11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (John 10:11-16)
I was impressed during my years of living in the Middle East that the shepherd has a name for every one of his sheep; and each one knows its name and responds to the shepherds voice. They know his voice, and he knows his sheep. Here are a couple of interesting observations by others about this unique relationship between the shepherd and his sheep:
“A STRANGER THEY WILL NOT FOLLOW — ” Let any passing traveler try, as I have often done, to imitate the shepherd’s voice. At once the sheep will pause, toss up their heads, and then scamper off to huddle close to the shepherd, so completely do they realize their dependence on him.”
— Canon Tristram.
” This is true to the letter. These are so tame and so trained that they follow their keeper with the utmost docility. He leads them forth from the fold, or from their houses in the villages, just where he pleases.
“The shepherd calls sharply from time to time to remind them of his presence. They know his voice, and follow on; but if a stranger call, they stop short, lift up their heads in alarm, and if it is repeated, they turn and flee, because they know not the voice of a stranger. This is not the fanciful costume of a parable; it is simple fact. I have made the experiment repeatedly.” — Wm. M. Thompson.
What a wonderful subject is today’s text after the sorrow of the cross, and the glory of resurrection morning! It encourages us to know that our Good Shepherd has been over all the rocks and crannies of life, the well springs of rivers and seas, and through the dark valley of the shadow of death. He suffered all that His lambs can ever imagine, even death of the cross. Yet, He walked up to the gate of death and hell and battered down the door freeing captives that were held by the bondage of sin – you and I among them!
So the sheep may feel complete confidence and satisfaction in that Good Shepherd who knows the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and is, Himself, that Way – that Truth – that Life. He knows the mountain trails because He has made the mountains. He knows the still waters for He is the Water of Life. He knows the place of resting peace and safety for His sheep for He is the very Ark of security and salvation.
Our Lord Jesus Christ confirmed all that God had promised in long ago prophecies of a Redeemer. He is explicitly described by the aging King of Israel, David, in the 23rd Psalm. It matters not to you or me how Good Jesus is as a Shepherd unless He is our Shepherd; and David KNEW Christ to be his Savior and Shepherd. The Good shepherd will see that His sheep lack nothing that is essential for their health and wellbeing. He knows better than they the good way, and He will urge them from the dangerous and treacherous mountain gorges with His gentle staff and cajoling Voice. All of His sheep may proclaim with David: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want!”
The leading verse of our text reiterates an often overlooked and grand truth of the Gospel – Jesus is the Great I AM! He is David’s Shepherd as much today as when David, under the tutelage of the Holy Ghost, penned those lines of the 23rd Psalm. He was as much your Shepherd yesterday and today as He shall be in a million years or more. He dwells in the eternal Presence.
The preceding verse of John 10 relate another great truth: Jesus is the Door by which all must enter into the fold. There are no other doors to the sheepfold. Not only is Jesus the Way, the Truth, and the Life, He alone is that Way, Truth, and Life. In our day, a different Jesus is being preached from the greater number of pulpits of the world – a Jesus who is lax on sin, and who seems less divine than a member of the Triune Godhead should be. There are several reasons for this downgrade of faith, I believe.
1. Many clergymen today have chosen the ministry as a career field rather than having been effectually called of God. If they are not called of God, they lack authority – and it shows! Their sermons are sterile and worldly, and they lack any reproach for sin.
2. Many men who ARE called to the ministry delay their response far too long than is efficacious to take advantage of the many years wasted by their hesitation. God chases them over hill and dale until they finally surrender, or are taken out of the world. Such men are a waste of spiritual enlightenment.
3. Compromise with the world is a leading cause of the luke-warm condition of the modern church. The old classic hymns, so reaffirming of biblical faith and doctrine, are relegated to the dustbin while the light and unscriptural little ditties of the modern composer of rock music has taken their place. It is not only the words that lack spiritual truth, but the music itself which is sensual enough to be very much like that which is played in bars and night clubs. This is referred to by the sponsors of such music as ‘relevant.’
4. New Bible versions are pointing away from the central figure of the Good Shepherd, as Lord, and made Christ simply a fairly good teacher lacking divinity. The commonly received text of the Bible upon which the courageous Reformers relied is replaced with spurious manuscript evidence that lacks credibility on the face of it. A diminishing respect for the Truth and Holiness of God’s Word has clearly led to many grave shortcomings of the modern church.
5. Consumerism and profit motive are also big players in the diminishing faith of our age. False and deceptive ministers have made the House of the Lord a house of merchandise instead of a House of Prayer. Enlarging the monetary treasury of the church has become far more important than repentance and contrition of the sinners heart. Those who give the most money are viewed as the most righteous. This is not always the case since many who lack the wealth of others do so because they have shared their wealth with the widows, orphans and destitute of means.
So what does this have to do with the text today? It has everything to do with it! We have failed to follow the Good shepherd in our day. His Voice has not changed since the day we first heard Him call our names, yet we have forgotten to recognize that loving Voice. One problem may be that we disagree with the Voice of our Lord. When He calls us from the sinful and dangerous way, we believe that we are safe and continue to seek grass in places where wolves and predators lurk. He has defined sin in the most serious and clear terms, yet we have called good evil, and evil good.
Our Lord’s definition of a good shepherd is one who will sacrifice even His life for the lowly sheep: “the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” There are far more under-shepherds who are willing to lay down their lives on the foreign mission fields of the world than we have today in America; in fact, it happens often is countries today that are hostile to the Good Shepherd. If the under-shepherds are not willing to die for their flocks, how does our Lord classify them? “But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.” It is a fact that we have an exceeding number of hirelings today, and too few true shepherds of the flock of Christ. The sheep are left to wander in barren places and are kept only for the fleecing of their wool, or the consumption of their very souls.
The Good Shepherd was promised by God most profoundly in Jeremiah 23: “1 Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD. 2 Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD. 3 And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. 4 And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD. 5 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. 6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Jer 23:1-6) This passage is both a prophecy of the Good Shepherd, but also a condemnation of the hireling shepherds that populate the churches as those demons that live in the branches of the Mustard Tree.
An earnest seeker of the Word of the Lord is more likely to learn a false gospel in the modern church than the pure and unadulterated Word of the Lord. “16 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD. 17 They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.” (Jer 23:16-17)
The great contrast of our Lord as Good Shepherd with the false pulpit dandies of our day is this: Our Lord is a Shepherd who is completely GOOD. “14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Our Lord and shepherd knows our simple hearts thoroughly, and far better than we, ourselves, know them. HE KNOWS US! There is no question, either, in the heart of the sheep of the Goodness of their Shepherd, for His sheep also KNOW Him! None other has laid down His life for us – the sinless for the sinful – as our Good Shepherd has done. This the world cannot comprehend. Why would a rational Shepherd die such a horrible death for mean and lowly sheep? The trade-off to the world does not make sense. Well, truly, it does not make worldly sense; but it makes abundant heavenly sense when the great love with which our Lord has loved us a His sheep is taken into consideration. Love is a quality that is unknown to the world. It cannot weigh it, spend it, or measure it. So it remains unknown to the world.
Our Lord delivered this counsel of His role as the Good shepherd to the Jews gathered about the Temple in Jerusalem.
A small number believed, but a greater number hardened their hearts against our Lord and the words of His Father which He spoke. It will always be the case. The number of believers that Christ claims at His return will be woefully few. Remember that only eight souls were saved out of the millions who died in the Great Deluge of Noah’s Day. Thank God that there are sheep of the Good shepherd’s other than those few to which He spoke. 16 “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” It is my prayer that all who hear the words of this sermon are a part of those “other sheep” of the Lord’s. He has a pitiful few in every land and nation, but when gathered from the four quarters of the world, they will constitute a happy fold – perhaps that Camp of the Saints to which John the Revelator makes mention. The devil will gather the armies from all over the world to destroy the people of God, but he will suffer a blistering (literally) defeat: “And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.” (Rev 20:9) I hope to see you there, friend.