Monday, May 01, 2017

Sermon on John 10:11-16, for the 3rd Sunday of Easter 1 Yr Lectionary, Misericordias Domini, "Known by the Good Shepherd"

Expanded sermon outline:
Shepherd theme in Bible—several uses: 1) describe God in His relation to 2) His people as flock or lambs, 3) but also the leaders, priests, and prophets. Bad shepherds—Ezekiel 34 (wider context) and Jeremiah 23—false teachers, abusive, rule with force and harshness, neglect to feed, protecting personal gain and trampling the poor and needy. Sheep are scattered, none to seek them. God Himself will intervene.
Actions of God as shepherd—Psalm 23, protects, leads, feeds, comforts. Personal knowledge, love, care. Ezek. 34, search and recovery, heal and strengthen, destroy the enemies, justice. Zechariah 11-13, shepherd of the doomed flock, to be betrayed, pierced, mourned over, and struck, so the sheep are scattered. Leads to Jesus’ description: John 10—lays down His life for the sheep
Knowing God as our Good Shepherd—comfort and reassurance, not a hired hand. Not distant, detached, unconcerned with what happens to us. Belonging, invested, has something at stake in us; precious—won’t let us remain lost and endangered. Great love! Great news!
But it’s one thing to consider from the side of how God loves and cares for us. Another to reflect on how Is 53, we all, like sheep have gone astray. Lost, wandering, runaways, forsaken the safe pastures for “greener pastures” and left the Shepherd who loves us. Or think we don’t need a shepherd. Pretty well take care of myself, thanks!  For our sin, for our sake, He had to be crucified, lamb led to the slaughter. Costly price of our straying—His suffering and death—but we have returned to “the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.” But greater love has no one than this, than that He lay down His life…
14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.   "Christ says: 'I am the Good Shepherd and know those who are Mine, and I am known by my own--just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father.' 'Knowing' here does not just imply 'recognition'. Instead it means--according to the nuance of the original Greek--to simultaneously love, to accept some one from the bottom of the heart, and consequently to care for him....This is a powerful passage. From it we can see that just as much as the heavenly Father is attached to Christ (His Son whom He inwardly loves) so also Christ is attached to His beloved sheep, whom He likewise inwardly loves from the bottom of His heart." (Johann Gerhard, Sermon on John 10)
Personal knowledge and deep love. If someone tells you: “I love you like your my own son or daughter,” you know that’s not a casual friendship or love, not even just a really close friend—they’ve extended to you the family bond of love and kinship that’s ordinarily reserved only for those closest to us. I don’t have the right to be treated as a sibling or son in your family, and all the rights and privileges that entails. We can’t just invite ourselves into that bond with anyone we please. It has to be given to us. God welcomes you and I into His family on just such personal and loving terms. God’s knowledge of us is so deep and thorough—nothing hidden from Him—but still this tremendous love. Lays down His life.
16And 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.” Jesus looks outward, beyond those already gathered. God’s mission—seek and save the lost. Is 56, God speaks of gathering the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, bringing them to His holy mountain: “for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. 8 The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.” We are some of the “others” outside of Israel. Many more yet remain. God intends to gather one flock, one shepherd. Simple unity around Jesus—the church as One. Echoed in “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”
Yet why so many divisions? Different churches? Sad reality—reality that Jesus prays in John 17 to fix--22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Many divisions come from falling away from the word, which is why Jesus so earnestly warns against wolves (in sheep’s clothing)—false teachers sent by the devil to “steal, kill, and destroy”. These require us to stand firm on the word of God against thieves or wolves. But some divisions come for petty or foolish divisions and controversies—mountains out of molehills—selfish pride in the way. Outwardly the church is sadly divided—but the spiritual reality Jesus tells: one flock, one shepherd. That is the reality now in time, church is true believers who hear and follow the voice of Jesus, the One Shepherd, but also the future reality yet to come—the full restoration of the unity of the church around Christ in heaven. But now or then, it is still one flock, one shepherd. Jesus knows His own, and it is a great blessing to be known by Him, to be sought after when we were lost, to be carried when we were found, to be laid down in green pastures to feed and be kept safely in His church and in His arms. To be known by Him is to be loved from the bottom of God’s heart! The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want! Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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1. Shepherds and the theme of shepherding and sheep are a theme that runs all through the Bible. Name some major characters in the Old Testament who were shepherds.  How does the Old Testament portray God as Shepherd, and His people as His flock? Psalm 23; 95:7; 100:3.
2. Read Ezekiel 34 and Jeremiah 23. Who are the “shepherds of Israel” that God harshly criticizes in these passages? What are they doing to the sheep? What is God going to do in response? Ezekiel 34:11-16. How will God Himself care for the sheep after this?
3. How does Jesus directly claim this title in John 10? How does His ministry agree with the work of the divine shepherd described in Ezekiel 34?
4. What is the difference between the work of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and a “hired hand?” Why is their concern (or lack of concern) for the sheep so different? What different descriptions of the work of the Evil One are used in John 10:1-18?
5. What actions prove the goodness of the Good Shepherd? John 10:11, 14-15; Isaiah 53:6-7; Why do we need a Shepherd?
6. Explain and describe what it means that Jesus knows His own, and His own know Him. Read through the whole of John 10 for examples. Why is it a comfort for us to know this? How do we respond to and follow His voice?
7. Who are the “other sheep” that Jesus has? John 10:16. Isaiah 56:6-8; Romans 1:16. How does Jesus gather them in? How do we gather (or get gathered in? Romans 10:14-17. What beautiful truth does this verse (John 10:16) also reveal about the Church, under God’s shepherding? What sad fact often seems to run against this? compare and contrast to John 17.

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