"I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD"
By Pastor Robert L. Donnelly
John 10:11 - "I Am The Good Shepherd"
Let us turn now to the Book for our morning meditation. Our theme is still the WORDS of JESUS, and we have found some very interesting and profitable statements of fact, as we have followed this path for several months. The Gospel according to John is a very fruitful source of supply; for these words are more than just words – they are Spirit and they are Life. Last Sunday we began the “I AM's” of the Gospel – “I AM the light of life, he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
For today we have chosen John 10:11, “I AM the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” The immediate inference is that there are many shepherds, with many ways and plans to lead the sheep. Many there were in His day who would willingly sacrifice the sheep for the good of the shepherd; and who were using the sheep as a means to further their own ambitious desires. But Jesus said, “I AM the Good Shepherd; the Good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.”
It is a very evident fact, that mankind in general sorely needs a Shepherd – no further proof is needed; and again, that mankind is very easily led is self-evident. The sad part of it all is that because we are so gullible, and so ignorant of the Way, we are ready to accept anything or anyone that comes along with a promise to guide us safely and assume responsibility for our spiritual welfare.
–Some look to the stars to guide them, and plan all their activity by the signs of the zodiac;
–Some seek direction from tea leaves in a cup,
–Others blindly follow the goddess of chance, and trust everything to luck – even the matter of eternal salvation is disposed of by saying, ‘I’ll take my chance with the rest of the world.’
–Still others implicitly follow human leadership, asking only that the man they follow has a degree from some university; contenting themselves with the argument, ‘Surely, he ought to know.’
–Then there are those who depend entirely on books to explain the mysteries of Life, Death, Resurrection and the Future.
Right in the mists of all this confusion, conflict, and contradiction, hear the voice of Jesus say, “I AM the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” There is no doubt about it, we DO need a Shepherd; and it’s not by chance that, in Scripture, we are called sheep. We have all the characteristics of that lowly creature, as well as a few other traits of which no respectable sheep could ever be guilty.
In the first place, we are not capable of defending ourselves, or protecting ourselves in all the perils of life’s short day. We are extremely vulnerable, and helpless! And right where we live, our “adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We cannot even defend ourselves from ourselves. There is some truth to the old proverb, MAN’S WORST ENEMY IS HIMSELF. But I say, we cannot even defend ourselves from ourselves, and countless thousands of people mourn because of man’s inhumanity to man.
Someone has boldly prophesied that a few generations from now, the human race will be divided into two kinds of people – those who will have to live underground, and only come out after dark for fear of those who live above ground. Whether this will ever come to pass or not, I wouldn’t know; but one thing I do know – wherever we may have to live, whether in dens of the earth or some inaccessible mountain peak, we will still have the Good Shepherd, and He will still take care of His own.
But, our greatest dangers lie not in our fellow man. Jesus said, “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do” (Luke 12:4). It’s in the spiritual realm where our greatest danger lies, where we are most vulnerable and helpless. As sheep among a pack of wolves, we fall easy prey to every cult and error that Satan has produced. It’s in the spiritual realm where we most need a Shepherd; and it’s in the spiritual realm where shepherds abound. Shepherds of every kind, shade and hue, ranging all the way from the higher critic or modernist whose only god is Reason (and as a rule, doesn’t show too much of that). It’s in the spiritual realm that we need a Shepherd like Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who gave His life for the sheep.
Not only are we utterly defenceless, like sheep, and therefore in need of a Protector, but as sheep we lack that sense of direction that is so remarkable in many other animals. We are easily confused, and lose our way unless we have the constant guidance of the Good Shepherd. As a matter of fact, Scripture says that “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). “The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”
Left to ourselves we drift with the storm, and follow the path of least resistance, allowing circumstances to shape our destiny. Not only, as sheep, do we drift with the storm; but, as sheep, we drift with the flock. Wherever the crowd goes, whatever the crowd does, anything the crowd decides, is accepted and followed without question. No one ever began smoking because the taste of tobacco was so delightful. No one ever began drinking because the taste of alcohol was so pleasant; but the compelling urge seems to be, ‘because the other fellow is doing it.’ Without the constant help and guidance of the Good Shepherd, we lack the moral courage to take a definite stand against what we know to be wrong, and will follow the crowd through all the mud and mire of moral filth and physical dissipation, even though we know that “the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25). Happy, the young man, or young woman, who can say with David the Psalmist, “The LORD is my Shepherd; He leads me.” Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28).
You may remember that in last Sunday’s text we had the words, “He that follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” To follow the Good Shepherd is to walk in the light, even as He is in the light. “He leads me beside the still waters” indicates that there is a quiet place in God where outward circumstances do not trouble the peace of mind and soul. “You will find rest for your souls” is the promise of Matthew 11:29. And the Psalmist David must have found it, for he said, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” What a picture of satisfaction; and how we sorely need such a place in this hustling, bustling world. We need a place where the weary, troubled, fretting and distraught nervous system can find rest – a place of emotional tranquility and mental quietness.
Think of it again – “green pastures” and “still waters.” Isn’t that an inviting picture? Doesn’t your heart long for such a place? Do you ask if it’s possible to find such a place in this world of turmoil and strife? Then hear the WORDS of JESUS once more, “I AM the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”
Not only does He lead in green pastures and beside still waters, but there is another line in Psalm 23 that is sometimes passed over too quickly. It’s found in the third verse of that lovely song: “He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” The final test of the Christian Gospel – the main question of life, as far as I can see, is NOT: ‘Does religion give peace? does it give joy? does it give rest?’; but, I say, the question IS: ‘Does it make a man right? right with his neighbor? right with his family? right in his business? right in his thinking? right in his speaking? right in his acting? right with himself? and right with God?
Rest, peace, and joy, is fruit which is certain to grow on “trees of righteousness” that are planted in the Garden of God. It is written in Isaiah 61:3 that He would give us “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He might be glorified.”
Because He ever leads in paths of light, the one who follows Him “shall not walk in darkness”, and will be led “in paths of righteousness.”
Just before we finish, let us go back again to my text: “I am the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”
There are many shepherds with many promises; there are many ways that seem right and even Scriptural; there are many leaders who seem wise and very kind. The Scriptures tell us there will be false shepherds, prophets and teachers and even false Christ's; BUT
there is only One who gave Himself for the sheep.
there is only One “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world”; there is only One Messiah, anointed of God to redeem us;
there is only One Shepherd who gave Himself for the sheep;
there is only One of whom it is written, “And He showed them His hands and His feet” (Luke 24:40).
(Matthew 24:11, 24; Mark 13:22; Luke 6:26; John 1:29; 1 John 4:1; 2 Peter 2:1),
“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).