Bethel CRC Lacombe

December 10, 2023 The Names of Jesus: I Am the Good Shepherd John 10:11-21

December 12, 2023 Pastor Jake Boer Season 8 Episode 2
Bethel CRC Lacombe
December 10, 2023 The Names of Jesus: I Am the Good Shepherd John 10:11-21
Show Notes Transcript

Today we continue our theme for Advent by reflecting on John 10:11-21, I Am the Good Shepherd. When Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd, he immediately points to how his willingness to lay down his life for his sheep; He is fully committed to providing for and protecting his sheep from the dangers around. The second thing we learn about Jesus as the Good Shepherd is that he knows us, he knows who we are—our hopes and dreams, our fears and failures, our desires and struggles—he knows in a way that no one else ever can and loves us for who we are.

I Am the Good Shepherd

John 10:11-21


For the Jews, the image of a shepherd brought back memories of two of their greatest leaders; Moses and David. As a shepherd, Moses met God in the wilderness in a burning bush and received his call to lead the people of Israel out of slavery. It took huge courage to return to the palace of Pharoah and demand him to let Israel go, it took strength and perseverance to lead Israel for 40 years on their journey to the Promised Land. David grew up working as a shepherd and it was as a shepherd that his character as a man was shaped. 1 Samuel 17 tells the story of David meeting King Saul while the giant Philistine Goliath was mocking the men of Israel. "David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” This picture of a shepherd is not of a meek and mild boy, but of a fierce young man filled with bravery and confidence! We know how the story ends with David killing the fierce giant with a stone from the creek.

Lucy Lind Hogan reflects on what Jesus is getting at when he calls himself the Good Shepherd, “He is not only describing what a good shepherd does and will do. He is making the claim that he is the good shepherd. Therefore, it must have seemed quite strange and startling for Jesus’ friends and followers to hear Jesus tell them that he was the good shepherd. After all, they knew who the good shepherd was — God. The scriptures were filled with images of God as the shepherd of the chosen people… Psalm 23 talks about God, saying, “The Lord is my shepherd.” The Psalm paints the picture of a loving, caring God/shepherd providing food, comfort, and shelter. They knew that they were “your people and the sheep of your [God’s] pasture,” in Psalm 79. The prophet Ezekiel had told them that God was angry with shepherds who took advantage of and abandoned their sheep. God declared, “I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. . ..  I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God.” How could Jesus say that he was the good shepherd? Are we to conclude that he was, in fact, God?”

Jesus isn't just any shepherd; he calls himself the "good shepherd," using a word that speaks to being morally beautiful, noble, competent, useful and beautiful in character. When you look at his teaching and life and compare them to the people and leaders we look up to today, we easily see the moral nobility, the practical wisdom in what Jesus taught and lived out. When sharing who Jesus is, I will often ask the person who they admire and want to be like. Then I will share with them who Jesus is and what he taught, Jesus always comes out ahead because Jesus deeply cares about you and wants you to flourish and your soul to be blessed. While in Montreal I had the opportunity to talk to a number of Muslims about who Jesus is on a regular basis. An older man from Pakistan often invited me to come to talk to his Muslim neighbours about Jesus. We would talk about the differences between what Jesus taught and how he lived and what Mohammad taught and how Mohammad lived and they always had to admit that Jesus always came out ahead in nobility and morality. A number of them began to call themselves Muslim Jesus followers! One of the things that attracted them to Jesus was the image of Jesus as a shepherd, of someone focused on providing for, protecting, and caring for his sheep, including caring for them when they were injured and sick. This is a completely different image than Mohammad or Allah. This is a level of dedication to us that they had never heard of before.

As our good shepherd, Jesus talked about "laying down his life for the sheep." Jesus is heading towards Jerusalem, to the cross and his death. He’s beginning to seriously prepare his followers and disciples for his coming death, pointing to why this needs to happen. Jesus needs to die for his sheep so they can have life, and he's not willing to run away from danger, fear, or even death, unlike a hired man. Men who are hired to look after other people's sheep are willing to live for the sheep, help them find food and water, but when danger comes and their own lives are at risk, they run away and leave the sheep to the terrors of the wolf or lion to other predators, including human; he's not willing to die for them at the cost to his own family and loved ones. 

Jesus is not a hired hand; the sheep are his and he has a relationship with them based on compassionate love. This is why Peter tells the people, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." Erik Herrmann helps us understand what knowing Jesus’ voice looks like by sharing a scene from his own family, “When Christ says that the sheep hear the voice of the shepherd and know him by his voice, one could find analogies in the world of shepherds and sheep, but that is not its immediate or lasting import. Rather our affections are drawn to the kind of intimacy found between the likes of mother and child. My one-year-old might be happily sitting on my knee, when suddenly he hears the voice of his mother and, naturally, all is lost! He is nothing but squirm and scramble, in order to follow the voice that continues to shower him with incomparable love.” 

Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori asks, “Who calls us by name? Loved ones, friends, co-workers, and probably the receptionist at the doctor's office. Most of us guard our names from strangers, in the same way that we guard our passports or ID cards. There's an intimacy that comes with being known by name that even the raging extroverts among us don't grant to everyone. Notice how many online comments are made under pseudonyms - those who make attacks or less than kind observations prefer to do it anonymously.” Jesus, as our Good Shepherd, knows each of our names and calls us by name with unconditional love to be part of his sheepfold, to trust in him and follow him. The Montreal youth called me PJ, for Pastor Jake. It was special because they felt free to call me by a personal name instead of my title. Jesus is our personal shepherd in much the same way.

Jesus is our good shepherd and he’s the lamb of God sacrificed on the cross for his sheep. He becomes a sheep like us, taking our place. Jesus experienced the temptation of sin at the beginning of his ministry when Satan tempted him to take the easy way out instead of walking the often-difficult path of deep obedience and trust in God the Father. Satan went after Jesus because he knows that if you go after the shepherd, the sheep scatter and become vulnerable to the creature that attacked the shepherd. We see this so often still today when a church and pastor separate under hard circumstances. It can impact the members of the church hard, even leading some to question their own faith and trust in God. After Jesus' death, the followers of Jesus were shattered and afraid, hiding. It's only after Jesus comes and reveals himself to them in the upper room after his resurrection that the disciples rediscover their courage. 

Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to remind us that he’s our living Good Shepherd. You can trust to follow Jesus because Jesus does everything out of his deep love for you. Jesus knows you and if you open your heart's ear to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit guides us in knowing who Jesus is; finding that his words, his life, who he is fills you with trust, hope, and peace; leading to a deeper faith and commitment to Jesus. The Holy Spirit helps us to hear our Good Shepherd call us by name.

Neal Plantinga talks about how most children are able to go to bed at night without worrying about the bills sitting on the kitchen counter, how they don’t have to worry about the coming storm and if they’ll be protected from it, they don’t worry about having a job to go to the next day. They sleep and dream without fear. As adults we carry those worries and more with us. We know what it feels like to lose a parent or parents, how a lump in a breast can create panic and tears, how hard it can be when there is more month than paycheque. We all sometimes dream to return to those simpler days when we had someone else taking care of us, providing for us. Plantinga writes, “We still live in a dangerous world.  Wolves abound.  We will never come to a day when we will not need someone who will care for us no matter what.  We need someone who can see every wolf that runs our way and who will get killed himself rather than abandon any one of us sheep as statistically insignificant.  We need someone with the vision and the wisdom to lead us safely through the landmine-pocked landscapes of life in a world which is as bewildering as this one often proves to be.”

Jesus, our Good Shepherd, will carry you when you’re tired, will come after you when you’re lost. He knows you by name and will provide for you, protect you, and guide you on safe paths through life when you trust him as your good shepherd.