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.
In the last post we saw that Jesus calls me and leads me, today we will see…
Jesus Protects Me
9 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.
See the word “saved.” If anyone enters through Me he shall be saved. You hear that word used a lot. He got saved. She got saved. What does it mean to be saved? To be saved means to be saved from hell. But Jesus saves us from more than that. We are also saved from an aimless, wandering life. We shall go in and out and find pasture. We will be saved and be safe because we are under the watchful care of the Good Shepherd. We will be satisfied because we are finding pasture. We are feeding and are free to become what the Shepherd wants us to become.
Jesus said that He is the gate. You see a shepherd back in Biblical times would lead his flock and since there were no barbed wire fences, at night the shepherd would make a sheepfold. He would take some rocks and make a little structure. He would leave an opening, and the shepherd would sleep in that opening and actually become the gate. So the sheep could not go in and out and a predator could not go in and out unless they crossed over the shepherd. And Jesus said, I am the gate. He is our protection
At the end of the day, the shepherd gathers the sheep in the sheep pen or sheep fold and prepares to lie them down for the night. As I mentioned already I have been reading about sheep this week. Sheep have to have several things taken care of if they are going to lie down. Now some of you might be thinking that is weird, that sheep are so particular before they will lie down.
Well, let’s think about human beings. We are pretty particular, aren’t we? I have got to have a good firm pillow. How many need a firm pillow to sleep? How many need a feather pillow or soft pillow?. How many need a soft mattress? A hard mattress? I have got to have a fan on. How many need a fan on? Do you need to have the radio on? Or TV? Or some noise? How about a dimly lit room, or a dark room? Sheep are the same way. I think that God created sheep to have an illustration for human beings. The shepherd who shepherds his flock is going to make sure some things are taken care of if the sheep are ready to rest. First of all, he will make sure that they are free from fear. Sheep are very fearful animals. They are always looking over their shoulders. And they don’t rest until their fears are taken care of. They are thinking about the lions, bears or the wild dogs. One little field mouse or one lone jackrabbit can stampede an entire flock of sheep. It will freak them out. But when the shepherd is on the scene, and sheep make eye contact with him, their fears subside and then they are ready to lie down.
A lot of us deal with fear, don’t we? Fear of the unexpected. Maybe the fear of a disaster. And we are ambushed by these fears. The three biggest fears that we face are the fear of death, the fear of living alone and the fear of failure. What fear is tyrannizing and paralyzing your life? Maybe you have just gotten a grim report from the doctor. Maybe you are experiencing gridlock in a family situation. Maybe you find yourself looking over your shoulder. And maybe like a sheep, you are thinking about running, about getting out of there. Don’t do it. Focus on the Good Shepherd. You have got to realize and understand that Jesus, Himself, is near. He is right beside you. And the moment you understand that, the fear will subside and then and only then are you ready to rest.
The shepherd not only takes care of fear, he also takes care of friction. You see, sheep are competitive. They are jealous. They are always butting each other, trying to be the top sheep. Rivalries are involved. But as shepherd Phil Keller writes, “When I walk on the scene and the sheep look at me, suddenly they begin to forget about the competition and the rivalries and the problems they are having in the flock.” It doesn’t matter what firm or organization or team or company you are involved in, we are all trying to butt others out of the way, all trying to be the top chief, all trying to get that status. We deal with the same sort of issues that the sheep deal with. Yet, the Lord Jesus Christ challenges us to look at Him, to focus on Him because when we do that, we forget about the petty rivalries and problems and friction with others.
Maybe you are saying to yourself that you have friction with someone, but they have not forgiven you. The person has messed you around. The person has abused you. The person has stabbed you in the back. We serve a God of forgiveness. Jesus Christ has forgiven all of our sins – past, present and future. And most of the world has not accepted His forgiveness. Yet, Christ did the work. He forgave us. We are challenged, in fact, we have a mandate from the Good Shepherd, Himself, to forgive others no matter if they have abused us, wronged us, stabbed us. No matter if they will not forgive us, not admit that they are wrong, we are challenged to forgive them, to release them, to get rid of the friction because the Good Shepherd wants me and wants you to rest. Too many times in my life I have held on to the friction that I felt for others and couldn’t get the rest that He desired me to have.
The shepherd makes sure the sheep are free of fear and free from friction. Also he makes sure they are free from flies. Our church mission trips to Guatemala and India have put me in contact with mosquitoes that carry Malaria. At night we have to close doors and put on repellent or it makes it hard to sleep. And the sheep cannot and will not lie down if he is being bugged. You know how irregular people just bug us? What do you do about it? Think about the shepherd. A shepherd will take his sheep and put repellant on their bodies. He will dip the sheep to get rid of the ticks and the fleas. We are simply to present ourselves to Jesus Christ and say that we are exposing everything to Him. Then we ask Him to take care of all of the things that are bugging us. We ask to be bathed in His repellent, dipped in His love and forgiveness and grace. And after that, we will be able to lie down. The Good Shepherd protects me so I can rest and live properly.
Jesus Satisfies Me
10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. As our Good Shepherd, Jesus here promises that when we follow him, we will have a satisfying life or some translations say “Abundant life”
• exceeding some number or measure or rank or need
over and above, more than is necessary, superadded
• exceeding abundantly, supremely
• something further, more, much more than all
superior, extraordinary, surpassing, uncommon
God is not interested in taking all the fun out of our lives. He is not interested in making us follow a bunch of rules that put everything good out of bounds! He wants us to experience life abundantly!
But it comes from following Him and His voice. When we follow our voice or the voices of imposters, or thieves we get hurt.
Examples: Christ says sex is for marriage. We think – I don’t want to follow that! So we follow our own. And we end up with sexual addiction, teen pregnancy, abortion, disease, emotional scars, and a cycle of poverty.
On the other hand if I follow God’s word I enjoy sexual relations without fear of disease, abandonment, and unwanted pregnancies. I enjoy to the full the benefits of what God has created without all the side effects.
Christ says we are to forgive those who hurt us. We think – I don’t want to follow that! I’d rather harbor bitterness and seek revenge. And we end up with ulcers, hatred, divorce, pain, and emotional scars, physical violence.
On the other hand if I follow God’s word I discover that when I forgive others I really set myself free. I discover that I am more at peace. That others lose their power over my emotions. And I set into motion a cycle of grace into their lives.
Christ says we are to spend time with Him and with His body the church: through, serving, giving, worship, and fellowship in a small group. We think – I don’t want to do that. I want to watch TV and get on the Internet. And we end up with hectic lives full of more information than we know what to do with. We end up with images in our minds that are unholy, which set into motion a whole new cycle of sinfulness in our lives.
Jesus Saves Me
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock.13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.
Our salvation as followers of Jesus is based on the love of a shepherd who was willing to lay down his life for us. Without him, WE DON”T HAVE A CHANCE.
He loved us enough that our sinfulness became his burden.
He loved us enough that his perfect rightness became ours.
He loved us enough to suffer on the cross for us. To save us from eternal death, to prepare us to meet His Father. He will keep us safe in the sheepfold.
Jesus has a Relationship with Me
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.
He “Knows” His Sheep “ginosko” – to know experientially and was used as a Jewish expression for physical intimacy. This is not book knowledge, but personal knowledge. Jesus knows you and wants you to know Him. He knows everything about you – good and bad – and He loves you anyway. You matter to Him.
Just as a shepherd knows the individual bleats and bahs of his sheep, the Good Shepherd knows every detail about us. It is a mutual relationship – He knows the sheep and the sheep know the shepherd. They know His voice, His touch, His compassion, His love, and His discipline – and we experience His leading every day. Do you know this relationship?
Have you let the Good Shepherd give you his protection, his care and leadership? Today could be your day. Today could be the moment in time when you step across the line and connect with God’s flock. Today could be the day when you invite the Good Shepherd to invade every fiber of your being. But you are never going to experience rest or the Shepherd’s protection, guidance and peace until you make the wonderful choice to make Jesus your Savior.
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