THE GOOD SHEPHERD
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 30, 2020
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
— John 10:11-21, ESV
The third and fourth of seven “I Am” statements made by Jesus in the Gospel of John are bound together in one beautiful sermon. Yet the gravity of each “I Am” declaration requires us to weigh each one individually. They go together. They stand alone. This is yet another perfect Johannine paradox.
“I am the door” is stated twice in vs. 1-10. This two-fold proclamation affirms Jesus is God and Jesus is the only way to God. Inside “the door” is two-fold life, eternal and abundant. It is grand announcement, transcendent, exclusive, corporate, cool.
“I am the good shepherd,” also expressed twice with much elaboration in vs. 11-21, is equal in inspiration of course, but quite different in tone. It is a personal promise and speaks of God in ways that are imminent, embraceable, personal, warm-hearted.
We must go through “the door” to be saved, to be sure. But it is “the good shepherd” who does the saving. Jesus Christ is the one who saves us, sustains us, and secures for us the eternal and abundant life. Let us take a close look at who He is as “shepherd” and experience what He does for we who qualify as “sheep.”
The Good Shepherd is God
Shepherds were a common sight in Israel. They pioneered a noble, if not profitable, profession. It was hard and dangerous work. Wolves are mentioned in the text, and other biblical passages speak of predatory lions and bears, too.
There was actually a Jewish law in Jesus’ day that required shepherds to stay put in the face of one wolf, but they could run for the hills if two or more wolves reared their heads. Like any profession, shepherding had its bad and good representatives, so there were bad shepherds who would neglect or abandon the sheep, and there were good shepherds who would do their duty and then some.
Jesus did not liken Himself to any ordinary shepherd, or even a good shepherd. He said, “I am the good shepherd.” The use of the definite article “the” means Jesus is the only one of this kind of shepherd. The superlative choice among three adjectives available for the word “good” means even more.
In His encounter with a rich young ruler (recorded in the three other Gospels), the man did not call Jesus the good shepherd, but he did call him the good teacher. Jesus seized on his use of the word “good” and said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” (ref. Luke 18:19). In so saying, Jesus meant either He was not good, or that He is God, who is great and good.
Combine all four Gospels and discover that Jesus is both good and God. When this perfect goodness and the fulness of deity takes bodily form (ref. Colossians 2:9), He comes out looking like a shepherd, “the good shepherd.”
“The good shepherd,” the Lord Jesus Christ, loves His sheep, so much so He is willing to stand in the face of a million wolves and die in order to save them.
The Good Shepherd is Savior
“The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” said the good shepherd Jesus Christ.
This was a startling statement, made some six months ahead of Calvary. On the surface, it did not make sense at first. No shepherd would die for a sheep, not even a good one. Human life is simply worth more than sheep life.
So while it would have been stunning to think of a man dying for a sheep, it becomes even more unfathomable when you consider God’s willingness to die for man. But that is exactly what our God did for us, for His people, on behalf of and in place of, “for the sheep.”
A “hired hand” would not protect the sheep, but rather turn and run. Hired hands represent non-Christian religions who use religion as a false security blanket. Hired hands can be nominal Christians, too, who make superficial professions of faith only to tuck and run when real discipleship is required. Such a hand cannot lead you to God nor protect you from the onslaughts of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
A “wolf” would not die for the sheep, but rather kill them if possible. Wolves represent more precisely those worldly lusts and devilish desires that devour the very people to whom they promise pleasure. A wolf could be illicit drug, sexual immorality, or even a simple dollar bill that woos a person out of the safety of home and hearth into the killing fields where souls die and go to Hell.
Hired hands fail and wolves kill but “the good shepherd” saves! Jesus saves lovingly (ref. John 3:16), Jesus saves sacrificially (ref. Romans 5:8), and Jesus saves willingly (vs. 18).
Sheep are always in danger and the greatest danger is death. But “the good shepherd,” who is God, died so that the sheep never have to perish, but have everlasting life.
The Good Shepherd is Personal
When God saves, He does not save flocks, He saves sheep, one at a time. Salvation must be personal. You will not go to Heaven because your parents were sheep, or because you married a sheep, or because you rubbed shoulders with sheep. You must personally become a sheep through a personal relationship with “the good shepherd.” Jesus said, “I know my own and my own know me … and they will listen to my voice” (vs. 14-16).
All Christians are sheep who were once goats, and I don’t mean the greatest of all time. We were sinners separated from God and spiritually dead. But when we are reached by grace and gripped by mercy, it is“the good shepherd” who has left the ninety-nine for a moment in order to come and claim just one sheep, personally.
Goats become sheep when they are chosen by the Shepherd, converted by the Shepherd, and secured into the sheepfold by the Shepherd. Goats become sheep when they “listen to my voice,” Jesus said, when the word of the Shepherd turns them around in repentance and opens their eyes in faith. Then begins this personal relationship between the Shepherd and the sheep, which logically and theologically leads them into the corporate relationship of the sheepfold, which is the church of the living Shepherd.
It is my understanding that you cannot herd goats. They won’t listen to a shepherd, they won’t band together, they don’t care for one another. But sheep are different. Though they come to the Shepherd one by one, they do band together, they follow the Shepherd together, pursue godly things that honor the Shepherd, and are used by the Shepherd to produce more sheep, generation after generation, bringing them into this eternal and abundant fold.
Jesus is God and Jesus is Savior, but He must be your personal God and Savior to consider yourself a sheep. So hear the Lord’s voice, heed His call, and start showing the signs of a sheep. Baaaaaa!
The Good Shepherd is Controversial
As Jesus gathers His flock with the gospel, there erupts “a division … because of these words.” The flock is fine, well fed, protected, eternally secure. The division is among the goats outside who cannot seem to make up their mind about “the good shepherd.”
Jesus of Nazareth, “the good shepherd,” claimed to be the only God and Savior for those in a world of lost goats to become sheep. Let me make your options simple by using an age old alliteration. Jesus Christ was either a liar, a lunatic, or He is Lord.
If He was a liar, He was also a fool. He made no money off His scheme, achieved no high office, and let himself get caught in a conspiracy between the right and the left only to be crucified in the middle. But His lies were not the reason for His demise, for He told none.
If He was a lunatic, as every other would-be messiah has proven to be, then He would have been forgotten like a lump of coal on the ash-heap of history. There would not be a thousand books written about Him, nor would the book of books have a second testament. So He could not have been mad.
That only leaves us with the last option, Jesus Christ is Lord. If Jesus is Lord, then let the clamor and division cease. Let sin no more abound. Let unbelief be erased. Repent and believe the good news about “the good shepherd,” and accept Him as your personal God and Savior today.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org