Saturday 24 April 2021


John 10 v1/10 (ESV)

There is no more loved picture of Jesus than that of him as a shepherd. A shepherd is deeply woven into the imagery of the Bible.

No part of Scripture is better known than the 23rd Psalm. Many Christians have read it in times of pressure and of danger, but I have found that people with little connection with the Church, know and ask for the Psalm for a funeral service. Of the many funeral services I have taken, it has either been read or sung at almost all.

The Lord is indeed our Shepherd. He leads us in paths of righteousness; he makes us lie down in green pastures; he leads us beside still waters; he takes us through places of danger and darkness. What a comforting thing it is to know we have such a Shepherd.

The main part of Judea is a large plateau of 35 miles long, of rough stony ground, and the most familiar picture is of a shepherd with his sheep. Life for him would be hard, for sheep always grazed in the presence of a shepherd, who would guard them from wolves and sheep stealers.  On either side, the ground dipped steeply, which meant that any animal could fall to the ground below.

 In the Old Testament, God is depicted as the shepherd, and Israel as his sheep.  The Psalmist wrote, ‘we are his people and the sheep of his pasture’.  The picture carries on into the New Testament, where Jesus says, ‘I am the good shepherd.’  He had pity upon the people because they were like sheep without a shepherd.

 In Britain sheep are animals kept for meat, but in Palestine they were kept for wool, and were with the shepherd for years and often had names.  The shepherd would go ahead and the sheep would follow him, they would know his voice and only follow him.

In the evening shepherds would bring their flocks to a central sheepfold guarded by a gatekeeper. There would be a patch of ground with stone walls around and a sturdy door, no overhead cover, and entrance was only through the door.  If anyone tried to get in they could only do so by climbing over the wall and were listed as thieves or robbers. Although the flocks had all been put  together, each flock knew its own shepherd's voice, and each would follow its own shepherd and no other.

Jesus applied all this to himself. The Old Testament prophets Micah and Isaiah had foretold the coming of Jesus as one who would care for his people.  They told of his birth, where and how, and all he would do. Jesus could claim he came in the expected but unique way.

 When Jesus said, ‘I am the door’, he was saying in effect not only I care for my sheep, but I am the only way into the fold.’ , and Jesus was indicating He was the only way to God, and later in the gospel would again say,  ‘no one comes to the Father except through me’.  I know this is totally unacceptable to an increasing number of people these days, but this is what the Bible states, so we should be prepared to accept Jesus’ words.  The whole purpose of His life was to lead people to God, and made that possible by giving His life on the Cross to do so.  The only way into any enclosure is through a door, and Jesus is the only way to heaven.

But other sheep were out on the hills, and when they did not return at night, they were rounded up and placed in a sheepfold there.  There was no door, just an opening through which the sheep went in and came out.  The shepherd would lay across the opening, and he was in the literal sense the door and no access to the sheep except through him.

 Jesus told this parable to counter the influence of the Jewish Church leaders, the Scribes and Pharisees. He said false teachers were like thieves and robbers in the parable, and the false teacher is like the one who climbs over the wall of the sheepfold to get where he is not suitable. There is only one way into God and the Christian life. Jesus is the door.

 Jesus condemns so-called Christian Ministers as much as condemned the Jewish leaders. True Christian teachers are those who hear and know the voice of Jesus

 A false teacher enters Ministry for worldly motives and status, anxious about their c.v.. no earnest desire to teach salvation as taught by Jesus. God will surely rate those who are extending improper teaching, and distorting the Holy Scriptures to make personal styles of living acceptable.

 Whilst the Jewish leaders traced their line back to Aaron, ordination is no proof of the person being fit for Ministry and so be leaders of others.

Men and women may be set apart in the Christian Church to lead, but may not be true shepherds. Being true means having entered Ministry desiring to serve Jesus, having of course already accepted Jesus as Lord oneself, and being ready in all power to preach faithful doctrine as laid out by both God and Jesus, labouring to bring men and women to Christ.

 Our only access to God is through Jesus Christ, and our only salvation. He would say unequivocally, no one comes to the Father except through me. In these crazy modern days, some say it is unacceptable to say that, but I see no credible reason to challenge our Lord.  He came to tell us and show us what God was like, and the way to him. It was an introduction which by ourselves we would never have obtained.

Jesus used a well know Jewish phrase. He said through him we can go out and come in.  To go out and come in was the Jewish way of saying our life is absolutely safe and sound. The only safe way in was through a door, and the only way secure way to God is by Jesus.

 Jesus also said he the Good Shepherd. Just as those Jewish shepherds knew the names of their sheep, so Jesus knows us by name.  If you study the Bible, you will see that every time Jesus spoke to anyone, he called them by name. So he knows you as Lynn, Melissa, Leanna Olive, Tom, James, Harry or whatever. God knows you, has followed you through life and has a plan for you.

 Jesus said listen to my voice. In the Bible we find him constantly teaching, and if people listened to his voice, things would be much better. We need to follow that teaching not only on Sunday in Church, but in the rest of the week at home, office, shop, factory.

 Jesus said, ‘I know my sheep, and I am with them every step of the way’, and if you have accepted Jesus as Lord, he will remain with you to guard and guide you.  The brash person says he/she doesn’t want to be propped up, I am quite adequately can stand on my own two feet. Yet the same person will seek insurance for life.  People look forward to maturity of policies at 65 or so.  The Bible is offering maturity for eternity, with the joy of living for Jesus now.

 How many people who have been burgled say, I was just going to get insurance cover. We all need security.  How many were just going to start going to Church, read their bibles and pray, and now face eternity outside of heaven.

 The modern understanding of life is to live to the full, have a fantastic time, the love me culture.  Being a Christian is good for you spiritually and research in America proved older people whose life was  faithfully lived in Christian living, were more fit and well.

 People, especially the young, face so many temptations these days and get all tied up.  If someone breaks into your house and ties you up, you may not fight the burglar as he will be more powerful and ruthless than you.  In theory you send for the police, it probably won’t do much good these days, they will be fully engaged investigating hate speech, but in theory should be the answer.  (it would have been at one time)When you accept Christ, he takes the cords, you can never be loose otherwise.

 Such is the picture of a Christian which the Bible gives. Eat, drink and be merry, may well be the popular way, but it is a false theory which can only lead to disaster.

 Jesus said,’ follow me and you will find peace and contentment whatever the circumstances’.  The ups and downs, the hills and valleys of life will be met, but not disturb you. A Christian can live in all situations and be the same.

 The Bible states he came to give life in all abundance.  Before Jesus, no one loved God, they just feared him, and if Jesus had not come no one would have been able to love God. God is love and loves the whole world.

 There would have been no forgiveness if no Jesus. He healed the sick, raised the dead and gave sight to the blind.  Jesus is God in human form and gives life a purpose and meaning.

 Jesus said, ‘follow me and you will find pasture and contentment whatever the circumstances.  We can trust His  Word

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