Sheep Need a Shepherd (John 10)
Vicar Christopher Stout

 Sheep and Shepherds and Doors – that’s what Jesus preaches about this morning.  “I am the door of the sheep (John 10:7).  I am the Good Shepherd, and I know my own and my own know me, and I lay down my life for the sheep (John 10:14-15).”  Jesus is pretty clear in His labels.  You are His sheep, He is your shepherd, He is the door to the sheep.  The earliest Christian portrayals of Jesus were exactly this, Jesus as the Good Shepherd.  Many portraits today reflect an image of rolling hills and crystal streams with beautiful white and fluffy sheep.  Is this the image that Scripture paints of sheep and Shepherd and Door?

 For Jesus to be your Good Shepherd comes with an admission.  It’s an admission of complete and utter dependence, “Remember that you are sheep.”  Is it so hard to admit that you get to roam around in beautiful pastures all day?  Is it so hard to admit that you are so cute with your white and fluffy wool?  No.  But that’s not quite the image that Jesus is getting at here. 

Sheep Need a Shepherd (John 10)
Vicar Christopher Stout

 Sheep and Shepherds and Doors – that’s what Jesus preaches about this morning.  “I am the door of the sheep (John 10:7).  I am the Good Shepherd, and I know my own and my own know me, and I lay down my life for the sheep (John 10:14-15).”  Jesus is pretty clear in His labels.  You are His sheep, He is your shepherd, He is the door to the sheep.  The earliest Christian portrayals of Jesus were exactly this, Jesus as the Good Shepherd.  Many portraits today reflect an image of rolling hills and crystal streams with beautiful white and fluffy sheep.  Is this the image that Scripture paints of sheep and Shepherd and Door?

 For Jesus to be your Good Shepherd comes with an admission.  It’s an admission of complete and utter dependence, “Remember that you are sheep.”  Is it so hard to admit that you get to roam around in beautiful pastures all day?  Is it so hard to admit that you are so cute with your white and fluffy wool?  No.  But that’s not quite the image that Jesus is getting at here.  

 He pictures sheep under attack by wolves and robbers and thieves.  What is attacking you, dear Christian?  Is it the sin and irresponsibility of others that attacks you and entices you to hopelessness or anger?  Are stresses of this life and burdens of busy schedules depriving you of comfortable and pleasant pastures?  Is temptation to be selfish or lazy or lustful nipping at your hooves too consistently to be resisted?   If you don’t feel like you’re under attack, then at least take Jesus’ word for it, “the thief comes only to steal and kill (John 10:10).”  He doesn’t say “if the thief comes,” He only warns what that thief does come to do.   Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8), seeking to devour little sheep and steal and kill their faith and hope and peace.  

 Under attack, what are we sheep to do?  Our Lord understands us wonderfully and beautifully.  “I know my own and my own know me (John 10:14).”   He knows that we need to hear it straight and clear about what we are to do.  Here it is, “Remember that you are sheep.”  

 When attacked, sheep have no defense.  They are slow, small, have no weapon on them by nature and certainly can’t outsmart anything – they’re pretty dumb, actually.  Jesus didn’t call you and I the cows or the goats of His pasture; we’d at least have a chance against an enemy with our size or strength.  No.  Remember that you are sheep.  Sheep need a shepherd.  Without a Shepherd standing between us sheep and our enemies, we don’t stand a chance.  

 Even without outside enemies like the devil and the world, we sheep can so often be our own enemy.  Remember that you are sheep.  Left to themselves, sheep wander off and get lost.   Jesus didn’t call us the dogs and cats of His pasture, who seem to have a natural instinct to find their way home when lost.  No.  Remember that you are the sheep of His hand.  Sheep need a shepherd.  When lost in despair of sin and guilt, we cannot by nature find our way home to our Shepherd’s absolution and safe keeping without His speaking and our hearing.  “I know my own and my own know me (John 10:14).”  He knows we are sheep.

 Sheep need a shepherd ? a good one at that.  Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd, and I know my own and my own know me.”  Dear Christian, in Scripture good is strongly associated with usefulness and practicality.  As God labeled what He made in the beginning “good”, it was as if He was saying, “This is perfect, perfect for what I made it to be.”  Fruits were made to give energy and enjoyment, and they did just that for the animals and Adam and Eve.  Good is strongly associated with usefulness and practicality.  He is the Good Shepherd for His sheep; useful and practical, more than that, completely needed by we sheep who have no defense from our sin and other enemies -- no natural ability to find our way to Him.

 And our Good Shepherd, perfect and practical as He is, knows this.  “I know your shortcomings and worries.  I know what separates you from Myself – sin.  I am the Good Shepherd and I lay down my life for you to enter My peace, My pasture, My safety.  I lay down My life for your sin because I’m good.”  He couldn’t untangle us from the thorns we get lost in our wanderings without getting all cut up and bloody from the crown of thorns on His head.  He couldn’t rescue us from the wolves unless He was encircled by them as He hung on His cross-shaped Shepherds staff.   He is the good shepherd who lays down His life for you.

 One of the things a mid-eastern shepherd often does for His flock is to lie in the opening of the pen at night. Every night, the sheep are herded through a door into their enclosed pen. That’s what Jesus means when He says, “I am the door of the sheep and I am the Good Shepherd.”  This Shepherd literally lays down His life for the sheep. He lies in the door of death, and through His death, His sheep can go in and out and find pasture. Remember that you are sheep and in the Good Shepherd’s flock, you are safe forever.

 When this shepherd lays down His life, He doesn’t forsake His sheep, but does it so that they may not be forsaken or ever alone.  This Shepherd has wakened from death, never to die again.  The sheep hear his voice (John 10:3), because He still speaks to us to hear.  This is why Christians devoted themselves to the apostles teaching (Acts 2:42) – to hear the living voice of Jesus.  He leads them out (John 10:3) of guilt and despair with His voice that proclaims, “Don’t listen to those voices, I am your shepherd and say to you, dear sheep, that you are righteous.”   

 Remember that you are sheep and that Your Good Shepherd still takes care of you, still feeds you.  That’s why there was equal devotion to the apostles teaching and the breaking of the bread (Acts 2:42).  In our sinfulness we may not always desire the Lords Supper, but the Lord always desires to have His Supper with us.  He desires it because He knows our needs, our sins, and our enemies, better than we know ourselves.  I know my own and my own know me (John 10:14).  He calls us each by name with His voice, “you, take and eat, for your safety and peace; you, take and drink because of your sheepness.”  

 When tempted or burdened or guilty, don’t be so surprised, for remember that you are sheep.  Sheep need a Shepherd – a good one at that.  A Shepherd that knows us, knows our needs, and comes even now to give life, and life abundantly (John 10:10).  Jesus speaks to His sheep today, “I am the Good Shepherd.”

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a