Sermon title:  THE GOOD SHEPHERD vs THE HIRED HANDS

John 10:6-21                         Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, January 6, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

Our Lord Jesus is the Good Shepherd,

so you would think that

the our beautiful stained-glass window

is based on a description found in the New Testament.

 

But, it actually reflects a word-picture from the Old Testament—

at Isaiah 40, Verse 11.        

 

In the Gospels Christ refers to us as his flock of sheep

and refers to himself as the Good Shepherd,

but it’s in Isaiah 40:11

that we see him described

as holding a little lamb in his arms,

and gently leading the flock.

It says,

11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:

He gathers the lambs in his arms

and carries them close to his heart;

he gently leads those that have young.

 

That passage in Isaiah really describes

what we see expressed so beautifully here

in stained glass.

11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:

He gathers the lambs in his arms

and carries them close to his heart;

he gently leads those that have young.

--------------------------------------

 

When those beautiful words were written,

Jesus Christ, the Son of God,

was still in heaven with God the Father,

and he was God,

in a way that is beyond the grasp

of our human minds.

 

Yes, God was the Good Shepherd of the people of Israel.

 

He also used men to help shepherd his flock.

 

But, in ancient Israel,

the shepherds of God’s people

betrayed their trust

and failed to do their job.

 

In the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, Chapter 34,

God expressed his disappointment

with the men who were shepherding his people back then.

 

Ezekiel 34 shows how angry God was,

with those he appointed to care for his people,

but who failed to do their job.

 

In Verse 2, he addresses the prophet Ezekiel, and tells him,

 

2 "Son of man, prophesy

against the shepherds of Israel;

prophesy and say to them:

'This is what the Sovereign LORD says:

 

Woe to the shepherds of Israel

who only take care of themselves!

Should not shepherds take care of the flock?

 

4 You have not strengthened the weak

or healed the sick or bound up the injured.

You have not brought back the strays

or searched for the lost.

 

A shepherd of animals—real sheep—

does all those things physically

 to care for the physical needs of those animals.

 

But a shepherd of people—a human leader of God’s people—

needs to care for their spiritual needs.

 

And, if we turn back one chapter, to Ezekiel Chapter 33,

we’ll see that this involves

warning people to repent from their sins.

 

If a shepherd of God’s people fails to warn the flock against sin,

God holds that shepherd accountable.

 

In Ezekiel 33, beginning with Verse 8, God says,

 

8 When I say to the wicked,

'O wicked man, you will surely die,'

and you do not speak out

to dissuade him from his ways,

that wicked man will die for his sin,

and I will hold you accountable for his blood.

 

9 But if you do warn the wicked man

to turn from his ways and he does not do so,

he will die for his sin,

but you will have saved yourself.

 

The shepherds of God’s people Israel were not doing that.

 

They were failing to correct the people

who were following a sinful course of action.

 

They weren’t fit to be shepherds of God’s people.

 

So, going ahead to Chapter 34 again,

in Ezekiel 34:10, God says,

 

10 This is what the Sovereign LORD says:

I am against the shepherds

and will hold them accountable for my flock.

I will remove them from tending the flock

 

And then in Verse 15 he says something remarkable:

 

15 I myself will tend my sheep

and have them lie down,

declares the Sovereign LORD.

 

Notice, God says, “I myself will tend my sheep.

 

I myself will tend my sheep.

 

People who heard or read those words back in Ezekiel’s day

must have assumed it was just a figure of speech: 

God saying,

I myself will tend my sheep.

 

Could God himself

actually come down from heaven

and personally replace the human shepherds of Israel

with himself?

 

Impossible!—people would have thought.

 

God can’t come down from heaven and do that, can he?

 

Well, unbelievable as it may have seemed,

that is what actually happened.

 

God left his heavenly throne,

in the person of the Son,

and came to earth to shepherd his sheep.

 

If we look at John, Chapter 10,[  OPEN  ]

where this morning’s Responsive Reading was found,

we’ll see that Jesus personally fulfilled

this promise, where God said,

I myself will tend my sheep.

 

 

Beginning in John 10, Verse 1, our Lord Jesus is speaking,

and he says,

1 "I tell you the truth,

the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate,

but climbs in by some other way,

is a thief and a robber.

 

2 The man who enters by the gate

is the shepherd of his sheep.

 

3 The watchman opens the gate for him,

and the sheep listen to his voice.

He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

 

4 When he has brought out all his own,

he goes on ahead of them,

and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

 

5 But they will never follow a stranger;

in fact, they will run away from him

because they do not recognize a strangers voice."

 

God’s sheep recognize Jesus’ voice.

 

We hear him, and we want to follow him.

 

That’s why it’s so important to read the Bible

for each one of us to read the Bible for ourselves—

because Christ speaks to us

through the pages of his written Word.

 

And we need to read it prayerfully,

asking God for understanding,

as we listen to his voice.

 

Now the people who heard Jesus

comparing himself to a shepherd

didn’t understand.

 

As we read the rest of this passage, Verse 6 continues,

 

6 Jesus used this figure of speech,

but they did not understand

what he was telling them.

 

7 Therefore Jesus said again,

"I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.

8 All who ever came before me

were thieves and robbers,

but the sheep did not listen to them.

 

9 I am the gate;

whoever enters through me will be saved.

He will come in and go out, and find pasture.

 

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;

I have come that they may have life,

and have it to the full.

 

11 "I am the good shepherd.

The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

 

12 The hired hand is not the shepherd

who owns the sheep.

So when he sees the wolf coming,

he abandons the sheep and runs away.

Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.

 

13 The man runs away

because he is a hired hand

and cares nothing for the sheep.

 

The false shepherds of Israel

were thieves and robbers and hired hands.

 

They cared nothing for the sheep,

but used their leadership positions

just to enrich themselves

and to indulge their own selfish passions.

 

So, God himself, in the person of the Son,

came down to earth to shepherd his own sheep.

 

Unbelievable as it may have seemed

back when God told Ezekiel,

I myself will tend my sheep.

God did come to earth,

in the person of the Son,

to shepherd his own sheep.

 

In Verse 14, Jesus continues,

 

14"I am the good shepherd;

I know my sheep and my sheep know me--

15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—

and I lay down my life for the sheep.

 

16 I have other sheep

that are not of this sheep pen.

I must bring them also.

They too will listen to my voice,

and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

 

Jesus would expand his flock

to include, not just the people of Israel,

but also Gentiles of all nationalities.

That’s why he said, “I have other sheep.

 

He would combine his Jewish disciples with his Gentile disciples

to form one Christian church

under himself as the one shepherd.

 

Continuing in Verse 17, Jesus goes on to say,

 

17 The reason my Father loves me

is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again.

 

18 No one takes it from me,

but I lay it down of my own accord.

I have authority to lay it down

and authority to take it up again.

This command I received from my Father."

--------------------------

19 At these words the Jews were again divided.

 

20 Many of them said,

"He is demon-possessed and raving mad.

Why listen to him?"

 

21 But others said,

"These are not the sayings

of a man possessed by a demon.

Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?"

------------------------------------------------

 

So, our Lord Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

 

He came to earth to personally feed his sheep.

 

He performed miracle after miracle,

giving physical healing

to the sick, the blind, the lame

among the people of Israel.

 

And he preached a message

that gave spiritual healing

to everyone who would come to him for salvation.

 

By leaving heaven and coming to earth

to care for the sheep himself,

he fulfilled what God told Ezekiel,

I myself will tend my sheep.

 

-------------------------------------------------------

 

Before he returned to heaven,

Jesus instructed his followers

to make disciples of all the nations.

 

On the day of Pentecost,

he filled 120 of his disciples with the Holy Spirit,

and gave them power beyond what is normal

to be able to do this.

 

They became the first members

of a worldwide Church

made up of Jews and Gentiles

who followed Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

 

And, to care for this Church

that would fill the whole earth,

Acts 20:28 tells us the Holy Spirit [ OPEN ]

appointed shepherds

within each Christian congregation.

 

They go by the name of overseers, elders, deacons, and pastors.

 

And, at Acts 20:28, the Apostle Paul addressed

a group of them from the city of Ephesus.

He urged them,

“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock

of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.

 

Be shepherds of the church of God, 

which he bought with his own blood.” 

 

But then in the next verse,

Paul indicated that many Christian church leaders

would become corrupt,

just as the shepherds of Israel did.

He said,

29 “I know that after I leave,

savage wolves will come in among you

and will not spare the flock.

 

30 Even from your own number

men will arise and distort the truth

in order to draw away disciples after them.”

 

They would “distort the truth

by not preaching the whole Word of God.

 

They would preach only the parts that would bring them followers.

 

The tough stuff that the Bible says

about sin and punishment—

that wouldn’t attract followers.

 

So, they would leave that out,

and just preach people-pleasing messages.

 

But, if we look back a couple verses, to Acts 20:26,

we’ll see that Paul remembered

what God told Ezekiel

about shepherds being accountable before God

to warn sinners

about the punishment awaiting them,

and urge them to stop sinning.

God told Ezekiel

that if shepherds failed to warn sinners,

they would die,

and God would hold the shepherd accountable

for their blood.

 

At Acts 20:26 Paul said,

“I declare to you today

that I am innocent of the blood of all men.

For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you

the whole will of God.”

 

Paul didn’t leave anything out.

He told them everything.

 

Well, today there is a problem

with shepherds not proclaimingthe whole will of God

and not warning sinners before they die.

 

A few months ago

I heard a recorded sermon

given by Pastor Randy Cahill of Calvary Chapel, Boston,

an elderly long-time pastor.

It was a very good sermon.

 

He was talking about how we’re living in the End Times,

the Last Days of this world.

 

He talked about how sin is now practiced openly everywhere,

and about how this world

calls good “bad” and calls bad “good”—

how the media and even the public schools

teach that the sin of homosexual conduct is “good”

and the Bible view

is “bad.”

 

They call the Bible view bigotry and homophobia.

 

And then Pastor Cahill lamented

how the younger pastors he knew

avoided preaching about these topics—

or anything else that might offend someone.

He said,

these young pastors preach

nothing but “feel-good” sermons.

 

 

And he said this was a deliberate refusal on their part

to preach the whole message

that Jesus and the Apostles gave us to preach.

 

And he was right about that.

 

In the 37 years since I became a Christian,

I’ve been in a number of churches,

and I’ve spoken with people from many other churches,

and I can add my own testimony

that the full message of God—

the tough stuff about sin and repentance—

is seldom preached today.

 

A few years ago,

I was sitting in a pew in a church not far from here—

and the pastor mentioned something

very briefly about sin,

and then he quickly added,

“I’d better not say much more about sin.

I could lose my job.”

 

Yes, he actually said that from the pulpit,

and immediately went on to another topic.

 

But the congregation needed to hear about sin.

 

They had young people in the church

who may never have heard

that God disapproved of their lifestyle.

 

Jesus came to save sinners,

and he welcomed sinners and called them to repent,

and to receive God’s forgiveness for their sins.

 

We were all sinners when Christ found us,

and cleansed us from our sin.

 

But sinners need to hear the Gospel—the whole Gospel—

including what God defines as sin,

and how Jesus calls sinners to repent,

to turn their lives around,

and to receive forgiveness and eternal life.

 

They needed to hear about sin.

 

They needed to hear that God was unhappy with their behavior,

and that there would be eternal consequences,

if they did not repent.

 

They were in danger of eternal punishment.

 

But this pastor openly admitted

that he was afraid of losing his job,

so he wouldn’t talk about sin.

 

He wouldn’t tell them what they needed to hear.

 

If he spoke further about it,

he could lose his job, he said.

 

It makes me think of what we read earlier about “the hired man”

in John 10, Verses 12 and 13.

 

12 The hired hand is not the shepherd

who owns the sheep.

 

So when he sees the wolf coming,

he abandons the sheep and runs away.

 

Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.

 

13 The man runs away

because he is a hired hand

and cares nothing for the sheep.

 

To the hired hand, it’s just a job.

 

He’s not going to risk his own job security,

and put himself in danger,

for the sake of the sheep.

 

He’s not going to boldly confront sin in the church.

 

He’s just a hired hand.

 

Jesus said the hired man “cares nothing for the sheep.”

 

Like a vicious wolf,

Satan the devil entices people into sin,

but the hired man doesn’t warn them,

because it might offend someone,

and he could lose his job.

 

On another occasion,

I had a conversation with an old, retired Baptist pastor.

 

He told me that he deeply regretted

that he had not preached the Bible’s “judgment message,”

as he put it.

 

He regretted not preaching about sin and judgment,

but then he added,

“I would have lost my ministry.”

 

So, he too held back

from warning about sin

and the day of judgment

because preaching it might have cost him his job.

 

Jesus said, when the hired mansees the wolf coming,

he abandons the sheep and runs away.

 

It’s just a job to him—

not worth putting himself in danger

to protect the sheep.

 

Of course, the leadership in those churches share the blame.

 

They were the ones who made those pastors feel

that they could lose their job—lose their ministry—

if they spoke as strongly as Jesus did on those matters.

 

And there are many churches like that out there today.

 

What a blessing it is

to pastor this church—Immanuel Baptist Church—

where God’s Word can be preached

in its entirety without fear.

 

I’m sure this church

is as much a joy and delight to the Lord

as it is to us.

--------------------------------------

 

In the Gospel of John, Chapter 21,[  OPEN  ]

we read about how much Jesus cares about us, his sheep.

 

This is after Christ was crucified,

and rose from the dead on the 3rd day,

and now appeared to his disciples on a beach

at the Sea of Galilee.

 

After they shared a breakfast of roasted fish,

Jesus took Peter alone on a walk down the beach,

with the Apostle John following close behind.

 

John 21:15 begins,

 

15 When they had finished eating,

Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John,

do you truly love me more than these?"

"Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."

 

16 Again Jesus said,

"Simon son of John, do you truly love me?"

He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."  

Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."

17 The third time he said to him,

"Simon son of John, do you love me?"

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time,

"Do you love me?"

He said,

"Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."

 

18 Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."

 

So, that was our Lord’s main concern,

when about to return to heaven:

that his sheep should be fed.

 

And that’s what church is for—

a time of fellowship, when we are fed spiritually

from Word of God.

 

Peter got the point

that Jesus wants his sheep to be fed.

 

And in the 5th Chapter of his first letter,

Peter passes on that same mission

to the elders, pastors and deacons in the churches.

 

He encourages church leaders

to share in feeding the Lord’s sheep

out of love.

 

He begins 1st Peter 5:1 by saying,

 

1 To the elders among you,

I appeal as a fellow elder,

a witness of Christ's sufferings

and one who also will share

in the glory to be revealed:

 

2 Be shepherds of God's flock

that is under your care,

serving as overseers--not because you must,

but because you are willing,

as God wants you to be;

not greedy for money, but eager to serve;

 

3 not lording it over those entrusted to you,

but being examples to the flock.

 

4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears,

you will receive the crown of glory

that will never fade away.

 

Actually, all of us can share in feeding Jesus’ sheep:

         -- when we share in the Sunday service,

                 with its readings, and singing, and sharing encouragement,

         -- when we help maintain the building

                 and keep it clean and presentable

         -- and whenever we speak to others about Jesus,

                   and tell what he has done in our lives.

 

And, when we do it,

       we should keep in mind how dear it is to Jesus’ heart:

Feed my lambs...Take care of my sheep...Feed my sheep