Joining the Good Shepherd In his mission – St Petri Nuriootpa 22/04/2018
John 10:11-18 (v16)
11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.
16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No 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 up again. I have received this command from my Father.”
My wife Ruth grew up on a sheep-farm in the Western District of Victoria. Unfortunately, that does not help us much in understanding our text.
In Jesus’ time a flock of sheep might be a dozen or two;
today a flock is hundreds if not thousands
In Jesus’ time sheep were led; today they are chased, usually by dogs
In Jesus’ time a shepherd knew each sheep by name
He called their names and they followed him;
If two flocks meet and intermingle it is no big deal – no overtime…
Today sheep are amongst God’s silliest creatures, they just run and if two mobs are droved into each other – overtime big time…
In Jesus’ time shepherds were mostly hirelings, famous for their dishonesty who often lied and claimed wild animals had taken sheep they sold/ate
Today there are not a lot of wild animals on most farms at least not since the dog-fence was built
In Jesus’ day a ‘shepherd’ was also a title for the kings – good and bad
Today we might use the term for pastors or those who care for others it is not a term we would use for our politicians + other leaders
We need to keep all those things in mind when we hear Jesus say,
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
And then, Jesus invites us to join him in his mission to bring other sheep into his flock, so he can also be their good shepherd.
It is on this invitation that we will focus briefly this morning but first we need to spend a little time on what it means
to have Jesus as our Good Shepherd
1) We have a good shepherd who lays down his life for us unless we understand that, we won’t ‘get’ what Jesus has done for us
Unlike Luther, we then won’t have the ‘Aha!’ experience that changes our lives forever and makes us new people
So let’s spend a little time reflecting on what our good shepherd has done for us
2) Jesus says, I’m the good shepherd who lays down his life for sheep
A sheep is not worth as much as a shepherd – that is obvious
If the lion or the bear attacks, better sacrifice a sheep than lose a shepherd – even a hireling is a human being
And the good shepherd / Son of God is obviously worth much more than one of us silly creatures that he made – that is also obvious
The Muslims are surely right when they say it is offensive to suggest that God himself would die for the likes of us
Yet that is the foolishness of the gospel that we believe + bring to others
As Paul says in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians:
…we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Maybe we should celebrate Easter on April Fool’s Day every year!
3) You can’t skip Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to get to Easter Sunday
- Our God is not safe – he is a fierce judge whose law condemns us
- Our attempts to earn his favour dissolve in the fire of his wrath
Imagine for a moment that I could replay the moments of your life that you are most ashamed of – up there on the big screen
in glorious high definition and with booming high fidelity sound What do you think? Look around. How far away is the nearest door?
But with God there is nowhere to hide – for big things or small. He hears your secret thoughts! He sees the worst you have done!
What scenes played in your mind just now? What makes you cringe?
Jesus knows you are guilty! He knows you don’t deserve any grace – and knowing that he went to the cross, suffered + died – just for you and if you had been the only person on earth who needed forgiving he still would have done it – just for you!
Because Jesus is the good shepherd who laid down his life for you it’s done and dusted. You are forgiven. The video has been erased.
No back-up copies have been kept. It is gone forever! You don’t have to do anything to pay for it. Payment has been made!
Just enjoy it!
4) You don’t need to impress to get in the good shepherd’s good books
- It’s about faith – that is trust in the promises of God which is itself a gift of God created in us at baptism, nurtured as we dwell in the Word and come to the table
- Faith simply receives the gift – it doesn’t earn it or create it. There is nothing you can do to make God love you more – or less
- You don’t earn God’s blessing by the things you do. God’s favour already rests on you – because of Jesus
- That’s what it means to have a good shepherd
5) Do your family, friends and workmates need this good shepherd?
When Jesus originally said, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold” he was talking about all the people of the world who were not Jews
His good news was not just for the Jewish people. Today we might take that as a reference to those who do not yet know Jesus
The good news is not just for those already in the church. Jesus has other sheep in Nuriootpa and the Barossa who are not yet in the sheepfold. They will listen to his voice and he will bring them into his flock
6) Jesus has a mission to the people of this community
He invites us to join him in his mission. The good shepherd doesn’t send us out to create our own mission, he invites us to join him in his mission
That is important because it means that it doesn’t depend on us. We are not running the show. We are just on the team doing our bit, speaking of what we know.
Secondly, we have seen how Jesus does mission. He hangs out with all the wrong people. Apparently, he is not afraid he will be tainted.
The words, “Neither do I condemn you” ring in one adulterer’s ears. He invites himself to dinner at the hated tax collector’s house
- He restores Peter after his betrayal
- He cleanses lepers, heals a mother-in-law, and raises the dead
- all without insisting that they clean up their act first
At the heart of it all is his suffering, death and resurrection and the forgiveness that he brings without condition because he is the Good Shepherd for all people, not just us.
7) The good news is not a moral improvement program
It is not a clean up and reform society package.
It is not just alleviating suffering and caring for the disadvantaged though all those may be by-products of people coming to faith
It’s not about telling other people what to do whether your pet project involves law and order, same sex marriage, abortion and euthanasia
or gay rights, refugees, racism, poverty and the environment
– now I have offended everyone equally, at least I hope so!
My point is that none of these things is the good news, the gospel. That doesn’t mean that they are unimportant, or that we shouldn’t do them. But they are not the reason why we are here as the church on earth
Our first reading from Acts 4 shows this clearly a crippled beggar is healed and Peter and John are asked
by what name was this done. They respond “by the name of Jesus of Nazareth” and then add
“There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”
The second reading from 1 John 3 says that God’s command is
“that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another.”
- We are here because the Good Shepherd has other sheep
- We are not just to make the world a better place or to protect God’s honour
- We are not just to make sure we look after Christians until they get to heaven
- We are here because Jesus our good shepherd suffered, died and rose again for us and for those who do not yet know him
We are his forgiven flock, set free from our sins so that we might bring Jesus and his good news to the people around us
Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
And again, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
Pastor Steen Olsen