September 4, 2022
What was it about Jesus that made you want to follow Him? What was it about Jesus that made you stop following your will and surrender to His? What was it about Jesus that made you trust in him? I’ll tell you what it was for me. It was the night God opened my eyes to see that everything about Jesus was good. I knew I could follow Jesus because He gave His life for me. And I figured, if Jesus was willing to die for me, then I could entrust my life to Him. So, on February 19, 1981, I turned from running my own life, and turned to Jesus, not just to trust in Him as my Savior; but to trust Him with all of my life – to follow Jesus, and let Him lead me. And what I didn’t know then, but I know today, the moment I started following Jesus, He began changing me and giving me a life I never dreamed possible. And now 41 and a half years later, the one thing that keeps me following Jesus, is that He’s always been good to me.
And this morning, it’s my privilege to speak with you about the goodness that’s found in Jesus. For as we return to the story of Jesus in the Gospel of John, that is who Jesus reveals himself to be to anyone who hears His voice and answers His call to follow Him. He reveals Himself to be The Good Shepherd. He reveals Himself to be the one who is truly worth following. But before we look into this passage that reveals what makes Jesus worth following, I want to ask you something: Who or what are you following today? You see, our world is urgently competing to have you follow it. To follow the ways of the world – to build your own little kingdom, to create a world where you are safe and secure in the confines of your own castle – to create a world where your dreams and desires are fulfilled with all that the world has to offer. Our world wants you to follow its ways. It wants you to seek contentment and happiness in what it offers. But does it deliver? Now, the world is not the only thing competing for your allegiance. Ever since I can remember, the message that movies and media drum into us is this: follow your heart. Chase after your dreams. Give in to your desires. Pursue the life you want. And many of us have gone down that road – we’ve believed this mantra to be a good one, only to be left disappointed, hurt, disillusioned and empty. Following your heart sounds good as a message, but does it really deliver on the good life? Who are what are you following today? Are you following a philosophy? Are you following a religion? Are you following your political ideals? You see, everyone follows something or someone.
And this morning, God’s Word is going to show us why Jesus is worth following over every ideology, philosophy, religion or passion. So, if you’ve brought your Bible this morning, let me encourage you to open it John 10:1-21, where we’re going to see why Jesus is the Good Shepherd and why He is the only person worthy of your allegiance. So lets’ start with the first reason why Jesus is so good:
The Good Shepherd calls you Follow along as I read His words: “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. John 10:1-6 Let’s set the context of this teaching. Most scholars say that this discourse takes place immediately after the man who born blind has met Jesus a second time and has come to believe in him. If you remember, after he schooled the Pharisees about Jesus’ true identity as One who must be from God, they wouldn’t have it, so they tossed him out. Then Jesus said this in the presence of the Pharisees, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” They ask, “Are we also blind?” Jesus replies, ”If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, “We see,” your guilt remains.”
It is following these remarks that Jesus begins this discourse contrasting these false shepherds with the Good Shepherd. These Pharisees had been tasked by God with shepherding God’s people. But here Jesus calls them thieves and robbers. Why? Because they were not caring for God’s people. Instead of leading them to encounter and obey God, they were leading them away from God and into empty religious ritual. Instead of bringing the people of God to graze in pastures of grace, they were loading them down with rules upon rules. Instead of guarding the flock of God, they were goading them to turn from God to trust in their own efforts. Jesus calls them thieves and robbers who were harming God’s sheep.
But then Jesus speaks of himself as the true shepherd of the sheep. He enters by the door of the sheepfold. 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. Notice what’s happening here: First, the gatekeeper opens the gate for him. The shepherd is known by the gatekeeper. In most towns, a sheepfold contained all the sheep of the town. A gatekeeper watched over the sheep during the night. In the morning, when a shepherd would come for his sheep, the gatekeep would let him in. Once in the sheepfold, he calls out to His sheep. The sheep listen for their shepherd’s voice. If they know His voice, they follow Him. If they don’t know his voice, they don’t’ follow.
But now here’s where it gets better. The shepherd calls his own sheep by name. He has nicknames for them, and they respond to His call. What is being illustrated for us here is a level of personal knowledge between the sheep and their shepherd. He calls His own sheep by name and he leads them out. What Jesus is showing us here is how he calls people to follow Him. He calls those who already belong to Him. It’s the Shepherd who takes the initiative. It’s the Shepherd who knows His sheep. And when you insert yourself into this metaphor, what we see is that Jesus is your Shepherd. He’s always known you. He knows what you are like. He knows your strengths and weaknesses. He knows your failures and fears. He knows the worst thing about you and everything about you. But you are His sheep. You belong to Him. And He calls you to follow, so He can guide you, help you, provide for you and protect you in life.
This is how God has chosen to bring you into the fold. He calls you. You don’t make a choice to believe in him and then sometime later decide that he might be worth following. You recognize His voice as one who knows you and you respond. You follow. His calling is different from all the other calls in our world. His is a calling is based on His intimate knowledge of you. He’s always wanted you to be with Him. For He chose you to be with Him from the foundation of the world. His call is a call to a personal relationship. He calls to free you from a guilt-based religion. He calls to free you from the bondage of legalism. He calls you to bring you out into safe pasture. The Good Shepherd calls you to be with Him who knows you and loves you.
That’s why His sheep respond to His voice. They know His voice. They instinctively know that they belong to Him, so they trust His voice and follow Him. I really like how Bruce Milne describes this relationship. He says: To follow Jesus is not to walk in darkness but to have the light of life. The Pharisees saw their strength lying precisely at this point. They had the law and its application in their hands so they were competent to teach people how to live. But they failed to provide guidance because for them living meant, “following the rules.” By contrast, Jesus teaches that living means “following the Master.”
If you belong to Jesus, you will hear his voice when He calls. For His is a gentle voice, a comforting voice, a sure and certain voice. His is a voice of truth, a voice that is for you, not against you. And that is why those who follow Jesus listen for his voice. And why those who follow Jesus, want to hear His truth. For when we hear His truth, He teaches the way to live.
So, let me ask you: Do you know the voice of Jesus? It’s the voice of the good shepherd who knows you and loves you. It’s the voice that calls you out of darkness and into the kingdom of light. And it’s the voice that calls you out of religion and into a relationship. Have you heard his voice? If so, then He calls you to follow Him. That’s the first reason why Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He knows you and wants you to be with Him. He is the Good Shepherd who calls you to follow Him. But now let’s look at the second characteristic of the Good Shepherd:
The Good Shepherd cares for you 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. John 10:7-10
Here Jesus speaks of all the ways a good shepherd cares for His sheep. First, he calls himself the door of the sheep. In other words, Jesus promises to guard and protect his sheep from those who seek to hurt them. Have you ever wondered why John’s Gospel so clearly portrays this battle between Jesus and the Jewish leaders? Jesus has come to deliver his sheep from their oppressors. Not Rome, but these Jewish leaders. Over and over again, Jesus has provoked the Jewish leaders by healing on the Sabbath. But every time, the leaders become incensed that he has broken their man-made laws. Not once have they acknowledged his healings as God’s work of mercy. Jesus has done this purposely to show these leaders how they’re hurting the sheep. Jesus healed the man at the pool of Bethsaida to restore him to life in the community. Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery to deliver her from condemnation. Jesus healed the man born blind to rescue him from a life of judgment. But all what the Jewish religious leaders have done is to rob them of life. Jesus has come to open the door to life. As he says, 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. John 10:8-9
What is Jesus saying here? “You have been listening to men who have never had your best interests at heart. They’ve deceived you by teaching you the only way to stay in God’s favor is by keeping their rules. They’ve lied to you, and they’ve led you astray.” But now Jesus says, “Follow me, I have come to protect you. If you enter through me, the religious leaders can no longer hurt you.” “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” That’s the good news of the good shepherd: Enter through me and you will be delivered. Enter through me and you will have freedom. Enter through me and you will enter the life you were made for.
He is saying, “Enter through me, and I will protect you wherever you go. Enter through me and you will find what you’ve always longed for – the best pasture for grazing, the best pasture for rest, the best pasture for protection. Enter through me and you will find a better life than you ever imagined.” What Jesus is saying is that the Christian life is not simply being saved from something. We are also saved for something. That’s why Jesus adds this promise: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10
Jesus has come to give you abundant life with Him. A life where you are never alone; a life where you are being transformed daily to become more like him. He has come to give you a life of joy, peace and righteousness in the Holy Spirit. Our God is a God of abundance, of hope, of peace, of joy and of love. He has come so you can come to Him and feast on all the delights that are found in Him.
In the context of this sheep metaphor “abundant life” suggests fat, contented, flourishing sheep! You see, Jesus didn’t call you out of darkness and the emptiness of sin to live in mediocrity. Jesus has called you to feast at His table, to rejoice in His presence, and to flourish in His love.
So, the next time the world calls you to seek your own pasture or find your own water, remember who calls you to dine at His table. Remember who pursues you with His goodness and is eager for you to enjoy His presence. This is why Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Jesus has come to give you the good life you were created to enjoy – with Him. He is the gate to the life that’s been stolen from you. He’s the door where you can enter in and find a whole new kind of life with Him. He has so much good in store for you when you follow Him.
The Good Shepherd calls you. The Good Shepherd cares for you. But there’s one more thing about the Good Shepherd that makes him so good, and that is this: The Good Shepherd is committed to you Listen how Jesus expresses this: He says “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. John 10:11-15
What a picture of what Jesus does for His sheep. First, he lays down his life for the sheep. In other words, He will not flee when danger comes your way. He will not abandon you in your time of need. He has a vested interest in you. You are his. You belong to Him. You are precious to Him. You are everything to Him. Jesus is not like a hired hand. A hired hand cares only for his own back and runs away when trouble comes. A hired hand loves his life more than he loves the sheep. But Jesus is not a hired hand. The sheep are his, and he loves them more than he loves his own life.
Let that sink in. Jesus would rather die than let you die. Jesus would rather take the worst that evil could throw at him, then let you face eternity separated from Him. So here now is the defining characteristic of the good shepherd. He is willing to lay down his life for His sheep. That’s the length, the breath, the height and depth of His love for his sheep. And at the time he said this, he had not yet gone to the cross. He had not yet laid down His life for His Sheep. But he was already committed to do so.
How do I know this? By what Jesus says next: He says, “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.” John 10:16-18 Jesus was ready to lay down His life for the sins of the world so He could bring other sheep into the fold – into His family. Do you know who the other sheep he is referring to here? They are the Gentiles, the pagans who had no knowledge of God. Guess who’s in that camp? We are. We are the other sheep. We were not the people of Israel. We are not God’s chosen people. We are the Ones outside God’s promises. We are the Ones who are foreigners to the covenants. We are the ones who had no shepherd, who had no one to lead us, to help us, to protect us or care for us.
But God in His infinite wisdom sought to include us. We are the lost sheep. That is why Jesus came. He came to seek and to save the lost. That’s why Jesus came to lay down His life for the sheep. And as you can see here – this was His choice! This was His commitment to us – to you. No one took Jesus’ life from him. He laid down His life because it was the Father’s will for Him to do so. No one took his life from him. Not these religious leaders who conspired to kill him. Not Pilate who washed his hands of him. Not Herod who feared him. And not the people who cried out “Crucify him.”
No, what we see here is that Jesus laid down his life for you and me by His own accord. As he said, “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.” John 10:18
Wow! How good is that? God sent Jesus to be your good shepherd. Jesus was given completely authority to lay down His life for you. Jesus went all in to die for you so He could give you life with Him. If that doesn’t qualify Jesus as completely good, completely trustworthy, then nothing else will. He willingly went to the cross to rescue you from sin and a life separated from God. He willingly went to the cross to rescue from empty religion. Jesus is the good shepherd. And His love for the Father and His His love for you proves it. The Good Shepherd is totally committed to you.
So let me ask you: Do you believe Jesus is the Good Shepherd?
Do you believe He will protect you and provide for you?
Do you believe He has come to give you abundant life with Him?
Do you believe He’s laid down His life for you to bring you into His fold?
If you believe Jesus is the Good Shepherd, then you have heard His voice today. And if you have heard His voice, then there is only one response that he wants from you: follow Him. To stop following the voices of the world, to stop following the voice of your heart, to stop following man-made philosophies, political ideals or empty religion – but follow Him.
You were designed to follow someone. And His name is Jesus. Let’s pray.