Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I am the good shepherd

Sheep -old Kodak.jpg

“I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf a coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. This happens because he is a hired man and doesn’t care about the sheep. 
“I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep. But I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. Then there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves Me, because I am laying down My life so I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father.”   
–– John 10:11-18

The Gospel of John is different than the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke).  Synoptic comes from the Greek word syn, which means similar. The Synoptic Gospels include many of the same stories, often in the same sequence, and with similar wording.  They are linked together with the same point of view.  John is also a Gospel.  It tells of the good news of the Christ. It shares the same view of the other Gospels in that Jesus is the Son of God, and the Savior. John's account is unique among the Gospels in that he doesn't recount any of the Lord's parables; he does, however, recall Christ's use of figurative language and extended metaphors.  This "I AM" (ego eimi) statement of Jesus as a  "good shepherd," is a self-portrait of Himself.

Sheep are mentioned in the Bible more than 300 times.  This is more than any other animal.  Sheep need a shepherd.  Without a shepherd, the sheep will wander away and they will perish.  We humans are sheep. "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all."  Isaiah 53:6   In Old Testament prophecy (Jeremiah 23 ;  Ezekiel 34  ;  Zechariah 11)  God  sends a warning to the unfaithful spiritual leaders of Israel.  God tells them that He will come to do the job of shepherding Himself, if they wont't do it right.  this is what Jesus is saying.  He, Jesus, is the predicted good shepherd.  He is the long awaited promise.

The proclamations of Jesus as the door and the good shepherd are tied together. Jesus is the door for His sheep. He is the portal through which we have access to the Father. The wall of separation between God and man has been opened.  And the curtain [of the Holy of Holies] of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  Mark 15:38  The barrier was removed.  Jesus is The Door. 

A good shepherd would lead his sheep, he did not drive them.  He would walk before them and they would follow.  He would walk at their head, leading them along the roads and over hills to new pasture.  As he walked along he he would  talk to them, and perhaps sing to them. The good shepherd was interested in every single sheep of his flock.  He may have even given pet names to them because of incidents connected with that single sheep. The good shepherd knew  and cared for his sheep. Because of the care of the shepherd the sheep knew and trusted their shepherd.  They knew his walk, his voice, his gestures.  They trusted him. They followed him.

A good shepherd would protect his sheep.  A good shepherd would always remain with his flock. A good shepherd would not allow his flock to remain in the field at night where thieves and wild animals could take advantage of darkness to steal and to kill.  The  good shepherd would lead his sheep to a sheepfold as darkness fell. If there was no sheepfold, they corralled the flock into a cave or some other natural enclosure and guarded the entrance. Often they would lie down across the entrance and become the door.

The shepherd had very few tools for his trade. He would have a sling to defend himself and the sheep of his flock. He perhaps would have a flute to entertain both himself and his sheep. He would likely have a cloak that was also used for his night-time bedding.  The most often mentioned tools were his rod and his staff.  The staff, or shepherd's crook, was a long crooked stick.  It was something similar to a cane. The shepherd would always walk with staff in his hand. When a sheep would start to wander away, the good shepherd would stretch out and pull it back with the crook of the staff. The staff was also used to reach out and grab a sheep for closer inspection. A staff was used to to poke around crevices and rocks to run off snakes, scorpions, and other harmful varmints that could threaten the sheep.  The rod was was a stout piece of wood with a lump of wood the size of an orange carved at one end. It was about 2 1/2 to 3 feet long.  The rod was an extension of the shepherds arm.  It was used as a missile. The shepherd would practice for hours to develop accuracy in throwing the missile.  It was a weapon to protect. With the rod the shepherd fought the battles of the flock.  He used it to drive off wild beasts and to defend the flock against the robbers who would steal the sheep.  It was also used to part the wool of the sheep to check for sores and bugs.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  Jesus is speaking to the Jews. Jesus also states that He has other sheep from other folds. This is to show that His sheep can be Gentiles as well as Jews. The sheep from these other folds will also hear the good news. They can become His sheep and join His flock. He is faithful to all His sheep.  He cares for His sheep. He protects His sheep. He does not run away from His sheep when danger threatens. Jesus would even die for His sheep.  Jesus is telling those who listened that He would lay down His life for His sheep.  He is foretelling them that he will be crucified.  He would suffer a substitutionary death on behalf of His believers.

The important thing to notice is that He is chose to suffer and die for us.   I lay down My life for the sheep.  Jesus, as the Creator, could not be overpowered. He could not be killed by anyone or anything unless He chose to do so. He voluntarily suffered and died in order to carry out the Father's redemptive plan. I am laying down My life so I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father.  As God the Son, He had the power to to take up His life again. He was resurrected and is alive today. He is the Good Shepherd.  He is eternal. He is not the I was, He is the "I AM."

Do you know the voice of the Good Shepherd?  Do you follow the Good Shepherd?  Are you a sheep of His one and only flock?  Listen to His voice and follow Him today.

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