“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.” This figure of speech 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 listen to 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. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
Summary of Last Week
First, let’s recall where we are at in the story.
Last week Pastor John described for us the events in chapter 9.
Up to this point we have been at an event called “The Feast of Booths”.
Big, Jewish celebration
There was a man who was born blind, and Jesus miraculously restored his sight.
This event was met with a lot of incredulity & cynicism by the religious leaders & jewish people.
Had to call in his parents just to prove it wasn’t a scam
Ultimately, this event ended with this man placing his faith in Jesus Christ, and then being cast out of the Jewish community.
Theme: The Good Shepherd alone offers a life of abundance, and good shepherds protect His flock.
These events are happening immediately after what we talked about last week. There’s no time skip here.
Everything Jesus delivers & says here is in addition to what He said in Chapter 9.
Because of that there are three parties that Jesus is addressing:
A man who was excommunicated from his community because of his newfound faith.
The jewish people there attending the festival
The jewish leaders who removed him.
Remember: they were standing there listening and accusing as Jesus is talking to them.
This section is an allegory.
Jesus is using a story to talk about a lot of multiple people, and is doing so to make a lot of points, both pastoral & judgemental.
He does so with a story about sheep, a pen where these sheep live at & a shepherd.
More importantly: it’s a diss track.
Throughout this Allegory, Jesus is comparing Himself to the pharisees.
Two chapters ago He told them they were the children of Satan.
Last chapter He told them they were blind.
Now he’s going after them for what they did to this blind man.
Jesus gives two options in His allegory: what is right (Jesus) vs. what is evil (pharisees)
I am the door to the sheep vs. those before me are robbers.
I will save vs they will kill and destroy
I lay down my life vs. they run from the wolves
This is a diss track, guys.
Jesus keeps summarizing everything he’s saying with the statement “I am the Good Shepherd”. Why does He do that?
The Good Shepherd offers sheep a life of abundance
In Verse 10 Jesus says that His goal is: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
Let’s explore this a bit. What does it mean when Jesus says that because of Him, we may have life abundantly?
Honestly, I’d love to look at some excerpts of Psalm 23 as we start this one:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
For the blind man in our story, what did he really have before this? Begging on the side of the road? A family who as we saw last week was so quick to disown him? Some religious elites who didn’t even know his name?
Remember, they didn’t even recognize him, yet nothing had changed except his eye sight.
Yet now he knows the “Son of Man”, who has come to take away the sins of the world. His sins.
The very sins that kept him from God, and here is the God-man physically standing before him.
So what is an abundant life?
It does not mean a life where we get everything we want.
Throughout scripture, we see that the Kingdom of God does not look like the kingdom of man.
The things God offers don’t look like the things humanity offers.
For example, when Jesus teaches the disciples in Mark 10 about leadership in Christianity, he says “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.”
The kingdom of God is upside down compared to the things we expect on earth. On earth, leaders rule those beneath them. Sometimes with an iron fist.
Yet Jesus, the only begotten son of God says that He came to serve, not to be served.
So we must temper our expectations. We need to understand “Abundant life” by how Jesus uses it, not how we would use it.
So an abundant life isn’t one where we get everything we hoped & dreamed for.
It also doesn’t mean a life of financial or physical well being.
Our blind man had his eyesight restored, but that was a physical sign of what Christ does for us Spiritually.
Not something we should expect to happen for every sheep.
What I mean is, financial & physical well being is not a sign of holiness.
It’s not bad at all, God blesses us so that we might be a blessing to others and you should never feel guilty for how much or how little you make, or for the state of your own health.
Never, ever feel guilty for that.
But it’s not a sign that God cherishes one person more than anyone else
There are some out there who teach this. That by becoming a believer & giving money to their ministry, you will be granted blessings upon this earth.
You will be given Fame & Fortune
You just need to call upon the name of Jesus & demand He give it to you.
Name it & claim it.
They are known as preachers of the “Prosperity Gospel”.
Not The Gospel, but “the prosperity gospel”
They are heretics & worthless dogs.
The feed vomit to Christ’s sheep.
They prey upon the poor and destitute
They abuse the sick & injured
They are not servants of the Good Shepherd, and He will repay them their vile works.
Not that I have any opinions on the matter or anything.
To be clear: when the Good Shepherd offers you an abundant life, that doesn’t mean fame & fortune.
In fact, you’re more likely to live a life of little consequence & little money.
Great sales pitch for the Christian Faith.
What is an abundant life then?
An abundant life means a life as Jesus states it, it is valuable beyond measure, made joyful by the presence of God & eternal.
Here’s how things looked prior to Jesus:
“Therefore the people wander like sheep; they are afflicted for lack of a shepherd.
We once lived a life without a shepherd. So did the blind man.
He lived in physical blindness. We lived in spiritual blindness.
Without someone who cared for us. Without someone who would lead us.
We didn’t care for the things of God. We didn’t care about a savior who died for us. We just did whatever seemed cool in our own eyes.
It was all about us.
We wandered aimlessly. Without protection.
But now that blindness has been lifted.
You now know your savior & may find joy in Him & what He has done for you.
You now know your savior will care for you.
Because He’s already cared for you in the biggest way possible:
While we were still blind sinners wandering in the dark, He died for us to restore our sight.
He laid down His life for the sheep, so that He could be their Good Shepherd & give them a life of abundance for all of eternity.
Not just on earth, but a life of abundance for the rest of eternity.
That’s a long time.
He laid down His life for a formerly blind man, that when that man was removed from his community, he would be welcomed into the fold of God.
In one day he lost a lot of terrible friends, and gained someone who put his greatest needs first.
He lost a lot of terrible friends, and gained the best friends he could get: God and an eternal, spiritual family.
Jesus says in His allegory: “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.”
So He’s talking about sheep (us)
“They will be led by me to find their daily sustenance.”
“I will provide the things they need most.”
In the case of a sheep, a safe place to spend the day & eat.
Jesus has come to give the blind man a green pasture.
An abundant life & the salvation of his very soul.
Jesus says that He comes to offer us green pastures. As His sheep, He offers us life in abundance.
You can’t believe Jesus is the good shepherd, and also believe He is absent from your daily problems.
The Good Shepherd leads us to green pastures daily. He’s not a vague, distant deity who sends us thoughts & prayers when things go wrong.
Look back at your life & examine the pastures he has placed you in. Has he not provided for your physical needs?
It’s never physical riches that we need, but physical needs.
Jesus says in Matthew 10:29-31:
“Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”
You are immensely valuable to God. Fear not for your daily needs, because the Good Shepherd will daily lead you to pasture.
He will daily care for you, morning by morning and evening by evening.
Good Undershepherds lead sheep to a life of abundance
We can’t walk through this text only talking about Jesus. We’ve got to talk about who He’s comparing Himself to.
If the Good Shepherd offers an abundant/worthwhile life, what are the other guys offering?
Jesus says they are thieves, come to kill and destroy.
He offers life, they take life
He says they did not enter by the door of the pen (they weren’t allowed to go in) but instead climbed over the wall to get at the flock.
You guys may recall, I don’t like picking on the pharisees.
When we turn them into our favorite villain, we miss the point of what they represent.
That said, we do need to explore what the pharisees were a bit
The Pharisees were one of multiple groups of religious leaders.
Were known for their strict observance of the law (Old Testament) but also Oral Tradition.
Oral tradition were verbal, additional rules that were supposedly handed down through many generations.
Both held equal weight to them
Found nowhere in the Old Testament, but are instead a recent sect.
Jesus is clear throughout the four Gospels in His disapproval of the Pharisees.
Specifically I’d like to look at Matthew 23.13 ““But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.”
The problem is they have shut the kingdom of heaven away from the very people who need it.
They do so through their unrealistic standards & deceitful pride they have led the people away from the very God who wishes to shepherd them.
In the case of the blind man: “They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.”
The goal of every shepherd is to lead more sheep to the Good Shepherd.
It’s not just pharisees who have climbed over the side of this metaphorical pen.
Not the only ones exerting wrongful dominion over the people who belong to God.
[Story about Willow Creek]
There are plenty of leaders in the Christian church who are attempting to usurp the role of Jesus Christ & rob the flock.
They are, just like Jesus’ words in Matthew 23 “shutting the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.”
Not just through law, but through abuse.
I’m using those words very intentionally. To be a leader in the church, you must either understand your role as an undershepherd of the Good Shepherd, or you are nothing more than an usurper intent on stealing the flock that belongs to Christ.
Because unlike the pharisees, there is a biblical position of elder. The New Testament teaches that every church has elders.
Pastors, Shepherds & Elders are one and the same, and we are told in 1 Peter 5 that they exist to shepherd the flock on behalf of Christ.
The flock belongs to Christ, (you the congregation), we as elders (John, Dave and I) are called to shepherd you on His behalf.
If an undershepherd can’t care for sheep on behalf of the Good Shepherd, they’re stealing the flock from Him.
We’re either taking sheep to the Good Shepherd, or we’re stealing them from Him
We can act as undershepherds solely because of our character. That’s our entire job description.
We don’t elect elders by their celebrity status or their ability to draw a crowd. We judge them by their character. This is a character that is first, foremost & above all intended to shepherd the flock on behalf of Christ.
For example, 1 Timothy 3:
Above reproach, self-controlled, a one-woman man, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money, etc.
And Titus 1:
Not arrogant, a drunkard, or greedy.
Must be hospitable, upright, holy, able to teach, etc.
So when a man’s character fails, he is no longer an undershepherd. There is no “well he said he was sorry so we’ll overlook it. Let him stay as pastor.”
Once an elders character is no longer consistent with being an undershepherd of Christ, he has failed the most important job description that he has. He is unqualified.
Like allowing a fry cook to run the entire fast food franchise as CEO.
But that’s a bad metaphor because there are worse implications than that.
Like allowing a violent, murderous alcoholic to run a daycare full of young children.
When we call someone an elder when they are not, we allow a thief & a robber to climb over the wall of the pen.
Entire families are harmed, women & children are abused, money is stolen, the church’s image of Christ is tarnished and so on.
Just like our story
My problem in our story isn’t just the man who abused the congregation.
The thief & robber.
My problem is also with the hired hands who fled, rather than to shepherd the flock. They saw the wolves, and abandoned a church desperately in need of its undershepherds.
I got qualms, people.
If an undershepherd can’t care for sheep on behalf of the Good Shepherd, they’re stealing the flock from Him.
At the end of the day, the flock only belongs to Christ.
That means He alone can offer a life of abundance to you guys.
I can’t do that. Dave can’t do that. John can’t do that.
We know it.
So if ministry work becomes about us as pastors, or becomes focused on our personalities and not about Christ, we have taken the only hope there is from you.
A toddler doesn’t need soda. Seems nice, but they need milk.
Our personalities, our individuality is just soda. All sweetener, nothing else.
We have to bring you guys to the shepherd who will feed you milk.
That call about the flock belonging solely to Christ also belongs to you guys as well.
If you are a church member, help us to shepherd you.
How will I pray for you as an undershepherd if I never receive prayer cards?
Vandalia peeps: I love you guys, so I’m calling you out.
I’ve got half a dozen of you in my care sphere, but at best I’m seeing one card a week.
Not to speak on J & D’s behalf, but I think they’d affirm for their own groups. We want to know how to pray for you. I’m always disappointed when I open that box and I’ve got nothing to pray for specifically.
Help us to shepherd you through patience as well.
Lately we’ve gone through some really hard seasons as a church. It was good for us. It stretched us & we’ve genuinely seen a lot of spiritual growth here guys.
Ask any pastor though, and they’ll tell you sheep aren’t easy. They bite. They hurt.
There are a lot of hard, weighty decisions we have to work through. They take time, energy, tons of prayer & searching scripture.
When things aren’t going the way you expect them to, help us to pastor you.
If you’ve got questions, don’t withhold them & grow bitter! Come to us privately and talk to us.
If you think we’re going about things in the wrong way, seek to understand. Let us pastor you.
Sometimes we have to deal with information that we absolutely cannot share with you.
Do you believe we care about you? Trust us, and help others to trust us. Don’t privately gossip, but seek us out & try to understand.
Do you know the terrifying thing about eldership?
Someday we will have to give an account to Jesus about how we shepherded the members of this church.
I’ll have to report on every stupid mistake I’ve made, and everytime I wanted to run from the flock rather than care for it.
That’s the nature of being an undershepherd. There’s a Good Shepherd above us.
Do you believe we are your undershepherds, or are we just a bunch of dudes who run this local church?
There’s a big distinction between the two. One of those reports to Jesus on the care of your soul. The other is no different than a business leader.
If we’re just business leaders to you, that’s not what we want. We want to be your pastors. And if you do believe we’re your pastors, help us to pastor you better.
John & Dave: I had a friend tell me a few years ago that the initial years of pastoring are the honeymoon period. He said he had a good ten years before things got bad. We didn’t get that. If we’re talking about shepherding in the text, I have to make sure I address the three of us as well. Jesus promises His flock a life of abundance. It’s not just our job to lead the sheep to Christ. Let us not forget the we are also those sheep. There is a life of abundance promised to us as well in Jesus Christ. He is not a hard taskmaster, but a loving shepherd who cares for our souls just as much as He does for the congregation. At the end of the day, we cannot save anyone. Only Jesus can do that. Nor can we give anyone the rest that only Jesus can offer. Let us first watch ourselves, that we not lead these sheep away from their savior. Secondly, let us watch each other, and be sure we lead one another to that same savior.
The Good Shepherd offers all of His sheep a life of abundance. Not just some.
It says in verse 16 “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
He has other sheep who are not a part of this fold.
He’s not talking just about the jews.
He’s not just talking about the christians here in this room.
There is someone somewhere outside that door, just down the street, and they don’t know that there is a divine shepherd who loves them more than anything.
There is a child over there in City Kids, and they don’t yet understand that there is a divine shepherd who loves them more than anything.
Children are the only unbelievers who return to our services every single week.
You can’t claim to love evangelism but not love teaching children about Jesus.
There is a broken individual in your family. In your friend group. Too afraid to open up about their own doubts, or so caught up in despair that they don’t know how to move forward but too afraid to ask for help.
For all these people: there is a flock that they belong to. There is a shepherd who cares for & values them.
[Call the Band back up]
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? (Romans 10.14)
They are lost guys, and they will never hear their shepherd calling to them until you say something.
It’s not enough to just act nice & hope that shows them a better way.
“Preach the gospel at all times. Words are absolutely necessary”
And your hope? You’re not their savior. You don’t have to be. You cannot be. So long as you preach Christ, you cannot botch this.
To Jesus alone belongs the authority to shepherd this flock.
That person. That child. Your friend.
Jesus alone will allow their hearts to respond.
He alone laid his life down for them. You just have to tell them.
Let us Pray:
Father, to Jesus alone belongs all glory. He laid down His life willingly, and because of this you gave Him the name that is above every name. At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth. At His name every tongue shall confess He is God. Father, help this flock and help these undershepherds to preach Christ and seek Him in all things. May we never live as thieves, climbing over the fence, taking the kingdom of God from those to whom you intended it. Guide our words, guide our steps, and prepare our hearts for the week to come. Let us praise you through the rest of this morning and in the days to come. Amen.