We started Journey Church six years ago in an effort to help people discover the real Jesus. We truly believe that when people discover the real Jesus – they will find him irresistible. Often people’s perception of Jesus and what he is really like – don’t match up.
Which was the same problem that Jesus had when he lived two thousand years ago – the people to whom he ministered had a perception of what God was like that didn’t match up to what he really was like. And so Jesus spent much of his time talking about what God is really like.
Now this morning we are beginning a four-week series where we are going to study the claims that Jesus made about himself in the book of John. The gospel of John is the fourth book in the New Testament – it is one of only four books in the Bible that talk about the life and times of Jesus. If you have a bible you can turn to John 10. If you don’t own a bible or the only bible you own is a King James version, feel free to pick up a bible off the information table on your way out – totally free just grab one – we have plenty.
Over the next four weeks we will study seven times in the book of John when Jesus, in an effort to help us understand himself and his mission, said, “I am… For instance he said “I am the bread of life.” I am the light of the world. I am the resurrection and the Life. I am the vine – you are the branches. I am the way the truth and the life.
This morning we are looking at John 10, where Jesus made two claims about himself. He said I am the gate, and I am the good shepherd. And I’m glad we are doing this series because it will help us understand what Jesus is really like.
We live in a world where it is very popular to dismiss God as a figment of our imagination. As someone on par with a spaghetti monster in the sky. As a leftover of an age where – since we could not explain how nature works, we had no other option but turn to superstition and religion.
We live in a world today where there is an aggressive activist atheism. I read an article this week that touched on the catholic churches position on a touchy cultural issue – and I read through the comments – and I read through about a hundred comments without reading one comment in support of the church or God. Instead I read one comment after another that sounded like this person’s opinion.
Now how are we to think about these kinds of comments? Well I think the first thing we need to do is understand where these comments are coming from. It doesn’t help to shout louder or more strongly. My guess is all of us have been involved in a facebook spat – between two people who are arguing about their own rightness – and they never produce anything healthy right? I’ve never read a facebook spat that ended with – You are right – after weighing your balanced and reasoned, and occasional barbed comments, I have totally changed my mind. Doesn’t happen.
Instead let’s together simply understand that there is a world out there who is skeptical about the church. They are doubtful that the Bible is truthful. They are cynical about anything that sounds religious.
And indeed maybe I’m describing you today. And you’re like – finally, a sermon I’m liking! Let’s read more comments – if that’s you you need to know something okay? I hate you. No I’m kidding. I’m kidding. I don’t. I want you to know that we still like you. You are free to hold your opinions. It makes America great.
We like you. You keep us on our toes. But here’s something else you need to know. We who have placed our faith in Jesus grieve when we read comments like this because we feel like we know something that this person doesn’t know. We know Jesus differently. We’ve discovered the real Jesus – and we’ve discovered that He is so much greater than religion.
See we understand why you feel the way you do about religion. Religion is used to control people and operates on fear and guilt and shame. But Jesus came to bring us life – and freedom.
And honestly – Jesus knows all about the oppressiveness of religion. He came into the world at the height of religious legalism – he lived in an age where Judaism had lost it’s way – and they had turned a relationship with God into a religious game of following the right rules all the time.
Jesus himself – his greatest opponents throughout his ministry were religious oppressors who kept saying – you aren’t following the rules Jesus! He himself was a victim – quite literally, of legalistic religion that eventually arrested him, tried him in the middle of the night and executed him the next day.
In place of religion, Jesus offered himself. And being the master teacher that he was, he often used object lessons. So he is eating bread with his disciples one day and he says, “I am the bread of life” He is sitting by a well talking to a woman one time and he says, “I can give you living water that will quench your deepest thirst – you will never be thirsty again!”
I believe it is a safe assumption that here in John 10 he is walking near a shepherd and his flock. Because Jesus is going to use a number of sheep and shepherd illustrations.
So he starts in John10
9 Yes, I am the gate. (He is talking about the gate where the sheep come in and out of the sheep pen) Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
What do we learn? Jesus claims to be the gate. The gate to where? The gate to the Kingdom of heaven.
Listen – Jesus did not come to offer us a bunch or rules and regulations to follow in order to get God to hate us less. Instead – Jesus came to offer us an alternative kingdom to the dog eat dog, dare I say it – he came to bring us an alternative to the survival of the fittest kingdom in which we live.
It’s no wonder that Darwin would come up with a survival of the fittest model of life – he didn’t need to travel to the Galapagos to see that only the strong survive- just watch parents at a select sport tryout. It’s a winner take all – dog eat dog – survival of the fittest world in which we live.
But Jesus came in to make available – to throw open the gates – to the alternative Kingdom of heaven. And this is very important because anytime you hear heaven, it’s natural to think that it’s the place where you go when you die. But the kingdom of heaven is a right now kingdom – it’s the kingdom of God and Jesus is presently ruling there, and all who have placed their faith in Him live there with him.
And the ‘good news’? The gates to the Kingdom of heaven have been thrown open for those in this world who are the most unfit. The poorest, the weakest, the downtrodden. The morally bankrupt. The adulterer, the murderer, the thief, the drunkard. Jesus came to declare the availability of the kingdom – in Jesus words, to those the world has deemed unfit. The weak. The weary.
When Jesus announces that he is the gate – he is announcing the availability of the Kingdom of God to all who would believe. So the question now is who is blessed? Anyone who enters the gate through faith in Jesus.
This is what the beatitudes are all about. Blessed are you who are poor – the ones the rest of the world considers unblessed – you are in fact blessed because the kingdom is available to you. And anyone who enters into this alternative kingdom is blessed.
What awaits us on the other side of the entrance into the Kingdom? A rich and satisfying life. Jesus says – I am the gateway to the Kingdom of Heaven on the other side of belief is a rich and satisfying life that can be lived right now regardless of our circumstances.
But even better than what awaits us when we enter the kingdom – is WHO awaits us. And now Jesus is going to shift the metaphor – he begins by saying he is the gate into the kingdom – now he is going to say he is also the shepherd of those who enter the gate.
Jesus is sticking with the imagery of sheep and a shepherd. And if you and I are the sheep – then He is the shepherd. He is the One looking out for us. Tending to us. Caring for us.
The best thing about entering the gates of the Kingdom of heaven is not WAHT awaits us – it’s WHO awaits us – and that who is Jesus – the good shepherd.
And what exactly do we learn about this good shepherd, Jesus? We learn four things. Jesus is going to give us four reasons to trust his leadership of our lives.
John 10: 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.
Jesus wants us to trust him to lead us in the kingdom of heaven. And we can trust him to lead us because – he is the kind of shepherd that lays down his life for the sheep.
Four times in the next eight verses Jesus drives this point home. Above all else, we can trust him because he is willing to die for his sheep.
Now let’s play out a scenario here. You and I are both shepherds. We are out one afternoon tending to the sheep when suddenly a pack of wolves jumps the fence and they start attacking the sheep. What are we going to do?
Well, we do each have a stick. And this is what I’m going to do. I will hit you in the knee with the stick and then run away as fast as I can. I’m not fast and I need you to be just a little slower in case the wolves chase us down. Sorry man, only the strong survive. It’s a wolf eat injured shepherd world out there. About time you learned that…
I am not willing to die for a sheep. I don’t care how many blue ribbons that sheep won at the county fair. I will not lay down my life for a sheep.
What kind of shepherd would? You think the listeners who first heard this – how do you think they responded? You think they were like, Well, of course you will lay down your life for the sheep – what self respecting shepherd wouldn’t die for the sake of the sheep?
No – these people who heard Jesus talk about laying down his life for a sheep – they were seriously confused. As a matter of fact, when Jesus was done talking about the sheep illustration – this is what it says in John 10…
19 When he said these things, the people were again divided in their opinions about him. 20 Some said, “He’s demon possessed and out of his mind. Why listen to a man like that?”
Some of the people who heard Jesus talk about being the kind of shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep – they declared – this guy is out of his mind. Why are we listening to a guy talk about voluntarily laying down his life to keep sheep alive?
What shepherd dies for his sheep? Only a shepherd who loves his sheep beyond understanding. Only one who loves beyond measure. Who deeply cares for the sheep.
Jesus drops himself into human history – into a culture that is being scorched by religious tyrants – and fights for us to hear His message – his good news – and this is the news some need to hear this morning. It’s not about rules or religion – it’s about the shepherd. And the shepherd deeply, truly cares about us.
If we are sheep – we are going to follow a shepherd – let’s chose to follow the shepherd willing to lay down his life for us.
Secondly – the Good Shepherd protects us.
12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.
When we enter into the kingdom of heaven through faith in Jesus – we become part of his flock and as a good shepherd he protects us from the evil one. Jesus didn’t die to save us only to throw us to the wolves, right? He has a vested interest in our welfare. We are protected in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Okay, you might say, if that’s true then why am I going through a difficult time right now? Why is my life a mess and my heart broken? What have I done to deserve that?
And there is no easy answer – I’m running the risk of sounding flippant – but I think this is why Jesus started his qualifications for being our shepherd with, “I care enough about you to die for you.”
We simply must keep this truth in mind for us to make sense of the difficulties of life.
I will propose that it would be good for us to remember that our life here on this earth is but a vapor – a mist that is here for a while and then is gone – it is a speck compared to the eternity that awaits us when our days here are done.
However, it is during this speck of time, that God is molding our souls and shaping our souls, and preparing our souls for eternity. Our days here, though short, are not unimportant. And sometimes God allows us to be refined by fire. And it hurts. It always hurts.
But there is a good hurt, and there is a bad hurt. A good hurt is when the hurt brings about healing. Ever have a bone set by a doctor? In a moment I will count to three and then I am going to set the bone – 1 Crack! Owwwww! You said three! I wasn’t ready! You can’t even count to three – what kind of doctor are you? It hurts but ultimately its a good hurt. Doesn’t feel like it at the time. At the time it just feels like pain!
There will be times when life is very hard. There will be times it is very painful. There will even be times that the good shepherd leads us through the valley of the shadow of death. But we can rest assured that we will be protected as we walk. It’s a promise from the shepherd.
He will not abandon us. He will never abandon us. He cares too much for us. He paid too high a price for us to ignore us. He is personally invested in your life and mine. And he will not abandon us. He is our protector.
This is why it is okay to say that with Jesus is our shepherd – this world is perfectly safe to live in. It’s one of the advantages of living in the Kingdom. He tends for us sheep. He watches over us sheep. This world is perfectly safe place to live.
Okay Phil – but what about those Christians in the middle east who are being killed for their faith? Is this world safe for them too?
Yes it is. Because for the Christian, according to the apostle Paul who would write half the NT, to die is gain. Dying isn’t the end of the story for us. That’s why Jesus can be so direct in Mathew 10 – don’t sweat the guy who can only kill your body. They can’t ever touch the real you – the soul of you. God could – God could throw your soul into hell – if you want to be afraid – fear him – but just a reminder – you don’t need to fear Him. He died for you.
See we can entrust our soul to him – because it’s the most important part of us. Our bodies will one day give out. They will get all shrivelly and then parts of us stop working and eventually we will die. It’s been happening for quite a few years now – I think you’ve heard about it.
Who cares – the real you is in the hand of the Father and nothing can take you from His care.
This is why the rich and satisfying life that Jesus offers us is not contingent on favorable circumstances. This is why the unfit can be blessed in the Kingdom of God. Because our shepherd can make us lie down in green pastures even as our body might be kneeling in the sands of a desert.
Our soul is protected by the good shepherd who was willing himself to die – to subject his body to death, in order that we might live.
There is a rich and satisfying life awaiting all who will enter the kingdom of God through Faith in Jesus our good shepherd, who loves us enough to lay own his life for us. Who protects us from the evil one. What else do we learn about this shepherd?
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,
If you’ve ever heard a Christian use the terms – I have a personal relationship with Jesus – this is what they mean. On the other side of the gate of faith, awaits a relationship, not rules. He knows us. And we know him.
I found this little video online this week – and I don’t know all the details about what’s going on – but it appears to be some college kids visiting a shepherd – and the shepherd takes them out to demonstrate to them the power of the relationship between the sheep and the shepherd. He’s going to have three students call the sheep – and well, you’ll see what happens…
The sheep know the shepherd – and amazingly, the good shepherd of Jesus knows each of us. Do you know that the Bible says God knows how many hairs are on top of our head. He cares so deeply and knows all about us. There is nothing we lack with Him in charge of our lives.
What awaits us on the other side of faith? It’s not what awaits us, it’s who. And that who is Jesus our good shepherd. Who voluntarily lays down his life for us. Who protects us from the evil one. Who knows everything about us.
There’s one last trait I want to point out… 16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. In the context here Jesus is talking about his plans to reach out to the non-jewish world. The sheep that are not from the fold of Israel.
But let’s take a moment to celebrate the heart of the shepherd who cares about the sheep that have strayed – that have gone their own way. For help here I want to point out one story that Jesus told about a shepherd and some sheep.
Luke 15 – Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. 2 This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!
3 So Jesus told them this story: 4 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. 6 When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!
The good shepherd comes after the stray. He goes after the one that is wandering.
As I bring this talk to a close today I simply want to ask you – are you the one Jesus is chasing? Are you the one? Maybe you have been coming to Journey and you have been listening for a while now and maybe you have come to the point where you feel you have discovered all you need to know about this Shepherd – this Jesus. And you are ready to enter the gate and be led by the good shepherd. Today is the day of salvation for you and today is the day you will set off fireworks in heaven. More joy in heaven over the one who is ready to repent – which means turn away form sin – confess it to God – admit you need cleansing. In your heart you make that call today and you are part of His fold.
Maybe this is the first Sunday you are at Journey. You woke up and you came to church and you were walking in here today and you were thinking if these people only knew what a small miracle it is that I’m in this joint. Right? Well maybe you are the one Jesus is after. Scary to think about?
Well maybe today is the day you know – you are welcome to stick around as long as you’d like o test and learn and investigate. But maybe you are just feeling this thing on the inside f you – it’s the burn of a soul that is hungry for this kind of leadership – this kind of shepherd – it is hungry to find rest in His Kingdom. Then you can rght now make your heart right with God.
In the quiet of your seat – between you and God – you too can pray a prayer and I’ll tell you what it will sound like. Lord, I have been running from you but you finally caught up and I’m ready to surrender. I am ready to be brought into the fold. I admit I need a shepherd. I admit I need a savior. And today I give up to you and decide to follow you, wherever you lead.
Maybe there is a third person here. You are a follower of Jesus but you have been struggling with doubt – that Jesus really is a good shepherd, let alone the good shepherd. Maybe he’s been leading you into the valley of wherever you don’t want to go – and you are being led there kicking and screaming – maybe today is the day you surrender too. You admit that you have been hearing his voice but not following. You confess your stubbornness to Him and turn from whatever path you’ve been heading and you get right with God right now.