(The same phenomenon occurs when a bunch of guests come over at once. He runs around the room -- looking to be petted -- but unsure who the best option might be.)
It's hard to be a dog.
Then again, it's also hard to be a human.
If you’re a Christian in modern America, maybe you’ve faced situations similar. You know Jesus is calling you. But – there are lots of voices out there telling you to stop following him and start following them! These voices are tricky. Because when you don’t listen to them, they can get violent. They mock. They yell. They make you ‘uncool’ at school. They post angry messages on your blog.
And you start to think -- Is it worth it?
Whose voice should I follow?
We’re going to John 10 today– to listen to Jesus’ words as to why to follow his voice – the voice of the Good Shepherd. Before we look at his treatise, let’s say a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Danger of the Thief
The illustration Jesus uses in this section is one that would have been very common to ancient Israel – an agrarian community. Listen to the illustration:
Very truly I tell you, Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice. (John 10:1-5)
Notice to whom the illustration is given. It’s given to the Pharisees. The Pharisees were a group of people who hated Jesus. They didn't believe in him. In fact, their mission during Jesus' life seemed to be intimidating people into not following Jesus.
In the chapter right before John 10, Jesus heals a man who was blind from birth. Instead of being amazed, the Pharisees arrest the blind man and charge him to badmouth Jesus. They insist there must have been foul play in this healing. (A satanic ritual or illegal drugs -- something!) But the man refuses. As a result, they throw him out of the synagogue because he is a 'no good follower of Jesus.'
It’s really interesting that this illustration begins with the illustration of the thief. “Anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.” (v.1) If the guy isn’t coming through the gate, then he isn’t the shepherd. He goes to the side, because doesn’t have the key – or (if you live in a fancy, uppity shepherding neighborhood) he doesn’t have the keycode to open the gate.
And since he can’t get through the gate, he has to wait until night. He has to sneak.in. He has to climb over the fence. He grabs one of the sheep, jumps back out and the sheep are never to be heard from again.
If you haven’t guessed already, you are the sheep in this parable. I’m a sheep too. Jesus isn’t the thief; he’s the shepherd.
Who’s the spiritual thief then? The spiritual thief is the one who doesn’t come in from the gate. I think this is pretty interesting. If you jump forward to verse 7 Jesus defines the gate. He says, “I am the gate for the sheep.” That means the spiritual thief is the one who enters the sheep pen apart from the message of Jesus.
Do you get it?
Jesus was calling out the Pharisees! They weren’t leading people to the Gate! They weren't leading people to Jesus. In fact, they were intimidating people like the formerly blind man into denouncing the real shepherd.
They were the thieves.
The Pharisees as an organized group that are not around today. Are spiritual thieves still a problem today? Oh yeah. Here are a few common ones;
False Teachers. This is essentially what the Pharisees were. Instead of pointing people to salvation by faith in Jesus alone, they pointed people to salvation by doing Jewish thing...Lots of Jewish things...Jewish things that they were probably not going to be able to accomplish because they weren't awesome like the Pharisees
False teachers are still around today. You might find them on the radio, online or on TV. Listen to their message. All the fine sounding sermons and well dressed speakers in the world cannot make up for a lack of Jesus Christ. If they don't point you to Jesus, they aren't going through the Gate. They are robbers. Watch out!
Political Movements. Because Political movements have somehow become more important than following Jesus. Political movements (democrats, republicans and any other political movement) have plenty of non-Jesus like aspects to them. When these things enter through the side gate and steal you away from following Jesus – taking up all of your time reading blogs, posting things on the internet, and ignoring your Bible. You’re in danger; the thief has ahold of you.
Sexual Liberation Movement. Don’t get me wrong – sex is a good thing! God is not a prude. God simply wants to protect your heart and the hearts of others. That’s why God wants sexual relations practiced within the marriage covenant. But this movement proclaim “It’s your body. If it feels good, do it – Who cares about the consequences and who cares who I harm and who cares if I don’t follow God!”
But that line of thinking isn’t a Jesus line of thinking. Jesus cared whom he harmed. Jesus cared about following God. Meaning this current of thinking doesn’t come through the gate. It comes from hopping the fence! IT’S A THIEF! And if you’ve been finding yourself listen to that current of thought lately. You’re in danger; the thief has a hold of you.
Your friends. That’s a hard one to hear. But think about it. If your friend is making fun of Jesus…If your friend is making you question your faith…If your friend is leading you to do things outside of your…If your friend is ridiculing you and giving the impression that unless you give up your faith, the ridicule will only increase. YOU’RE IN DANGER! Your friend is a thief. Knowingly or unknowingly…they are leading you away from the only one who offers salvation.
Here’s the thing. The thief doesn’t actually care about you. The thief only cares for himself. He only cares about the money they’ll get from the wool or the tasty meat that’ll fill his belly later.
As for the sheep? Well…
He doesn’t care if he hurts the sheep.
He doesn’t care if the sheep bleat in terror as he loads them in the back of his truck.
He doesn’t care if the sheep get bruised as he stuffs them into the back of his truck and peels out of there not to get caught.
He doesn’t care if the sheep is absolutely miserable.
And the reality? These spiritual thieves do not care about you and your eternal good.
II. About the Shepherd
(1) He Owns the Sheep
But the shepherd isn’t a thief. The shepherd is a caretaker. The shepherd goes through the gate. Verse 2 says, “The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the Sheep.” He’s got the keys. This is his field. He belongs here. In fact, the gatekeeper opens the gate for him. “Good to see you Frank! Things are going pretty well in the field over there. Do you want a cuppa Joe before you head in?” Everyone’s friendly to the shepherd because he belongs there. He belongs there because the field is his.
And the sheep are at ease. He’s there to check on them. To feed them. To give them water. To fix that break in the fence. To scratch the hard to reach spot behind their ears.
The motives of the shepherd are entirely different from the motives of the thief.
The motives of Jesus are entirely different from the motives of spiritual thieves.
The thief cares about himself.
The shepherd cares about the sheep.
The spiritual thief cares about himself.
The Good Shepherd, Jesus, cares about you.
(2) He Calls You by Name
And yes… I said you. That’s not a generic – “Pastor-is-talking-to-a-lot-of-people-here-but-probably-specifically-didn’t-mean-me” you.
It’s a You – specifically you – you. Look at verse 3 He calls his own sheep by name. He doesn’t shout “Here Sheepy, Sheepy, Sheepy!” like the thief trying to get you into the big burlap sack so he can run off to you. He calls out your name – specifically – because he means you – specifically - and he loves you – specifically!
That’s so different from the spiritual thief. The spiritual thief doesn’t care about your name. They think of you as a dollar bill. As a vote. As a notch in the belt. As a like on Facebook. As a building block to their own pride.
But your shepherd? He knows you intimately. He knows your name. He knows your middle name. He knows your last name – and how to pronounce it correctly. He knows your nick name; your pet name; and the super hero name you gave yourself when you were 7.
He knows all about you.
And he loves you:
He loved you enough to die for you.
(3) He Lays Down His Life for the Sheep
In John 10:11 Jesus says, "I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep."
Because the reality is that we sheep got ourselves into trouble. Thieve, wolves, terrorists, and all kinds of awful were attacking. You might know them as sin, death, and the devil.
But Jesus picked up his staff. It looked stunningly like a cross.
He lived perfectly when you couldn't.
He died innocently in your place.
He rose triumphantly for the forgiveness of all of your sins.
He died for the sheep!
But unlike any other shepherd in history, the Good Shepherd also rose from the dead. He came back to life on Easter. That means he's not done with us. That means he has good places to lead us:
(4) He Leads the Sheep to Wonderful Places
That’s the final part of following this shepherd. Verse 4 says, He calls his sheep by name and he leads them…He goes on ahead of them.
Take Psalm 23 – it’s well known; we read it earlier says this:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me besides quiet waters.
He restores my soul.
Our shepherd does that for us. He makes us lie down in the nourishing greens of his word. He leads us to the trickling brook of his promises. He quiets our souls with the gentle words of his love.
This is key because sometimes life leads you to scary places. Places only described as “The valley of the shadow of death.” Places like financial barrenness. Places like cancer wards. Places like a turbulent workplace.
I will fear no evil. Your rod and your staff – they comfort me.
As in, your shepherd is with you.
As in, your shepherd he won’t leave you.
As in, your shepherd will lead you out of that valley of death and into the banquet of heaven.
In fact, that’s how Psalm 23 ends:
He spreads a table before me…goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.
Jesus is an awesome shepherd.
III. How Do His Sheep Respond?
(1) Listen to His Voice
Because sheep are used to the voice of the shepherd. They hear it call them for food. They hear his voice tell them where water is. They hear his voice call them and soothe them when they are afraid.
The sheep of the shepherd listen to the shepherd because it’s a voice they recognize.
The same is Jesus’ sheep. They recognize his voice.
It’s a voice that knows your name.
It’s a voice that loves you.
A voice that cried out in agony on the cross for you.
A voice that stopped working…and then 3 days later worked again.
When you don’t know where to go in life – how to act in a certain situation, listen for his voice!
You’ll find it in Scripture. You’ll find it in his Word. Find his voice. Find a section of Scripture that speaks to your life right now. Listen to it!
(2) Run from the Thieves
Verse 5 says this, The sheep will never follow a stranger in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize him.
It’s similar to a stranger at the mall with a scratchy, raspy, obviously bad news voice opening up his big white van and saying, “Hey kid – want some candy!” The sheep of the shepherd do not run to him; the sheep of the shepherd run away!
What’s that look like in your life? It means running away from the spiritual thieves!
Cut out the porn! In fact, get a filter on your computer and give a friend the password.
Stop sleeping with the person you aren’t married to.
Turn off the politics!
Get away from the negative comments and get off of Facebook. It’s ok. You’ll live.
Run away from these spiritual thieves. They steal your soul; lead you to sin.
And if you follow the spiritual thief long enough, suddenly you start to trust them.
You follow them willingly.
You wake up and realize that you don’t have any idea where the Shepherd is and you don’t know how to get back to him!
Maybe you’ve been lost.
Maybe you are lost.
Because the shepherd doesn’t let his sheep stay lost.
(3). Follow Him
In fact, Jesus tells the story of a shepherd who owns 100 sheep (that’s a lot of sheep). But unfortunately, he wakes up one morning, goes out and counts the sheep and realizes that he is down 1. There’s only 99. He counts them again. He starts to panic.
And he tells the gatekeeper to watch the sheep while he puts on his coat and puts on his boots to go out in the rain and find the sheep.
You’ve got 99 sheep sir! Why do you need to go get that one?
The shepherd answers – Because. I love her.
He goes out in the storm. He walks over hills. He chills his body to the bone. He walks through mud and thistles and searches and panics until: The sheep! Over there in the bramble. Bleeding. Unable to move.
He swoops in – tears in his eyes. He hates to see this sheep in pain. He takes out some snips. He cuts the sheep free. He grabs her in his arms and brings her home.
What was lost is found.
That’s your shepherd. That’s Jesus.
That’s someone worth following.