How would I get him out of here?” Or I would wonder what lies through the darkness that my flashlight can’t discern. We had been seeking signs of grizzlies and cougars all week, not to mention the wolves howling near our tent every night. It’s amazing how when the right circumstances combine, fear begins to blossom and you begin to focus more on the “what ifs” rather than the “what is”. As we bushwhacked through the forest that night I was whole-heartedly leaning into my guide for safety and direction. Repeatedly I would look at him, his body language or expressions to see if he was confused or worried. But time and time again his resolve and ease would merit more trust until eventually, we were out.  

You don’t have to be navigating the wilderness to have the same emotions. Oftentimes life feels like a wilderness without much direction or safety. Circumstances can change all around us drawing our focus to fears and stirring our emotions to helplessness. What do we do in these moments? Who do we turn to? Is there a way to avoid them altogether? Does Jesus offer anything to this?

SECTION 1: JOHN 10:1-6

Nowhere in these verses does Jesus designate himself (yet) as the good shepherd he is talking about, but since he does later in the passage we can assume the description of the shepherd in these verses applies to Jesus as well.  

In response to the Pharisees who claim knowledge about God and claim “sight” Jesus reveals that they are actually the blind ones (spiritually) (John 9:39-41). To illustrate his point Jesus will use a metaphor of shepherding. In verses, 1-6 Jesus describes a communal sheep pen of sorts or some sort of holding area for a flock. There is one way in and only the shepherd is permitted through the front door. Others, who desire the sheep but are not good shepherds have had to find some sort of alternative way in, but Jesus designates them as robbers and thieves. They are strangers to the sheep.  

The shepherd, alternatively, has every right to be there. He comes in through the front door in plain view and what’s more, the sheep know who he is because they recognize his voice. They hear him call their names and they trust him. The shepherd leads them out and goes before them.

  • The Pharisees had gotten off track over the years and were no longer shepherding God’s people well.
  • Jesus knows us intimately and calls us by name.
  • Jesus goes before us and guides us.

SECTION 2: JOHN 10:7-10

Jesus designates himself as the door itself of the sheep pen which might seem a little odd. We might have expected him to jump right to being the shepherd, but instead says he’s the door. In rural Israel, there would be small enclosures in the hills and mountains. When a shepherd would take his sheep out to pasture for days at a time he would use these enclosures to securely place his sheep during the night time when predators would lurk about. These enclosures would be a nearly complete circle with a small gap between the points of the ring. Once all the sheep were in and accounted for the shepherd would then lay in the gap and become the very door to the enclosure. No sheep could wander off and no predator could get in without the shepherd allowing it to be so. 

Jesus then goes on to compare the agenda of the thieves and robbers with his own. They come to kill, steal, and destroy, but Jesus gives life.

  • Jesus protects us and keeps us safe from those who would seek to destroy us.
  • Jesus offers the best life possible.
  • Jesus provides for us by leading us to pastures

SECTION 3: JOHN 10:11-21

Jesus now clarifies what he’s been alluding to all along. “I am the good shepherd.” Four times in this passage Jesus says that the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, alluding to his death on the cross. So how does the good shepherd give us the best life possible? Through his sacrifice. But Jesus doesn’t just lay down his life. He also takes it up again, alluding to the resurrection. It is because of this statement that the conclusion of Jesus’ teaching here lands on him being insane or demon-possessed. I mean, imagine hearing this in real life. Some guy who’s already in dispute is calling you sheep, calling himself shepherd, says that he will die because he chooses to, but will also come back to life because he chooses to. I think a few of us might also be scratching our heads at this and maybe even conclude something similar, “this guys is crazy.”

Jesus also in this passage gives insight into one of the greatest mysteries of the work and plan of God. He says that there are sheep from a different flock that he must also bring in, referring to Gentiles and the work of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Jesus goes on to say that once grafted in, there are not two flocks, but one. We are one people, one family of God.

  • Jesus began this passage as a response and correction to the Pharisees. Jesus loves the Pharisees and therefore a good shepherd will correct his sheep by bringing them back.
  • Jesus is the good shepherd who will both die for his sheep and come back from death forever
  • Jesus is making a new flock of sheep which includes Gentiles.

CONCLUSION

How do we navigate this life? How do we have an abundant life? Proximity. A closeness with Jesus. This is only possible through believing in him as the good shepherd and following him closely as he guides, protects, provides, and corrects.