good shepherds still needed! Tom Cowan Interim Lead Pastor English Congregation Vancouver Chinese Baptist Church Vancouver, British Columbia Sunday Sermon for 11 March 2012 Scripture Passage John 10:1-16
Some time ago, I was watching my favourite TV program which is Jeopardy. I enjoy the challenge of the questions. It was the College Championship. The very brightest young people from top US Universities. If you are familiar with Jeopardy, you know that you always have to answer in form of a question. The main category was Bible. The statement to be answered was THE LORD IS MY ________________. Three bright young people, none of them knew the answer WHO IS MY SHEPHERD. It is probably the best known psalm. We know it as psalm 23, the Lord is my shepherd. Jesus picks up this metaphor as he introduces himself to us. John 10:1-16 The Good Shepherd and His Sheep 1 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone 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 one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper 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. 5But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them. 7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They 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 and does not own 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 2 GOODSHEPHERDSSTILLNEEDED!
because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 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. When Jesus uses this picture, he is drawing from a picture that may be the most common and frequently used metaphor in the Bible. Sheep were as common in their world as cars and computers are in ours. Everyone would instantly relate to the meaning. Our problem is that most of us don’t really know a lot about sheep. Other than that they say “BAA.” Some years ago, Carl Burke, GOD IS FOR REAL MAN, translated the metaphor of the 23rd Psalm to read, the Lord is like my probation officer, a way of explaining Jesus to the kids in New York who knew nothing about sheep and shepherds. But here is a quick overview of this theme in the Bible. The shepherd of Israel is God Himself. Psalm 23, probably best known psalm. All through the OT, Israel is referred to a sithe sheep of God’s pasture. Isaiah, all we like sheep have gone astray. When God was looking for a leader to take His people out of Egypt, He found Moses who was tending sheep. When God was looking for a king for the nation, He found a young shepherd boy called David. When they wanted an audience for the birth of Jesus, they invited shepherds who were nearby. When Jesus saw people lost and confused, He said they were like sheep without a shepherd. When Jesus told a trilogy of parables about lost things, He started with lost sheep, then a lost coin and finally a lost son. When Jesus told Peter to take up again the challenge of discipleship after His failure, He changed/transformed the fisherman into a shepherd, and said to him, feed my sheep.
When Peter wrote to the leaders of the church, he reminded them that they were shepherds.
everybody name tags. Now what you would be is a lonely person with a name tag.
1st Peter 5
But Jesus says, I know my sheep. I know who you are.
2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. The challenge is given to church leaders. Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care (1st Peter). From God’s point of view, the church is not a business that needs better managers, rather it is the flock of God that needs better spiritual shepherds. These are just a few of the many references. What we will see this morning, the connection between the ministry of Jesus as the Good shepherd. What that means, and the ongoing pastoral/shepherd ministry of the church. No one can repeat what Jesus does perfectly. It stands alone and unique, but it does not come to an end. The work of Jesus, the shepherd, is continued and passed on. The shepherd’s cloak and staff is given to the pastoral ministry of leaders in the church. Three broad brush strokes. We will connect the perfect ministry of Jesus as the Good shepherd to the ministry of the church. JESUS CALLS US FROM HIS PERFECT INTIMACY – TO INTIMATE COMMUNITY. Several times Jesus says, I know my sheep.
Jesus offers us deep intimacy. It means that he really knows who we are on the inside. I care about you, I understand you, know what you feel. Psalm 139 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; David is saying, even in the darkness of the womb, God knew all that I was. He saw my unformed body, still being unfolded. It is one of the most sensitive thoughts in the psalms. You can have lots of friends on Facebook, but you have never met them. They have never met you. It is a faceless kind of intimacy, which really is an oxymoron. Friendship with people you have never met and will never meet requires little vulnerability. Today there is someone who says, I know who you are. This is His perfect intimacy. This needs to be translated into community life.
Remember the bar in Boston called Cheers, where everybody knows your name. That sounds great. We want people to know who we are.
Who do you know, really know, here at VCBC? Even if we gave you all name tags, we would be people who might know each others names, but little about who we really are. So what do we do?
But there is a vital difference between being alone, which can be a healthy thing, and being lonely. There are times when we need to be able to be alone. We do not need people all the time. It can be important to be able to be alone with ourselves. Jesus knew the value of being alone. But the fear many of us have is being lonely.
Someone says, “it is in small groups that people get close enough to know each other, to care and to share, to challenge and support, to confide and to confess, to forgive and be forgiven, to laugh and to weep, to be accountable to each other, to watch over each other and to grow together.”
You can be in the middle of a crowd. You can be here at church, and still be lonely. Even if we gave
Tim Keller, pastor in New York, “if you are not part of a small group, you are not really part of the church.”
Jesus can know each of us intimately. We will know each other only in part, but we can know community in small groups. This is where we can know each other as best as we can.
It is the responsibility of church leaders to teach truth and to shepherd the flock of God so that the church is a safe place, morally, spiritually, relationally.
If you faced a crisis this week, perhaps in middle of the night your husband/wife had a heart attack, who would you call?
Bonhoeffer, Life Together, Satan demands to have a man by himself. He means, when we try to live alone, we are vulnerable, exposed, open to attack.
If you are here and lonely, feeling unconnected, perhaps nobody even knows your name. Jesus knows who you are, but can I invite you to take a step forward through this week into a small group. It may be risky, perhaps you have been burnt before, maybe you are shy, but you will get better pastoral care there than anywhere else. JESUS CALLS US FROM HIS PERFECT SAFETY TO THE PROTECTION OF THE COMMUNITY. John 17: while I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by the name you gave me. One of the responsibilities of the shepherd was to guard and protect the sheep. Thieves, robbers, people who are in it just for the money would run away at the first sign of trouble. There are people out there who will kill and destroy. They have no qualms about leaving people wounded, ripped off, bankrupt and broke. Jesus says, I am always on guard for your life. Jesus regarded our lives so valuable that He gave His life on the cross for us. Jesus kept his followers safe. He protected them. Then he says in John 17:11-12. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. One of the major responsibilities of church leaders, pastors, deacons, is to create an environment of safety and protection so that the church will be a safe place for people. Paul to Ephesians elders, Act 20: 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. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 4 GOODSHEPHERDSSTILLNEEDED!
Jesus kept his followers close by his side, and when he left this earth to return to his father, in addition to the Holy Spirit, he gave our lives into the protection of the shepherds and the care of one another. He calls us all into the care and protection of the truth. If someone enters the flock of God here at VCBC with some teaching that we believe will harm the flock, it is the task of leaders to confront sin and error. We cannot, we must not, let someone who is a thief or a robber come in and plunder the church. Do not struggle alone. Find protection and safety in flock of God. JESUS CALLS US FROM HIS PERFECT SACRIFICE TO SERVICE IN THE COMMUNITY. 3 times in this passage on John 10, Jesus said he would be the kind of shepherd who would lay down his life for the sheep. Although motivated by love, there was nothing romantic or sentimental about this perfect sacrifice. The good shepherd becomes the lamb that was sacrificed. 3 times Jesus says that he will give up his life. That was his unique role and none of us can do that again. But the exact phrase about him giving up his life is used in 1st John 3:16-17. 16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Notice the plural in verse 16, brothers and sisters. Then singular in verse 17. Why? An idea. It’s kind of like the person who says, I love humanity. It’s people I can’t stand. It is too easy for us to say, I love everyone at VCBC, but
sacrifice gets down and dirty when we have to put a name and a face to it. We see someone in need, and we may have in our hands the material possessions that will meet that need. We continue and we maintain the shepherd sacrifice of Jesus every time we engage in an act of service in his name. The shepherd who lays down his life also asks us to lay down time, money, effort and continue his sacrifice. So we come in a moment to communion, and at the heart of that, we remember the work of the good shepherd, who knows us intimately, who protects us, and who gives his life for us. But this very act of communion is not an individual event. It is personal but not individual. It is a community event. It is to be much more than a solitary or lonely experience. We share this bread and wine in the company of a group of people where we are called to know one another, where we are called to watch out for one another and protect one another, to care for each other, and where we are called to serve and meet one another’s needs. When we take the bread and wine from someone, and when we pass it on, we are receiving from them the shepherd ministry of Jesus, and we are passing the shepherd ministry of Jesus on to someone else.
Message by Pastor Tom One of the major responsibilities of church leaders, pastors, deacons, is to create an environment of safety and prot...