Bible Passage: John 10:11-17
Pastor: Seminarian Jacob Brohn
Sermon Date: August 13, 2017
Take a moment right now, and think about how many decisions you have to make each day. Think about what clothes you put on this morning. There’s one. Or what you had for breakfast. There’s 2. We make thousands of decisions every day. Life is full of them. But how many of those decisions are impactful? How many decisions really impact your day to day life, and how many are so simple that you don’t feel strongly either way. However, what if a person’s life depended on your decision?
Instead of choosing a fast food restaurant, or what video game to play, or whether to have Pizza Rolls or a TV dinner for supper, what if someone’s life was in your hands? What if you had to choose between your life, and theirs? If you saw a stranger crossing the street, and they were about to be hit by a bus, what would you do? You know you could save them. Would you offer up your life to save theirs? Would you take a bullet for someone else, or savor your own life above theirs?
Jesus posed a similar scenario to his listeners. The Pharisees were up to their usual shenanigans. They had just thrown out a man from the temple who had been healed by Jesus. They claimed to be “true” disciples because they were disciples of Moses and the law. To them, a man who claimed to be a disciple and follower of Jesus needed to get his priorities straight. His claim to follow something other than the law was utter foolishness to them, and they threw him out of the temple.
But Jesus saw straight through them. He calls them blind men, thieves and robbers. Ouch. For men who thought they knew everything, being called blind would be quite a surprise. But the Pharisees didn’t know where to look. They were blind men, stumbling through the darkness of sin without any hope of guidance..
But where should they look, if not to themselves or the Law? In the 11 verses of the “Good Sheperd” account, Jesus uses the first person pronoun, “I”, over 20 times. “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep, and my sheep know me.”(10:14) This is not another parable meant to confuse the Pharisees and give insight to his followers. Instead, Jesus paints a beautiful picture of himself as the Good Shepherd, who loves his sheep very much, knows each and every one of them, and is even willing to lay down his life to protect his flock.
A person’s voice is instantly recognizable. Think of your father or mother. Think of a good friend or popular newscaster. I would bet that right now, you can hear their voice in your head. The first voice that comes to my mind is James Earl Jones as Darth Vader in the original three Star Wars movies. What a voice, one that is tough to ever forget! A person’s voice, the sound of it, the way they speak, it is completely unique. As we become familiar with each other, we learn to recognize who someone is without even seeing the
We know the voice of our Savior. Through the Word, he reaches out and speaks to each and every one of us. By the sound of his voice, through the Word, we recognize our Savior and God, and flock to him for comfort. As we dive deep into the Word on a regular basis, we see over and over again the gospel promise that God extends to us.
As we get to know God through his Word, we are told that he knows us as well. And he doesn’t just know of us. He isn’t distant or far off, and know only the simple facts about our lives. He knows every little detail about us. He knows our needs and hopes, our desires and flaws, each and every thing that makes us all unique
However, there are those who are the exact opposite of what Jesus is to us. “The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep.” (10:18) Whoever this hired hand is, he clearly is not the shepherd. He does not own the sheep. He does not care about the sheep. To him, it’s just a job. Watching over the sheep is an obligation to him, not a privilege or delight.
Whatever his motivation is, whether it is greed or pride or a need for personal glory, he does not care for the flock in the same way that the Good Shepherd does. Now Jesus does not specify who the hired hand is, and he does not urge us to go around trying to differentiate between shepherds and hired hands. What we do know is this: when times get tough, when things seem impossible to overcome the hired hand does not stick around. He flees at the first sign of danger, and this flock of believers is the last thing on his mind.
The Good Shepherd doesn’t give up on anyone. “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” (10:16) There are those who have not yet heard the saving message of Christ crucified. But right here, Jesus gives us the “formula.” It’s simple. All they need to hear is Jesus voice, the Word, and through that the Holy Spirit works faith.
Jesus is the best shepherd of all. Not only does he love us and provide for us, he is familiar enough to us to recognize him by his voice. Jesus does not flee from danger or abandon his little sheep. He cares, immensely, for his flock, and knows each and every one of us. As King David wrote in Psalm 23, “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pasture, he leads me beside quiet waters,he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” But he also knew that serving his flock required more than a gentle word and a guiding touch. Jesus also knew that he had to make the ultimate sacrifice for his flock.
When I get excited about something, or think that it’s really important, I tend to repeat myself. I want other people to hear what I have to say. Jesus tells us not once, not even twice, but four times “I lay down my life for the sheep.” He emphasizes over and over again that this is not something he does for himself. There is nothing to gain for himself by offering his life as a sacrifice. Jesus offered up his life on our behalf. It was a completely selfless act.
And this is the reason why God announced to everyone, “This is my Son, whom I love.” (Mt. 3:17, 17:5). Everything that Jesus did was in line with the will of His Heavenly Father. He knows the Father, just as he knows us. He knows the will of God, and what is required to save his flock. And so he gave up his life for us, on our behalf, in our place.
“No one takes it from me.” This is truly an incredible claim. When a child refuses to share their toy with a sibling, their parent steps in and reminds them of the importance of sharing. Countless mothers have had to watch in agony as their child is taken from them when they can no longer provide for them. The hopes and dreams of an aspiring college athlete are shattered by a career ending injury. In all of these, something was taken from them. But Jesus’ life was not up for grabs. The Father willed it, and so he offered his life on our behalf. Pilate, the Jews, even the soldiers who nailed him to the cross. None of them could claim that they took his life.
What a wonderful thing this is. Here we can see the beautiful comfort that Jesus offers to us. The Good Shepherd loves his flock so much that he was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. No one forced him to. He was not under threat. He knew His Father’s will, and gladly followed it up until death on the cross.
Jesus paid the ultimate price. He laid down his life, so that we do not have to. He paid the price of blood that God demanded for salvation, and because of that we are declared righteous before God. He no longer sees our sins, but instead sees the blood of the Good Shepherd, who washed us clean with his sacrifice on the cross.
However, death was not the end for Jesus. After laying down his own life, he also had the authority to take it back again. His resurrection shows us that death no longer has any power. God had accepted his sacrifice, and through faith in his sacrifice and resurrection we have that forgiveness that he won for us on the cross. We know that one day we will rise again to join in the praise of our Father in heaven. We will be one flock under our Good Shepherd, Jesus.
Life is full of decisions. We make thousand each day, but when it comes down to crunch time, there is only one that matters. Life or death. Salvation or utter destruction. These are the absolutes that God set before his people in his Law. And on our own, we can choose only death because of our sinful nature. But God knows us. He knows how utterly helpless we are without him, as well as our longing for reconciliation. That is why he sent his Son, our Good Shepherd, to lay down his life on our behalf. We do not need to pay the price, because Jesus already has. Amen.