Friday, March 11, 2011

relationship: Shepherd/sheep

Description of the relationship

Jesus discusses this relationship in John 10:1-21. There is a lot to learn from this passage. I want to highlight seven key things that we learn about this relationship in John 10:

1. A thief does not enter the sheepfold through the door but climbs in by another way.
2. A shepherd enters the sheepfold through the door.

3. The sheep know the shepherd's voice and will follow him.
4. The shepherd's sheep will not follow another voice.
5. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
6. Someone who does not own the sheep will not protect them.
7. The shepherd knows his sheep and the sheep know their shepherd.

Although I think this passage may give the fullest picture of the relationship between the Shepherd and sheep, it is certainly not the only passage that mentions it. Let's look at a couple of others:

In Luke 15:1-7, we find the "Parable of the Lost Sheep." In this parable, Jesus describes another element of this relationship. Jesus says that even if only one sheep out of a flock of 100 went missing, a shepherd would leave the 99 still remaining to find the one. He then goes on to say that finding that one sheep causes much rejoicing.

In Matthew 10:16-25, we find Jesus discussing the persecution that the disciples will face. Jesus uses this description in verse 16: "Behold, I am sending you out at sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." (ESV) It may seem that this paints a completely different picture, but I'm not so sure that it does.

Definition of the roles

Shepherd: Jesus is the Shepherd. In fact, He calls himself the Good Shepherd. While others came only to steal, kill and destroy, Jesus makes it clear in John 10 that he came to save us. Jesus is the only Shepherd. Jesus is the only Messiah (Christ). Jesus also says He is the door in John 10. Jesus is the only way to salvation. There is no other way, just as there is no other shepherd. Any other method will only steal, kill and destroy us.

So, how are we saved? Jesus discusses this as well. In John 10:11, Jesus says, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." Jesus furthers this thought in John 10:17, saying, "For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again." John 19:16-37 details Jesus death on the cross. Jesus died to save us. John 20:1-10 details the account of Christ's resurrection. (He did say, after all, that He lay down His life that He may take it up again.)

As the Shepherd, Jesus is the ultimate protector. He guards, protects and cares for all of His sheep. He proved His worth as Shepherd when He died upon the cross for His sheep.

Sheep: We are the sheep. As sheep, we need to know our Shepherd. We need to know His voice. If we do not know what the voice of God sounds like in our hearts, then we risk following a thief or robber's voice. We must be careful to follow Jesus. The Shepherd died for us, to save us.

How then are we saved? Romans 10:9, 10 says, "because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved."

So, we need to know our Shepherd and know His voice that we might follow Him wherever He leads us. And we need to confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead.

We need to place our trust in the Shepherd. The reason that being sent out as sheep among wolves shouldn't concern us is that our Shepherd is the one who said it. We can trust that our Shepherd knows what's best for us.

Discussion of the reality

There are a couple of major areas that we can struggle with in this relationship and in our roles:

1. Sometimes, we might not know what God's voice sounds like in our hearts. This should not be so! We need to know the voice of God. If my wife called me and my response to her saying hello was to question who was calling, I would be in big trouble. That doesn't happen though because I know my wife's voice. I have an intimate (meaning close) relationship with her and hear her voice all the time. The same is true (and even more-so) when it comes to us and God. We should have an intimate relationship with Him and know His voice.

2. Sometimes, we might find ourselves taking the lead. We need to be careful not to take the lead. That's the job of the Shepherd. The sheep's job is to follow. We have been called to follow Jesus, not lead Him. Instead of creating our own plans, we should allow God to show us the plans He has for us. His plans will always be better than our plans. Things will always go better for us when we let Him lead and we simply follow. We need to trust the Lord.

It's also extremely important for us never to forget the sacrifice that our Shepherd made for us on the cross!

The ultimate sacrifice by a Shepherd (Christ Jesus) for His sheep (us)

in His strength. for His glory.