Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Good Shepherd

Life of Christ 105
          Immediately following Jesus' healing of the blind man and his corresponding tangle with Israel's religious leadership and excommunication from his synagogue, Jesus speaks this parable (John 10.1-21) probably to the crowd around Him at the Temple.
          In a sense, you can look at the whole earthly career of Jesus Christ as a tug of war. On one side are the Pharisees, with their traditional and extra-biblical approach to religion. On the other side was Jesus. The common people of Israel are in the middle. Both sides are seeking to pull the common people toward their own side, and away from the other side.
         Another way of saying this is that Jesus' ministry was a contest between Himself and the Pharisees for the soul of Israel's religion. Each offered themselves as the correct shepherd for the flock of Israel. As we sadly know, Israel chose the wrong shepherd.
          It is exactly this to which Jesus is speaking. Israel's religious leadership, composed primarily of Pharisees, has shown themselves in the last two chapters of John to be exceedingly poor shepherds. With this parable we see Him plainly asserting Himself as the right shepherd, the good shepherd, the only possible correct choice of shepherd for the flock of Israel.
          Why was Jesus the good shepherd? 'I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep' (John 10.11). These people to whom Jesus was speaking knew what a good shepherd looked like. Their society was much more agricultural than our own, and even in the big city of Jerusalem there were constant interactions with live sheep and thus shepherds. Not only that, but every good Jew knew well the life of David, Israel's greatest king. As a young man, shepherding his father's flocks, he had put his own life on the line to protect the flock from a lion and a bear.
          The sheep folds of the day were often glorified corrals, with only one means of entrance and exit. The shepherd, after grazing the flock all day, would drive them back to the fold for the night. Once they were safely penned he would lay down and sleep in the only doorway, thus putting himself directly between the flock and any danger that might approach. Sheep, completely defenseless creatures, needed such selfless care in order to survive.
          Jesus, in every sense of the word, gave up His own life for us. The sweet psalmist of Israel, already mentioned, in his most famous poem, said, 'The Lord is my shepherd.' In other words, of all the shepherds available I have the very best one. All over my city tonight tens of thousands of young men have chosen the violent, bloodthirsty, selfish, thuggish gangs to be their shepherd. All over my city tonight hundreds of thousands of sincerely religious people have chosen heretics like the Jehovah's Witnesses or the vicar of hell in Rome as their shepherd. Others, looking in the mirror, choose the finite foolishness of their own wisdom as their shepherd. What a gracious God I have to so enable me as to choose, for my shepherd, the best shepherd of all.

The Lord is my shepherd, yea, my Good Shepherd. Consequently, I shall lack nothing. I shall lie down in green pastures. I shall drink from calm waters. When I am cast down I shall be restored. I shall be led with great care, for my Shepherd's name is at stake. I shall fear no evil, for my Shepherd is ever with me. I shall graze on tablelands thoughtfully prepared for me. I shall be protected from my enemies. My life literally overflows with blessings. Goodness and mercy follow after me. And then, when this life draws to a close, I will dwell with my Shepherd in His house, forever.

 I have the best shepherd of all. I have the Good Shepherd. 

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