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The Good Shepherd is Our Security

Good Morning. It is a tradition hundreds of years old to set aside one Sunday in the Easter Season as Good Shepherd Sunday. I think most Christians are comfortable, knowing our weaknesses, to think of God as looking out for us the way a Shepherd cares for often confused sheep!

Throughout the Bible, God frequently uses this image of a Shepherd to dramatize His love and care for His children, and while it probably meant more thousands of years ago, it is an image that can still be understood, when you realize how much sheep need a Shepherd as a guiding hand to love and care for them, for their safety and security.

In the Old Testament, there are many examples besides Psalm 23. Ezekiel 24 is a picture where God compares himself to a shepherd, who has made His prophets (meaning His preachers) His under-shepherds. That’s a common passage preached on in ordinations.

The image of a shepherd is used by Jesus as well to describe Himself, in terms of how he cares for us. He is the One who risks His life to seek and to save those who are lost. In John 6, despite being tired and hungry, he preaches to the point of exhaustion to the huge crowds because He has pity on them as they are “sheep without a shepherd.”

Here in John 10 today, Jesus makes the point that sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd and do not follow strangers or anyone’s voice, or those who don’t come into the sheepfold through the door.

Just as a shepherd spoke to his sheep in a language they recognized

whether it was his voice or a certain sound made by the shepherd, it is said that the Good Shepherd “spoke as no man ever spake.”

…everyone who listens to Jesus either accepts Him or rejects Him, and they decide to accept or reject Him on the basis of whether they truly “hear” his voice and believe that He is the Son of God, speaking the Word of God.

Those who accept Jesus as their shepherd, as the Son of God, we follow Him. We don’t just say yes and stay put laying around where we were. We live according to His teachings, just as sheep followed their shepherd wherever he led them and did what he directed them to do. The sheep recognized their shepherd’s voice and they responded by following him.

In John 10, one of our Shepherd’s great declarations that we must listen to carefully - is this: “I am the door.”

I haven’t dug into this image much, as I usually focus on Psalm 23 on this Sunday, but the image of a DOOR, when it relates to a Jesus being the Good Shepherd, is something very foreign to modern thought. I want to walk you through some of these background images, which you may not know about, because they give an amazing picture of Jesus.

To understand Jesus intention here, visualize a sheepfold as a place set up in the hill country of Judah – a place where the sheep could stay securely when they were not coming home at night. When the sun set, the shepherd and his sheep were often far away from their village.

And in cases like this, no, they would never just spend the night lying in an open field. It was far too dangerous when it came to predators and sheep thieves.

The type of sheepfold Jesus is talking about can best be imagined to us as a large fenced-in area, with the fence being a 3-foot stone wall. I found a nice picture of one online and put it on the bulletin cover. There were many different designs for these, this was a very simple one.

This is where the shepherd and sheep spent the night when they were making a home away from home. The wall was made of stone, rather than a wooden fence to better keep the sheep in, but most importantly to keep predators and sheep stealers out at night. And unlike what it appears like on the cover, this would usually only be used at night, or maybe when the shepherd needed a nap.

If you were inside the stone wall, you were safe, because the only way in or out of this makeshift pen in the hills was the door.

So the shepherd herded his sheep into an area enclosed by a stone wall that had only one opening in it, but you will notice no real gate. Since there was no physical gate, how could the sheep be secure?

The shepherd literally placed himself across the narrow opening so that he himself became the door . . . gate . . . entrance into. There was no way the sheep could get in, or out, except by way of the shepherd.

When the shepherd got his sheep safely in their pen, he literally would become the door of the sheep with his body.

There was no access to the sheepfold except by the entrance guarded by the shepherd. This is the image that Jesus was trying to get across when He declared Himself to be the door. Through Him, and Him alone, we gain access to true safety and to the Father.

Paul echoed this saying: “Through Him we have access to the Father.” Through Him, as in through an entrance he stands before as a door. Also, the writer of Hebrews: “He is the new and living way.” A way meaning an entrance. Clearly, Jesus is the way to God. He is the gateway. He is the doorway.

When there was no way, God sent His Son to make a way. Thus: “I am the doorway to the sheepfold of God.” Christ our Lord is the way through which anyone can gain entrance into the kingdom of God.

“If any person enters in through me, that person will be saved, and he or she will go in and out, and they will find pasture.”

The sheep could go in and come out without fear was because since their shepherd is the Lord, they are absolutely safe and secure. Of course, next we have to ask, what kind of fear was Jesus talking about.

We hear of horrible events all the time, and know why this world is a world full of fear. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could go wherever we wanted in this world without fear! But that could only happen if all people belonged to the Good Shepherd and abided by Him.

In the absence of absolute security in this world, since so many people in our world love darkness rather than light, …

we do the best we can to guard against evils that may lurk “around the corner.” But with that said . . .

There IS for the child of God . . . for all who repent of their sins and turn away from their sinfulness . . . for all who believe in and receive Christ as personal Lord and Savior . . . for all whose Shepherd is the Lord, security that surpasses all human understanding, because we know that we are in the hands of the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us.

Jesus says shortly after this:

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” 

Our deep need for eternal security was met by the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us, His sheep. Our Lord who humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death by crucifixion on a cross, so he could provide an even better way, a better door, to everlasting life.

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