Around 2600 years ago, the prophet Ezekiel instructed the survivors of the destruction of Jerusalem living in Babylon. The prophet spoke of the future restoration and the assured glorious future of Israel. First he exposed the counterfeit pastors who had been a big part of the collapse of the nation culminating on the 9th of Av, 586 BC. Ezekiel had specific words of instruction for the “shepherds of Israel.” Ezekiel 34 applies to pastors and leaders of God's flock everywhere, not only in Jerusalem.
And the word of the Lord came to me (Ezekiel), saying, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds:
“Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them.”
‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: “As I live,” says the Lord God, “surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became food for every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, nor did My shepherds search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock”— therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the Lord!
Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them.”
‘For thus says the Lord God: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,” says the Lord God. “I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment.”
‘And as for you, O My flock, thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats. Is it too little for you to have eaten up the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the residue of your pasture—and to have drunk of the clear waters, that you must foul the residue with your feet? And as for My flock, they eat what you have trampled with your feet, and they drink what you have fouled with your feet.”
‘Therefore thus says the Lord God to them: “Behold, I Myself will judge between the fat and the lean sheep. Because you have pushed with side and shoulder, butted all the weak ones with your horns, and scattered them abroad, therefore I will save My flock, and they shall no longer be a prey; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them—My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.
“I will make a covenant of peace with them, and cause wild beasts to cease from the land; and they will dwell safely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. I will make them and the places all around My hill a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing. Then the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase. They shall be safe in their land; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I have broken the bands of their yoke and delivered them from the hand of those who enslaved them. And they shall no longer be a prey for the nations, nor shall beasts of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and no one shall make them afraid. I will raise up for them a garden of renown, and they shall no longer be consumed with hunger in the land, nor bear the shame of the Gentiles anymore. Thus they shall know that I, the Lord their God, am with them, and they, the house of Israel, are My people,” says the Lord God.’
“You are My flock, the flock of My pasture; you are men, and I am your God,” says the Lord God.
Jesus is widely acknowledged in the world today in a nominal sense. Very few take Him seriously. Ezekiel was not taken seriously by his countrymen either.
“As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain.
Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them. And when this comes to pass—surely it will come—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.” (Ezekiel 33:30-33)
John Chapter 10 records the great teaching of Jesus showing that He was (and is) the great and true shepherd of Israel. His sheepfold extends to embrace the entire world, not merely the nation Israel,
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.
Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”
Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings. And many of them said, “He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?”
Others said, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?
[time gap of three months]
Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.”
Our Lord builds his teaching around four figures that are taken from the life of a shepherd. In the first figure he is clearly setting himself apart as the True Shepherd of the sheep in contrast to the false shepherds. This passage follows immediately on the healing of the man born blind, who had been cast out of the synagogue because of his faith in Jesus. Jesus sees these leaders, these Pharisaical rulers of the Jews who had twisted and distorted the teachings of the law, as false shepherds. "Thieves and robbers," he calls them.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." (John 10:1-5 RSV)
In the East, shepherds brought their flocks into one central sheepfold every evening where half-a-dozen flocks gathered together and were guarded by a porter or gatekeeper behind locked doors. In the morning the shepherds returned and each called his own sheep. Although the flocks had been mingled together, each flock knew its own shepherd's voice, and each would follow its own shepherd and no other. This is the picture our Lord uses with regard to the encounter between the man who had been born blind and the false shepherds, the Pharisees.
In this section we learn the marks of the True Shepherd of the sheep. Through the centuries there have been many false shepherds. Even today there are many false views of Jesus. Many people are asking, "Who is the true Jesus? Who is the true Shepherd of the sheep?" There is the Jesus of the Moonies, the Jesus of the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Jesus of the Scientologists, the Jesus of the Christian Scientists, the Jesus of the Mormons, etc. Which Jesus is the true Jesus, the true Shepherd? Here Jesus tells us how to know.
There are three marks, he declares, by which we can tell the true Shepherd: First, "He who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep." What does he mean, "the door?" He is referring, of course, to the normal, proper entrance to a sheepfold. The door is the proper entrance to this auditorium. I did not see any of you climb in through the windows or slide in under the pews this morning! You came in by the door. That is the expected way to come to church. This is what our Lord refers to here.
The prophets had predicted the way the Shepherd would come to the sheep. They had foretold where he would be born, whom he would be born to, and the unusual character of his birth. They had predicted how he would appear to the nation, how he would be introduced, where he would live, what he would say, and what he would do when he came. This is what our Lord means. He came the predicted way, the normal, expected way.
No other person in all the history of Israel ever came to Israel this way. That is how we can know that he is the true Shepherd of the sheep. He entered by the door. He was born in Bethlehem. According to the prophet Micah that is where he would come from. He was born of a virgin. That is what Isaiah said would happen: "A virgin shall be with child," (Isaiah 7:14), and his name would "be called 'Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace,'" (Isaiah 9:6). If you ask someone, "Who is the Prince of Peace?" you will be told, "It is Jesus." He is the One who was presented in the temple as an infant, circumcised on the eighth day, according to the Law, and owned of God at his baptism. He came the accepted way. He entered by the door. "If anyone comes any other way, he is a thief and a robber, " Jesus declares. But Jesus is the true Shepherd of the sheep.
The second mark is, "To him the gatekeeper opens." That "gatekeeper," of course, is John the Baptist. He opened the door. He was the "voice crying in the wilderness, 'Prepare ye the way of the Lord,'" (John 1:23). John the Baptist identified Jesus in the words, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," (John 1:29 RSV). To that Lamb "the gatekeeper opened."
The third clear and unmistakable mark is, "The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." His own would recognize his voice. Four things are characteristic of this fact. The first is that he calls them by name. Notice that every encounter with Jesus in this gospel is on a personal basis. He met Nicodemus by night; he met the woman at the well of Samaria; he met the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda; he met the man born blind. In each of these encounters he met the individual personally, alone. In other gospels we read that as he walked through Jericho he saw a little man in a tree and called to him, "Zacchaeus, come down. I'm scheduled to have lunch with you!" (Luke 19:5). He met Matthew at the customs' table and told him, "Rise, and follow me," (Matthew 9:9). Through all the centuries since, every believer who has come to Jesus has come alone. Jesus never takes a group in at once. It is always you and he alone. What you believe in the silence and loneliness of your own heart about him is what makes the difference. There is where the transaction is done. "He calls his own sheep by name."
Then, fourth, "He puts them out," "he leads them out." That interesting phrase is used in Chapter 9 of the man who was born blind. The Pharisees "cast him out" of the synagogue and that is the same word employed here. Jesus is saying that, when that happened, it was not only the Pharisees doing it but it was he, himself, who was behind it; it was he who moved them to excommunicate him. He led that man out of the false teaching which they had used to keep him in spiritual blindness.
This is what it means to us as well. When Jesus calls, us he leads us out of the blindness and darkness of the world. The philosophy of the world can be summed up in one phrase: "me first." "Look out for number one, take care of number one," that is the one characteristic of the world that stands out. Everything is focused on the question, "What will it do for me? What will I get out of it?" But when a person comes to Christ almost immediately you see evidences that he has begun to think about others. In fact, the rate of Christian growth can be measured by how much a person begins to reach out to others, and to think about others instead of himself. Christianity is an others-centered religion. When you hear Christians, so-called, still focusing upon themselves, and what happens to them -- their rights, their needs, etc. -- you are listening to a fleshly substitute for Christianity. The real thing is to be led out. That is the very first thing our Lord does with us: He leads us out.
Then, third, "He goes before them." When he leads you out he does not leave you alone; he has already gone ahead of you. In every situation you have to face he has been there first. He has chosen for you every circumstance of your life as a believer. That is the great truth of Scripture that helps us handle the pressures, the dangers, and the pitfalls of life: He has gone before us. What a beautiful picture that is! The Shepherd goes before. In the words of David in the 23rd Psalm,
"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me," (Psalms 23:4 KJV).
And, fourth, the sheep trust his voice: "A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." A prominent Christian businessman sent me an article recently on some of the teaching and preaching of the television evangelists who keep telling people that, if they come to Christ, God will make them rich. The man wrote across the top of the article, "There's something wrong with this!" How right he was! He recognized it was not the voice of the Shepherd. He could not put his finger on what it was, but there was something wrong. "A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." What a beautiful picture is drawn by Jesus of the true Shepherd of the sheep.
In Verses 6-10 our Lord changes the figure slightly. Here he becomes the "door" of the sheep. He puts it in a most specific way:
This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So Jesus again said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:6-10 RSV)
What does he mean by this figure, "I am the door of the sheep"? This is a picture taken from the middle of the work day of an Eastern shepherd. The shepherd leads his flock out of the sheepfold to the hillsides where they graze through the morning hours, and then in the early afternoon he provides a temporary shelter built of shrubs where they can rest. This is a corral-type structure within which the sheep can lie, protected from wild beasts, and it has an opening across which the shepherd himself lies so that the sheep cannot go in or out without crossing over him. This is what Jesus means in the words, "I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture."
These beautiful figures indicate a further ministry of the Lord. Having called the sheep to come to him, and having led them out, there follows the ministry of understanding truth. John comments that those listening to our Lord did not understand what he was saying to them, "So Jesus again said to them, 'I am the door.'" By that he means the door to understanding truth. The Pharisees, whom he had called "thieves and robbers," had stolen the truth. In the case of the man born blind they had robbed him of the true meaning of the Sabbath, the true meaning of the Law, and the meaning of the shepherd. So here Jesus is saying, "I am the way to understand truth about life." As in the case of the blind man, the sheep did not heed these false teachers. Remember in Chapter 9 that the blind man was amazed at these leaders. He said to them, "What a marvel! You know so much, but you do not know this man who has opened my eyes. There has never been a miracle like that in all the history of the world, and you don't seem to know who he is. What a strange thing," (John 9:30-33). The man pays no heed to them at all. That is what Jesus says will happen to his true sheep. They will be given an understanding so they will not follow error.
As you grow in the Lord you begin to understand truth and get an insight into life that the world knows nothing about. Despite all the proud, pretentious claims of secular minds to understand science, art, literature, history and the things of men, they are still afflicted by a profound blindness of which they are unaware.
That is why the world is always in a mess. Politicians cannot solve that mess. The Democrats, the Republicans -- even Jesse Jackson -- cannot solve these problems. There is an understanding of life revealed unto babes that is hidden to the wise and the prudent. As you approach the Scriptures through the door of the mind of Christ that is what you will find.
First, you will find salvation. That means not only the new birth, a new life, eternal life, but it primarily means salvation from a wasted life. When Billy Graham came to the Cow Palace in San Francisco in 1958 we ran bus loads of young people to the crusade. Following a great meeting one evening I sat on the bus on the return trip beside a young man who had gone forward. I said to him, "I don't know what this means to you, but one thing you can be sure of: It means you don't have to fear death any more." I will never forget what he said in reply. He told me, "You know, I don't fear death. I don't think I have ever been afraid to die. What I am afraid of is that I will waste my life." I was happy to assure him that that is exactly what the Lord would save him from if he walked with him.
Isn't it strange that we can spend the best part of our lives making money, becoming successful, and getting ahead, and find at the end that we have wasted our lives. All the good things, the joyful things, the things of peace, the things that make for a sense of accomplishment have slipped by and we have missed them all. That is what is called "destination sickness," the malaise of arriving at where you always wanted to be and finding that you do not want anything you've got. Many people are suffering from that disease. But Jesus promises, "If you enter the door" -- if you begin to understand what he has taught -- you will be saved from that.
More than that, you will "go in and out." This is a beautiful figure. To go into the fold means to find security. This is a desperate need in this hour. Last week I read in the newspapers of three major communities where people are simply stunned by the number of teenage suicides that have occurred this past year. Fine young people, well educated, from good families are taking their own lives suddenly, without warning. Why? Because the future seems so bleak and barren. There is no security left in this world. A terrible nuclear threat hangs over our heads; insecurity is felt in our jobs, constant changes in life are hitting all the time. No one feels secure. But the wonderful thing about this Shepherd is that, when you know him, you will have a sense of security. You are with the One who is in charge of all things. "All power in heaven and on earth is given unto me," Jesus declared to his disciples following his resurrection (Matthew 28:18 KJV). Thus you can find security.
But more than that, you will have liberty; you can go out into the world again. Jesus himself said to his disciples, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves." Does that sound like where you work? Are there wolves there ready to snap at you, chew you up, and spit you out? Well, here is One who can go with you. The Shepherd is with you, thus you have the liberty to move out into life in any dimension. You have both security and liberty.
Then what? You will "find pasture," he promises. That is nourishment -- food for the soul, for the mind, for the heart. In Washington last week I went up to the Capitol and gained an appointment with Senator Mark Hatfield. It was a busy day for him. He had just flown in from another city and he had to leave in a few minutes to go to the Senate chamber where they were scheduled to vote on the prayer amendment. When I entered his office the first thing he did was to take a Bible and read to me some verses from the Gospel of Mark that had nourished him and blessed his heart as he was flying into Washington that very morning. They were verses describing the agony of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and how it was clear that he did not want to die. Our Lord was only 33. He hated the thought of death, but he knew his Father wanted him to die for the purpose for which he came into the world. Senator Hatfield shared with me how much that meant to him. We had a wonderful time together feeding upon the riches of the Word of God. I do not know how anybody who is a believer can fail to read and study the Scriptures. They are so rich in feeding our hearts and keeping us strong and nourished.
Then the familiar words, "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." An abundant life! Not just surviving, barely making it from day to day, but a life filled with joy and peace and love. Those are the three great provisions, the daily elements of our inheritance in Jesus. An abundant life, of course, means a life filled with excitement and adventure. I look back now on almost 50 years of walking with the Lord, and I want to tell you I could not have chosen a more exciting life than the one God has given me. It is filled with constant expectation of what is coming next. Sometimes it is dangerous, sometimes it hurts, but it is filled with a sense of adventure. That is what Jesus means by "the abundant life."
I do not know how young people can choose any other kind of life. What the world offers is very pale in comparison. This is the life of continual adventure. I came away from Washington, my heart bursting with the joy of seeing what God was doing behind the scenes in our nations' capital through Christians who have learned how to follow the Shepherd and work in ways that he makes clear. They are actually reaching a position where they can exercise far greater influence over world affairs than those who are elected to office. They are the true government of this country, although you seldom hear their names because they work behind the scenes. Yes, I was very encouraged to see what is happening in our nation's capital. I know when we read about our government in the papers we are inclined to agree with what Will Rogers said, "We ought to be glad that we don't get as much government as we pay for!" But when you see how God works there then it is a different thing. This is indeed "the abundant life."
In the next section Jesus reverts to the figure of a shepherd.
"I am the good shepherd. [He is the true shepherd, he is the door of the sheep, and now he is the good shepherd.] The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep." (John 10:11-15 RSV)
The primary characteristic of the good shepherd is that he loves unto death; he is willing to die for the sheep. The disciples never could get over the fact that Jesus loved them so much he was willing to die for them. Many of the epistles of Paul, of John and James and Peter contain awestruck references to this. John writes in Revelation, "Unto Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood," (Revelation 1:5 KJV). Paul says in Romans, "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us," (Romans 5:8); and, "He who spared not his own Son but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32 KJV). Peter said, "He bore our sins in his own body on the tree," (1 Peter 2:24 RSV). The writer of the Hebrews declares, "Who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot unto God," (Hebrews 9:14). They are amazed that this Blessed One, this Sinless Lord, this Matchless Christ would consent to die for his own. But that is the mark of the Good Shepherd.
What a contrast with the hireling! What do all these other religious voices that we hear want from us? They want something for themselves. They regard the sheep as something to be exploited, to be used to advance and to build themselves up. When the sheep get into trouble, when the enemy comes, when the wolf (the devil) strikes, they flee, leaving the sheep to fend for themselves.
What a testimony we had along this line in the Jonestown episode. Jim Jones was looked up to and trusted as the leader of a flock, but he led the flock into murder and suicide and destruction. The Jim Joneses who speak to people today are tending in the same direction, though it may not always end in quite as disastrous a way.
Jesus declares that the end of his laying down his life is to share his life with the sheep. Notice how he puts it, "I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father."
When I was a boy growing up I always longed to have a father. My father left home when I was 10. In all those years I cannot remember that he ever showed any affection to me. He was not cruel; he just ignored me. That is probably why, as a boy, I was always sensitive to the sight of a father and a son together sharing their love with each other. God has given me four precious daughters whom I love, but also in his mercy and grace he has allowed many young men to pass through my life who have been like sons to me. It has been a rich experience to know and to share that love with these fine young men and with my own daughters.
That is what Jesus speaks of here, that intimacy of fellowship, that beauty of life which was evident in Jesus as he loved the Father and the Father loved him. This, he promises, is what comes to us as a result of laying down his life for us -- richness of fellowship -- that beauty of life which is imparted by this One who was willing to lay down his life that we may have life.
Then the final figure is what we can properly call the Great Shepherd.
"And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father." (John 10:16-18 RSV)
The wonderful benediction at the end of the letter to the Hebrews says,
"May the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory now and forever," (Hebrews 13:20-21 KJV).
This benediction is a reference to the fact that Jesus is the Great Shepherd.
The first thing in his work as the Great Shepherd is that he has "other sheep that are not of this fold." The fold he speaks of is the nation Israel. Here Jesus is lifting his eyes beyond the cross, beyond the resurrection, to the going forth of the gospel to all the nations of the earth. Isn't it moving to think that not one of us would be here this morning, as Gentile believers in Jesus, if he had not been willing to lay down his life for the sheep. The result of that laying down of his life was that the gospel broke out beyond the boundaries of Israel and spread throughout the earth. Here we are, at the far corners of the world, meeting as a great crowd of believers in Jesus because he laid down his life for the sheep. He brought us together so that there is one flock -- not one fold, notice, but one flock-- and one shepherd, no more than one; one church, one Lord, as Paul says in Ephesians 4. We all belong together. There are not two flocks; there is only one.
That came about because of the fact that he obeyed the Father's charge. He laid down his life. He had the power to do it. Do not let anybody ever tell you that Jesus was hounded to death or that he was crucified against his will. He chose to die. He could have prevented it; he could have resisted it. This is the meaning of the bloody sweat in the Garden of Gethsemane when he said, "If it be possible, Father, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done," (Luke 22:42 KJV). Thus he obeyed the Father to the end. He gave himself up and took his life again that he might share it with us.
The final thing, then, in the work of the Great Shepherd is that he creates a division on earth.
There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, "He has a demon, and he is mad; why listen to him?" (John 10:19-20 RSV)
People still talk about him that way today. "Why pay any attention to him? He lived 2,000 years ago. We're much smarter, much more understanding, much better educated today. We don't go in for those primitive ideas that he taught." "He has a demon, and he is mad; why listen to him."
Others said, "These are not the sayings of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?" (John 10:21 RSV)
Surely one of the most meaningful aspects to believers about Jesus is that he does for us what no one else can do. Do you feel that? No one else can satisfy your heart, no one else can solve the problems of the mind, no one can answer the questions about life after death like Jesus can. No one can touch a human situation of conflict and strife and bring healing and deliverance like Jesus can. Don't you often feel like saying, with Peter,
"To whom can we go? You alone have the words of eternal life," (John 6:68 RSV).
We will conclude this service by coming to the table that speaks so eloquently of our Lord's death on our behalf. How many times in this passage does he say, "The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." These are the very elements that he himself designed to remind us of the costliness of our salvation. It has not been inexpensive. It was not easily done. He did not want to do it. He made himself do it on our behalf -- that we might receive the abundant life, the gifts of joy and peace, the deliverance from the guilt of our sins, and the fragrance of fellowship and companionship with him. All this is to be in our thoughts as we come to the Lord's table. I do not know how you feel, but that always awakens in me a deep sense of gratitude. Let our hearts be filled with gratitude for what the Lord has done. ( Ray Stedman. The Shepherd and His Sheep).
We are resuming our studies in the Gospel of John after a lapse of almost three months. Strikingly, John also resumes his account in Verse 22 of Chapter 10 after a lapse of about three months in the life and ministry of our Lord. If you look carefully at the early verses in Chapter 10 you will find that they took place in Jerusalem in connection with the Feast of Tabernacles (which is held in early October), while the opening words of our text today are, "It was the Feast of the Dedication at Jerusalem." That Feast, which we call by the much more familiar term "Hanukkah," is celebrated when we Christians celebrate Christmas, in late December, so there is a gap in time between Verse 21 and Verse 22 of approximately three months duration.
That, of course, raises the question: where was Jesus during this time? The most likely answer is that he had returned to Galilee to minister there. The Gospel of Luke records many incidents in the life of Jesus that took place in Galilee. It seems that these events occurred in this interim period when, following the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus went back to Galilee and there sent out the seventy disciples to the various cities in Galilee. Jesus himself did many amazing miracles during this time.
Here, then, in Verse 22 is the record of a quick return trip to Jerusalem which he made, following which he traveled to the area of Perea, in the region of the Jordan River, between Galilee and the Dead Sea.
It was the Feast of the Dedication at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. (John 10:22-23 RSV)
Winter in Israel is the rainy season. The "portico of Solomon" was a large roofed-in enclosure supported by beautiful columns that filled one side of the temple arena. There, sheltered from the rain, our Lord resumed his teaching ministry during the Feast of Hanukkah. Hanukkah celebrates the purification and rededication of the temple after its defilement under the Syrian king, Antiochus Epiphanes, in the year 165 BC. The feast looks back on that dramatic, exciting period in Israel's history when the Maccabee family revolted against Israel's Syrian overlords. After a terrible time of murder and slaughter, and defilement of the temple courts by the offering of pigs on the altars of Judah, Judas Maccabeus and his sons drove out the Syrians, reclaimed the temple for the Lord and dedicated it anew. That event is celebrated down to this day in the Feast of Hanukkah.
It seems likely that Jesus returned to Jerusalem for two main reasons: First, he wanted to resume his wonderful teaching about his role as the Shepherd of Israel. This whole 10th chapter is built about the theme, "The Lord is my Shepherd." Here Jesus speaks of himself as the Great Shepherd who gives his life for the sheep, the True Shepherd who is not like the thieves and robbers, etc.
The second reason for his return seems to be to make arrangements for his final return to Jerusalem when he would come to offer himself as the Lamb of God, slain for the sins of the whole world. Later in this Gospel we learn that he came down the Mount of Olives on that last week, riding upon a donkey, for which arrangements had been made in advance. When he entered the city he sent his disciples to find a man who was carrying a water jar on his head. That was a woman's work; men did not do that in those days. Thus to find a man carrying a water jar on his head would be a very remarkable sight. This man would lead them to the "upper room" that had already been hired by our Lord, evidently on this hurried visit to Jerusalem.
Continuing, John tells us in Verse 24:
So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep is in suspense?" [Literally, "How long are you going to raise our minds, i.e., tantalize us?"] If you are the Christ [the Messiah], tell us plainly." Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep." (John 10:24-26 RSV)
In this remarkable scene, it is evident that the Jews deliberately encircled our Lord (that is what John suggests in the word he uses here) so that he could not get away, forcing him to face their question, "Are you the Messiah, or aren't you? If you are, tell us plainly." Our Lord's answer was, "I have already told you." According to John's account he never had really said to these men, "I am the Messiah." He did say that to the woman at the well of Samaria, and he did say to the man who was born blind (John 9), "I am the Son of God," but to these Jewish leaders, these Pharisees, he had never said, "I am the Messiah." The reason, of course, was that their idea of what the Messiah would do and Jesus' fulfillment of the predictions of the Messiah were wide apart. They pictured the Messiah as a conquering hero who, like the family of Judas Maccabeus, would drive out the Romans, free the temple and enable the Jewish nation to again gain control of the land. But Jesus gave no indication that he ever intended to do that. Therefore, for him to say to them, "I am the Messiah" would have been to arouse totally false hopes in their minds. But he did tell them by other means that he was the Messiah.
He makes clear in his answer three basic reasons for unbelief in him. Many have asked, "Why don't people believe in Jesus? Why didn't the Jews believe in him, and why don't they today believe in Jesus? If he fulfilled the Scriptures so accurately, and so fully, why don't they believe in him?" Here our Lord gives three reasons for that:
First, it is not because of lack of information! The Jews asked him, "If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly." To that he replied, "I told you." He had not done so in words, but he had done so in deeds. He went on to say, "The works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness to me." The prophet Isaiah had predicted that, when the Messiah came, the ears of the deaf would be unstopped, the eyes of the blind would be opened, the lame would leap as the hart, and the tongue of the dumb would sing, (Isaiah 35). All of these things had taken place under Jesus' ministry. So Jesus clearly indicated by his deeds that he was the Messiah, but he had not said so in words.
Sometimes it is very difficult for us to understand Scripture because we have such twisted ideas of what it is really saying. I am reminded of a story a friend of mine, Don Moomaw, told me. Some of you will recognize that Don, who once was an All-American football player at UCLA, is President Reagan's pastor. He ministers at Bel Air Presbyterian Church in the Los Angeles area. One morning Don decided to drive down the hill from where he lives to pick up a newspaper from the newsstand at the bottom of the hill. Dressed only in his pajama shorts, he got into his car but found that the battery was low. He thought he would give the car a shove, hoping that the battery would function as the car rolled down the hill. But the car failed to start; it just kept rolling down the hill and he found himself on a busy suburban street dressed only in his pajama shorts, unable to get back up the hill. Resourceful fellow that he is, Don decided there was nothing else to do but face his predicament. He got out of the car and rang the doorbell of a nearby house. A woman opened the door and Don told her, "I am the pastor of the Bel Air Presbyterian Church!" Can you imagine how difficult it was for him to convince her that this huge hulk of a man dressed in pajama shorts was the dignified pastor of the well-known Bel Air Presbyterian Church up on the hill? Somehow he managed to do that. She let him in to use the phone so he could call his wife and have her come down in the other car and pick him up.
What a difficult thing it is to convince people when you do not look like what they expect! That is the problem Jesus had. The Jews expected a military leader who would free them from the yoke of Rome, but he came as the Suffering Servant of Jehovah to give himself on behalf of the sins of man and break through the stranglehold of evil which Satan has upon our race. That is why he had not said to them, "I am the Messiah."
The second thing Jesus pointed out in his reply is that, though he had told them, they had rejected the evidence he gave: "The works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness to me; but you do not believe..." He was referring to the wonderful works of healing which he had done to fulfill the word of the prophet Isaiah. Why did they not believe him? Because, as they read the Scriptures, they selected the evidence they wanted to believe and left the rest.
That is a common phenomenon. We have been getting a lot of it in this election year. If you watched the Democratic or the Republican conventions, or both, and if you listen to the political speeches that are being made today, you will find this kind of a thing going on all the time. The Democrats tell us that the problem is, the Republicans are a confused bunch of addlepated people who have crazy ideas about how to run things -- and the fact that they have been fairly successful in having their way of late is the reason why we have such a mess in our world. If you listen to the Republicans, on the other hand, they sound like the Democrats have never done anything right, and have messed everything up. All the problems that we are facing today are their fault. Each side supports their arguments by quoting reams of statistics, by various polls and figures, etc., until it all looks very believable. I hope by now we have learned that it is all done, not with mirrors, but by a process of selectively picking through the evidence they want to emphasize while ignoring the rest.
This is exactly what happens when people read about Jesus and yet fail to believe in him. Both Jew and Gentile alike indulge in this. They only believe what they want to believe.
The third reason is the most significant of all: "You do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep." Jesus is saying, "You have never come to me. You have never got close. You have never really found out who I am. You have never asked me to do anything in your life. You have no personal testimony of what I can do. You have not been part of my sheep." This is the reason why many people never find God.
I got a rather poignant letter from a woman not long ago. At great length she described to me how she had been seeking God all her life. She wanted desperately to be a Christian, she wrote. She had done everything people had told her to do, read all the relevant passages, and believed everything she was told. She was longing for peace, longing for a sense of God's presence in her life and the joy that Christians talked about. Yet, though she did everything they told her to do, nothing ever happened. Somebody had given her my name, or she had read one of our papers, and she wrote to me. "I don't know if you can help me or not," she wrote. "You will probably tell me what everybody else has told me, but I have tried all that and it doesn't work." Just as gently and graciously as I could I wrote back to her, and said, "Do you hear what you are saying? You are talking about God, and the promises he has made. You are talking about a God who cannot fail, who does not lie, who offers freely a way of redemption to those who will genuinely receive it, and yet by your language you are telling me that he has failed, he has lied to you, he has not done what you have asked him to do, and it is all his fault. I urge you to bring that problem to him. Tell him that you do not understand yet how to come; you have not clearly seen how. But don't blame him, because God cannot fail." I have not heard from her, so I do not know what the result of that was.
This is where many people are today. They say they have tried to come to God, and they blame him because nothing happens. But God cannot fail. It is we who need to learn more, we who need to humble ourselves, and come, and say, "Lord, teach me what is wrong." Had these Pharisees done this they would have found him. But Jesus said, "You have not come. You are not of my sheep."
All of this provides the setting for one of the greatest passages in all of Scripture. It is one of my favorite verses, and perhaps yours too.
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one to able to snatch them out of the Father's hand." (John 10:27-29 RSV)
What a marvelous word of assurance to us! In it, our Lord indicates two major things. First, the answer to the question, "How can you tell a true Christian from a mere professor?"; and secondly, the answer to the question almost everybody asks, "Can a true believer be lost after he or she has once been born again?"
Verse 27 answers the first question. "How can you tell a true believer from a mere professor?" Here are three marks: First, "My sheep hear my voice." That is, they are drawn to what Jesus has to say. They believe that what he says is the truth, and they long to hear more. One of the things that has encouraged me through 34 years of ministry has been the hunger of people for the word of Jesus. How it has drawn people, and ministered to them, and fed them, and how they love to hear it! What brings out such a large crowd as we have here today on a holiday Sunday when you could be out in the mountains or down at the beach, as most people are? It is the voice of Jesus. It is his insight into life, his understanding of the secrets of existence, his solution to the problems with which every one of us wrestle, his offer of deliverance from the inner bondage which we experience as we seek to live life and find ourselves continually trapped and enmeshed in wrong things, in hurt and anguish and pain. It is the word of Jesus that brings you here, the word declared in the Scriptures and by the confirmation of the Spirit within.
That is the first characteristic of a true sheep: One who longs to hear the word of God. He wants to know more. He reads and studies and learns and comes regularly to hear the word of God. "My sheep hear my voice."
Secondly, "I know them." When the sheep read the Word they have a sense of welcome from the Lord himself. They know that this word of deliverance, this word of healing, applies to them. They feel accepted. They know they belong. They feel a Father's arms around them and a Father's heart beating in their concern and their care. They know that there is a personal relationship established. They have become the "children of God." That is what Jesus means. One of the marks of true believers is they always have a sense they belong to God, that they are his children, part of his family, and welcomed by the Lord Jesus himself. This is what Paul refers to in Romans 8, "his spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God," (Romans 8:16).
Then the third mark: "They follow me." That is, they obey Jesus; they do what he commands. This does not mean that they always do so instantaneously, without struggle. All of us struggle at times with what our Lord says; all of us resist at times. Sometimes the word needs to be brought clearly and sharply into focus in our life. But the point of it is, once we see what Jesus wants, the attitude of a true sheep is, "Lord, even though it hurts, even though it costs, I will do what you say. I will follow you." Jesus himself made that clear when he said, "If anyone will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me," (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). This is the mark of a true sheep: He obeys what the Lord says. We do not follow the world, we follow the Lord. The two are going in opposite directions. When the choice is made, it is a choice in favor of obeying the Lord Jesus.
The Apostle Paul says the same thing in his letter to Timothy: "The foundation of the Lord stands sure, having this seal, the Lord knows them that are his," (2 Timothy 2:19a). There is divine recognition. But that is not all: "Let him that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity," (2 Timothy 2:19b). Let him turn his back on what is wrong and obey and follow his Lord. That is the mark of a sheep. Anybody who is not doing that has no right to call himself or herself a Christian. If we are resisting the Lord in an area that we know to be right and if we insist on living that way we have no right to the title of Christian.
Why do sheep act this way? What has made the difference? Jesus tells us three things that he has done which make his sheep act as they do. It is not something he will do when the sheep do their part -- this is not a chronological succession here; it is an explanation of what lies behind the actions of sheep. Again, there are three things:
First, "I give unto them eternal life." That is stated in the present indicative tense: "I keep on giving to them eternal life." What holds us to Jesus? Why do we gather here on a Sunday morning, exerting a lot of effort to get here? Some dress up, some don't, but we all come. (That's all right. There is nothing that says you have to wear a tie on Sunday morning to be acceptable to God.) What brings us? It is the life he gives, the peace, the joy, the love that we feel, the sense of inner serenity, the forgiveness, the sense of belonging and being guarded and kept and loved, that is what brings us. It is a quality of life which comes so continually to us that we would give up anything else rather than give that up. We are drawn because he keeps on giving us life, eternal life, God's kind of life.
Secondly, that quality of life has an element of assurance: it will never end. It has a certainty of safety, of security about it. It can never end. We will never perish. Isn't that a marvelous word? We live in a world that is perishing, a world that is headed for judgment, for ultimate destruction. People all around us are committed to ways of life that end at last in hell -- we shall never perish! What a wonderful word of assurance. It is a life that survives death, that even disdains death. Everyone in this congregation is headed for death, yet many among us are unafraid. They do not look with terrible tragic hopelessness toward the future. They know that a way has been provided by which they will not even know death or sense it when it happens, but they will be ushered immediately into glory and life and truth.
Thirdly, this is a life which is guarded, kept, protected by two unconquerable Beings. Jesus said, "No one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand." In Colossians, Paul puts these two things together: "Your life is hid with Christ in God," (Colossians 3:3). What a wonderful view that is of our safety! No one, not even we ourselves, can take us out of the Father's hand.I remember my patron saint, Dr. H. A. Ironside, telling about preaching once on this theme of the safety and security of the believer. A woman came up to him afterwards and said to him, "I don't agree with your doctrine." "What don't you agree with?" he asked her. "Well, this doctrine of once saved, always saved," she replied. He said to her, "Let me read you a verse that says that." She said, "Oh, I know what you are going to read. You are going to read John 10:28, aren't you?" He replied, "As a matter of fact that is the verse I was going to read." So he read the words, "'I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish and no one can snatch them out of my hand.' Do you believe that?" he asked her. "Not according to your interpretation," she replied. "But I didn't interpret it, I just read it to you," Dr. Ironside said. "Well," she replied, "I don't believe the way you see it." Then let me read it this way," he said. "Supposing it said, 'I give them life for 20 years, and they shall never perish for 20 years and no one can snatch them our of my hand for 20 years,' what would you think about that?" She said, "I think they would be safe for 20 years." He said, "Let us say 40 years. Would they be safe for 40 years?" "Yes," she said, "I think they would be safe for 40 years." "But it doesn't say 20 or 40 years, it says eternal life: 'and they shall never perish.'" The Greek text is very strong at that point. What it literally says is, "They shall not ever perish forever." Let's read it that way: "'I give unto them life forever and they shall never perish forever.'" Do you believe that?" he asked her. "Not according to your interpretation," was her response. At this point he used to say, "A man convinced, against his will, is of the same opinion still, and a woman -- is sometimes as bad as a man."
It is true. You cannot convince anybody who does not wish to be convinced. But the verse is very clear, isn't it? "They shall never perish." No one, not even the person himself, can take a believer out of the Father's hand, because the Father is greater than all. We are kept by the sovereign power and love of God. We may struggle, we may hurt, we may go through times of dark, deep depression and times of doubt and despair, but we shall never perish if we have come to him and are part of his flock.
This leads us to another marvelous statement, a staggering claim by Jesus:
"I and the Father are one." [And immediately John adds]:
The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these do you stone me?" The Jews answered him, "It is not for good work but for blasphemy; because you being a man, make yourself God." (John 10:30-33 RSV)
Many hold that Jesus never claimed to be God, but the Jews clearly understood this to be such a claim and their immediate reaction is to run and find stones (that is what is suggested by the word John uses here), in order to put him to death. They did so because the Law directed that if a man claimed to be God he was a dangerous person; he might influence others to think he was God, so he must be eliminated from society, put to death by stoning. On hearing these words of Jesus, the Jews thought, "Aha, we've got him now. He has made a claim that is so clear we don't even have to wait for the Romans to rule on this. We'll stone him right here in the temple courts and put him to death according to the Law because of what he said."
Notice how Jesus very quietly and unperturbedly forces them to establish the ground of their accusations: "Which of my good works are you stoning me for?" he asks them. But nobody ever stoned anyone for good works -- the Law made no provision for that -- so they hastily clear up that point: "No, no, we're not stoning you for your good works. We don't deny them; they've been good works. We are stoning you because of what you said: "I and the Father are one." That means you are claiming to be God, and that's blasphemy. That's why we are stoning you." Our Lord responds in a most remarkable way, by quoting the 82nd Psalm:
"Is it not written in your law, 'I said, you are gods'? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came (and scripture cannot be broken)," (John 10:34b-35 RSV)
Notice that point: "Scripture cannot be broken." It can never be wrong. It cannot be set aside. It is not filled with errors. It cannot be broken. This is our Lord's view of the whole Old Testament, the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. It cannot be wrong, therefore if it calls men "gods" they must, in some sense, be gods.
[Scripture says these men are gods, therefore] “do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'?" (John 10:36 RSV)
Again, many hold that Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God. Well, mark this in your Bible. This is where he clearly quotes himself as claiming to be the Son of God.
Note the force of his argument. The 82nd Psalm begins,
God has taken his place in the divine council;
In the midst of the gods he holds judgment: (Psalms 82:1 RSV)
This psalm deals with the judges of Israel, the human judges who settled disputes -- the Supreme Court, if you like -- of Israel. What the psalm is saying is that these men are acting as agents of God: God is in their midst; the judgment they pronounce is the judgment of God. The psalm clearly calls them "gods." Verse 6 of this Psalm, the verse Jesus quoted, says,
I say, "You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, you shall die like men,
and fall like any prince." (Psalms 82:6-7 RSV)
His argument is, "If men, plain vanilla men just like other men, who serve as judges and do God's work in that way can be called gods without blasphemy -- even the Scriptures do it and they cannot be wrong -- how can you accuse me of blasphemy when I claim to be a Son of God and do the work of God?" Many people think that that is all Jesus meant to claim: That all he is saying is, "I am just like these other men in the Old Testament who were judges. They could be called gods and weren't stoned for blasphemy, why, then, are you stoning me when I say I am a Son of God? The psalm says, 'You are the sons of the Most High,' so why should I be accused of blasphemy for saying the same thing?" Some of the scholars claim this is what Jesus is claiming -- that he is merely a man doing the work of God. But that ignores the words of Jesus here that go far, far beyond that. What he said was, "Do you say of him whom the Father sanctified. (consecrated), and sent into the world...?" That is a claim no mere man can make. He is saying, "I existed before I came to earth. Before I appeared as a man I existed. I came from God. I was sent of God. I was one with God." This, without doubt, is a claim for the sharing of deity. His argument then becomes, "If mere men who do God's work can be called "gods" without blasphemy, how then can you charge one who is one with God and comes from God a blasphemer?"
The other day I was driving with my youngest grandson, Luke, who is four, through a part of Palo Alto where my wife and I first lived when we came here (in 1950) 34 years ago. I said to Luke, "I used to live here on this street a long time ago, before you were born or your mother was born." He looked at me and said, "Where was I then?" I said, "I don't know where you were. Your mother wasn't even born yet. I don't even know where she was." No one can claim to have pre-existed, but Jesus did, and when he makes this claim he is claiming to share the nature of God. This is why the Apostle Paul could declare so clearly, "He is the image of the invisible God," (Colossians 1:15). "He is the creator of all things," (Colossians 1:16); "and by him all things hold together," (Colossians 1:17b RSV). John says the same thing in the opening of this gospel. Clearly our Lord claims oneness with God. Then he rests it again on the unshakable evidence:
"If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me..." (John 10:37 RSV)
Isn't that amazing? Jesus said, "Do not believe me just because of my words, my claims. If God does not confirm what I say by works then you do not have to believe me."
"...but if I do them [the works of God], even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand [the most vital truth in all the universe] that the Father is in me and I am in the Father." (John 10:38 RSV)
What a startling claim! "Either Jesus is a totally mad person, on a par," as C. S. Lewis put it, "with a man who claims to be a poached egg -- out of his mind, uttering meaningless, garbled, rambling, megalomaniacal statements -- or he is telling the truth. And if he is telling the truth he is the most important Being in the universe. He is at the center of everything: He is the center of life, the giver of truth. Jesus of Nazareth is the center of everything. To ignore him is to grope in darkness, to live in rebellion, to miss out on joy, peace and love, and end at last as part of the world's fiery judgment." But all who heard Jesus do not reject him. John goes on to tell us:
Again they tried to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.
He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John at first baptized [that is where he began his ministry] and there he remained. And many came to him; and they said, "John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true." And many believed in him there. (John 10:40-42 RSV)
They saw the confirmation of the word of John (the Baptist) in the works of Jesus. Here is where Jesus rests his case. It is interesting that nobody today ever seriously makes the claim that Jesus was a mad man! I have never seen any serious attempt to claim that he was out of his mind. His works were so true, so helpful, so delivering, such a blessing to everyone. His words and his works have released people for centuries. Nobody claims he is mad. The only conclusion left is that he is indeed God become man. The mystery of his existence is this: He is the God-man. We are called to worship him, to follow him, and obey him. This is the only way we can find our way safely through life. (Mad Man or God Man)
Jesus the Shepherd King
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False Shepherds Deposed
Screws are Being Tightened
Israel's Covenant With Death
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God gives Pastors, for What?, by Ray Stedman
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July 27, 2019. March 30, 2022