Sermon Sunday 25th April 2021 “ I am the Good shepherd” John 10 and Psalm 23
Revd Tudor Vaughan Roberts .
Cats have claws and can run fast, and escape up trees, dogs have claws and teeth, and some breeds are awesomely strong and powerful, an elephant has weight and might, wildebeest can run fast and have weight and mighty horns. Insects can bite and sting, and snakes can deliver a mighty sting and bite. An Eagle has claws and a powerful beak, sharks have jaws, even a mouse can disappear quickly and so can a lizard. But of all the animals the sheep has no weapon on its body to wield, a full-grown Ram might be frightening, but most sheep are very vulnerable to attack. They get lost easily and once isolated have no defence from wolves and lions and dogs.
Only one thing can protect a sheep and that is a shepherd.
If I have one aim today its to get you and I to re-imagine what a shepherd is like and what he can do, forget the romantic picture of a shepherd, perhaps with a lamb on his shoulders and a halo around his head. When Jesus says he is the Good Shepherd it means he is mighty to protect, Forget “ahh how nice”, and think more “Agggrr, back away from my sheep now!”
In the days of King David, writer of Psalm 23 and of Jesus who speaks in John 10 shepherds had to be very tough and strong and brave. Lambs do not usually wander, they stay close to Mum, but Tups full grown 1 Year old Tups can easily wander and when you find one of those, lifting it on your shoulders is no mean task.
David said of the Lord ; The Lord is my Shepherd. He knew from years as a young shepherd and years waiting for Kingship that Yahweh, the Lord was his shepherd. Like a helpless sheep David often had no one else to help him but God, The Lord was his sole helper and rescuer. With the Lord as his helper David could stop and pause, he could lay down safely, the Lord led him beside quiet waters and refreshed his soul and he guided him onto the right paths.
In psalm 23 David never says he does not fear at all ( we all fear from time to time) simply that with God by his side symbolised by the strong staff and the pastoral rod, even if he walks through say one of the gorge like valleys, between Betehhem and Jerusalem, where flash floods can kill people and wild animals and brigands hide, He, David the shepherd will not fear.
The context is this; a Staff was a very tall and strong stick often with an armoured mace at one end, and as David explained to Saul in 1 Samuel 17 one thwack with that Staff was enough to kill a bear or a lion :1 Samuel 17:34-37.
34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it, and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”
The Rod was more like what we would know as shepherd crook used to separate the sheep and gather them in.
So, one was an offensive weapon
And one was for pastoral use.
So equipped, the sheep were completely safe from harm. Likewise, David knew a protection from harm as God was with him. How many people have found true comfort in Psalm 23 Vs 4.
Jesus is like that shepherd in Psalm 23, he is good he is beautiful he is handsome (another translation of good) he is like the good shepherd described in Ezekiel 34:11-14.
New International Version
11 “‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. 14 I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.
He is Not like the bad shepherd described in Ezekiel 34:1-10.
Now in John 10:11- 18 Jesus declares he is the Good shepherd, he is not like a shepherd who leaves his flock to the attacks of a wolf and runs off.
New Living Translation
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 do not belong to him and he is not their shepherd. And so, the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he is working only for the money and does not really care about the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd
When we hear the word good so often our default thinking is of some quite benign figure, a shepherd sitting in a quiet field with Lambs at his feet.
But hopefully as I have already described Jesus as the Good shepherd is not benign, he is prepared to fight for his flock, in fact so much is he prepared to do this he will lay down his life for the sheep. From what does his motivation come? solely from his relationship with the Father. The Father Knows him and he knows the Father, so he will obey and lay down his life. But it does not stop there, for there are other sheep (the Gentiles) they must come in too and there will be one flock. God IS missional.
Along with everything like this that Jesus said this is the speech that gets him killed.
Firstly, he aligns himself completely with God; they are One.(blasphemy)
Secondly, he says the father wants to bring in others.(not a popular view)
And then he dares to say that the Father loves him (vs 17 of Ch 10 of John ) because he will lay down his life.
When the disciples look back, post the resurrection, they wil be tempted to think that the Cross was a disaster, that Jesus was so totally humiliated that he died a terrible sinner’s death. But Jesus is definite; No one takes his life from him (vs 17-18) He has authority to lay it down and to take it up.
This passage in John 10 follows the one in John 9 where it is made clear the Jewish leaders are blinded by their obstinate disbelief.
Here in John 10, they are portrayed ( if you read between the lines) as unable to hear properly. But sheep DO hear their shepherd.
In Israel under occupation post the 2nd WW this was proved when a sergeant was amazed at an Arab boy who coming to reclaim his jailed sheep said they would hear his voice. He did not believe that young lad but as soon as the shepherd boy played his shepherds whistle his ten sheep trotted out from the 100’s of other sheep and joined him.
Have you heard the Shepherds call?
Do you know that Jesus is tough as well as gentle?
He is tough like an Israeli Shepherd. On the Cross he fought our enemies: the Devil, Death, and despair, and he won. But he is gentle enough to hear his own Father’s voice, the Voice of love and that voice kept him through the dark days of the Passion and the Cross.
If that is true Nothing is too hard for him and he will look after you, and your family and the Church and the World. He IS the Good shepherd.
faithful shepherd of your Father’s sheep:
teach us to hear your voice.
and to follow your command,
that all your people may be gathered into one flock,
to the glory of God the Father.
you gave your Son Jesus Christ to be the good shepherd,
and in his love for us to lay down his life and rise again:
keep us always under his protection,
and give us grace to follow in his steps.
through Jesus Christ our Lord.