If you could be any animal, what would you be? Would be an eagle or some kind of bird? Would be lion, tiger, a bear or some powerful predator? Would be a dolphin, whale or other aquatic animal? Why is it that no one ever says they want to be a sheep?
How about mascots? What were your school’s mascots? The mascots of the schools I attended were: the bulldogs, the hawks, the cougars and the Aggies. A domestic sheep is not the mascot of any sports team that I know of!
However, a sheep is the animal that God uses to describe us. I studied Agricultural Science at A & M and learned that sheep are the dumbest of all the farm animals. Then my son Kaleb had an Ag. Project for school and we raised 3 sheep over a two year period. A butterfly or even their own shadow would suddenly scare them and they would run away! They are also dirty; they easily wander off and are slow to learn from their mistakes. They are defenseless and dependent. They need guidance and protection. Would agree that a sheep perfectly describes us as humans?
An aggie that lived in the Austin area had gotten sick of all the Aggie jokes ( I can relate) so one day he decided to wear a longhorn shirt, after buying a new shirt, he set out for a drive in the country where he came across a herd of sheep. He decided to stop and talk with the shepherd. After a few minutes of chitchat, he said I have a proposition – “If I could guess the total number of sheep can I have one?” The shepherd agreed but was absolutely shocked when he guessed correctly – 382. He kept his promise and allowed the Aggie to pick one out to take home. After the Aggie picked out his sheep and put it in his truck, the shepherd said he had a proposition for him, If I can guess your real school, can I have my dog back?
We may not recognize that we are like sheep, because we think we are smart or tough, but Jesus reminds us that we are sheep that need a shepherd. I hope you find it comforting today to know we have a Good Shepherd.
One of the most powerful images that Jesus uses to describe himself is of “The Good Shepherd” Jesus as our shepherd conveys the idea of being taken care of, being kept safe and being guided through life.
And that’s what this week’s post is all about. As we continue our journey through the I AM statement of Jesus in the Gospel of John, we’ve arrived at John Chapter 10. And in this chapter we’ll learn that Jesus calls himself our Good Shepherd. As we study these verses together we’ll learn exactly what that means.
The first thing about Jesus our shepherd is that
Jesus Calls Me
1 “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber!But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.3 the gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
In Christ’s day, sheep were kept two ways. The first way was in cities and villages. Usually there was a large holding corral where shepherds would bring their flocks to secure them at night – it was a public pen able to hold several flocks under the care of a porter whose duty was to guard the gate during the night and to admit the shepherds in the morning. The shepherds would walk into the pen, call their sheep and the sheep would respond to the voice of their shepherd who would lead them out to pasture.
The second way was how a shepherd would tend his sheep in the country. A shepherd would herd his sheep into a low walled enclosure of piled rocks with a small opening. At night, since there was no gate, just an opening, the shepherd would lie across the opening to keep the sheep in and the wild animals out – he would literally become the door. Jesus refers to both of these in this text.
Some of you might know that my dad raises cattle, he says they put us kids through college, when we would go out to check on them and feed them some bails of hay or range cubes, dad had a special call “whooo!” When his cows hear his call they come running. They know the call of the one who feeds them and cares for them. The same is true with sheep. When the cows had a baby calf, the calves would just follow their mothers to the call until they learn to hear the call for themselves. Some of you may have followed your parents to church or to a relationship with Jesus until the day you heard His voice for yourselves. This is what happened with me when I was 11 years old. I heard Jesus calling me and I came to him. Some of you may not have had the privilege of growing up in a home where you parents took you to church or told you about Jesus but you heard the voice of Jesus too. Some of you here today still have not responded and you need to.
Jesus still speaks to us today. We can hear His voice. I have never heard the audible voice of God. 20 years ago I didn’t hear God audible say, “Darrell, go start church.” I have never heard God speak like that. But as I pray I listen and God speaks to my spirit so that I hear and know what I should do. He speaks through the Bible. He speaks through Christian friends. He speaks through private worship and public worship. He speaks through events. And as believers we have got to stay sensitive to God’s voice.
Jesus Leads Me
4 After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice.5 They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”6 Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant,7 so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.8 All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them.
Since He’s the Good Shepherd, I can trust him to provide the leadership I need for my life.
He doesn’t prod me forward. Cattle are driven sheep are lead. A lot of us think we serve a rawhide type God. We think that God is in heaven singing, “Rollin, rollin, rollin, keep them doggies rollin, rawhide…” God doesn’t drive, He guides. He leads me and He leads you in paths of righteousness, in paths that are right for you and for you and for you. What a great Shepherd we follow. And as we shadow the Shepherd, He promises us that He will lead us to the right paths, the right avenues of life.
The other great thing about Jesus leading is that he will not make me go somewhere He’s not willing to go. He goes ahead of me. And you know what that means? It means when I can’t see what’s ahead – I can trust that if the Lord is leading me that way I can trust him – He can see what’s ahead because he’s already there! And he can see what’s coming up and he can help me avoid dangerous places on the path.
One of the reasons sheep, like humans need to be led, is that left to ourselves we get into a lot of trouble. We wander off a cliff, fall into a hole, or get attacked. Sheep need a shepherd and Christians need to follow the leading of Jesus. One reason that a sheep cannot be left to itself is that it can become “cast down” David was a shepherd and wrote Psalm 42:11. “Why are you cast down, oh my soul?” The phrase cast down is a shepherding term. Cast down meant that a sheep would lie down and all of a sudden he would become cast. He would be on his back, flailing, not being able to get up. And if the sheep is like that for a while, guess what would happen. The sheep would die. So a good shepherd is going to watch for the cast sheep. He is going to check them out. Oh, there is a cast sheep. He will run over and turn the sheep right side up. Sheep get cast all the time.
How do we become cast? I have found that we get cast when we become lazy or apathetic. That is what happens to the sheep. They get behind, they are not keeping up with the flock and decide to lay down and they get cast. A lot of Christians are in danger of becoming cast when they get apathetic or lazy. We think, “well I have served, I have given, I have done my time, I’ll just hang out and do nothing. They say they want to get to that position, and once they reach it; there will be no problems. They think they won’t need any endurance, any vision, and any commitment. They think they can just relax. If you do that, you will be in danger of getting cast. Don’t get lazy! The Christian life is about serving and giving. It is not easy. It will take everything you have. But it is the life you were wired up to live. It lies in following Christ’s example not George Castanza or Joey Tribiani.
Another way humans as sheep can become cast is if our wool coats become too thick and too heavy. Sheep have thick wool coats that begin to collect everything – burrs and briars and mud and manure. And if that happens, they can easily get cast. Things just stick to the sheep like Velcro. We can become cast if too many things of the world stick to us: my stuff, my hobbies, my vacations, my recreational pursuits, my car, my motorcycle, and my wardrobe. Not that these things are wrong but when they take up too much place in my life they can stick to me like Velcro, weigh me down and if I can become cast.
What happens when a sheep has a coat that is too thick – all matted with mud and manure and briars and burrs? What does the shepherd do? He takes out the shears and goes to work. The sheep begins to feel naked. He has been sheared by the shepherd. Well, the shepherd has to do this. And the Good Shepherd sometimes has to do this to you and to me. We become too proud, too cool, too hip, too vogue, too attached to the things of the world. And when He shears us we will cry and moan and ask God why He is doing that to us. He is doing it to help us, to improve us, to make us more and more reliant on Him.
He also leads me in another way. Sheep get water from two major sources. The first source will probably surprise you. Sheep get a lot of water from just grazing. When they eat the dew-drenched grass, they are taking in liquid. And if there is a lot of dew on the grass, they don’t have to drink a lot of water since they get it from their vegetation. Sheep naturally get up very early. They are early risers. They will get up at dawn and graze. And a smart shepherd is gong to lead the sheep to dew-drenched grass. They will get the liquid that way and can be refreshed. And the shepherd is thrilled because he has taken care of his sheep.
It is the same way in our spiritual pilgrimage. The greatest Christ followers I know, the people who live life with confidence, endurance and a vision, are the ones who feed regularly on God’s word. Some set aside time in the day to talk to God in prayer and to read His word. As they do so, they experience Him and they are refreshed. And the Good Shepherd, Jesus, stands right beside them and is pleased. Sheep get water from the dew-drenched grass.
Sheep also get water by drinking, by just lapping it up. Sheep are not real smart. Sheep, when they are thirsty, will just wander. Without a shepherd leading them to quiet waters, they will just wander off. They will find any polluted puddle and drink from it. And they don’t realize it but they are ingesting parasites and diseases that can ultimately kill them and mess up the entire flock. Sheep just do this.
I run into so many people and you do too, who are trying to get their thirst quenched. They are hungry and thirsty for God yet they turn their backs on the Good Shepherd and drink from polluted puddle after polluted puddle. Little do they realize that they are ingesting parasites and diseases that it is tearing them apart. It is staggering, the lengths we will go to, to try and quench this thirst. We will get involved in community efforts or hobbies or sports and we think that will do it. Now those things are fine, but there is only one thing that will truly quench that deep down thirst. It is to drink from Christ.
In the next post we will see that Jesus protects me, satisfies me and saves me.
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