December 21, 2017 – Carrying My Shepherd’s Staff – Pr. Chuck Adams

“”What I’m about to tell you is true. What if someone does not enter the sheep pen through the gate but climbs in another way? That person is a thief and a robber. The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him. The sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought all of his own sheep out, he goes on ahead of them. His sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger. In fact, they will run away from him. They don’t recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this story. But the Jews who were there didn’t understand what he was telling them. So Jesus said again, “What I’m about to tell you is true. I am like a gate for the sheep. All those who ever came before me were thieves and robbers. But the sheep did not listen to them. I’m like a gate. Anyone who enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out. And he will find plenty of food. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so they can have life. I want them to have it in the fullest possible way. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. The hired man is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when the hired man sees the wolf coming, he leaves the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired man. He does not care about the sheep. “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and my sheep know me. They know me just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I give my life for the sheep. “I have other sheep that do not belong to this sheep pen. I must bring them in too. They also will listen to my voice. Then there will be one flock and one shepherd.” – John 10:1-16 (NIrV)

While studying these verses, this parable, and what Jesus was trying to teach us, I found that the key in understanding what Jesus was teaching me was first, needing to know at least the historical or cultural background behind what He was describing when using the “sheep pen” in this parable. In the Biblical setting back in the time of Jesus, a “sheep pen”, or a “sheep fold” as it was called, was a large enclosed fenced in area where shepherds kept their sheep and the sheep spent the night in safety; each sheep pen was normally used by several shepherds at the same time, mixing the herds in one mass within the safety of the fenced area. The individual sheep could enter and leave the pen at their leisure through a small gate or door something like a “cat door” we install on our modern day doors or walls of our homes. At the end of the night, the shepherds would wake and call to his sheep and “ONLY HIS” sheep of the mixed herd would respond to his voice and follow because “they knew his voice”; the sheep raised from birth knew the voice of their shepherd and it was only the voice of their shepherd that they would follow. They will never follow a stranger.

Explaining and understanding these verses was left to Jesus Himself in the next verses in (John 10:7-16). Jesus first explained that He Himself is first the “gate” to our faith, protection and our salvation. Anyone else is a thief, as robbers and thieves who only enter our lives to “steal, kill and destroy” will always enter into our lives from a place that we least expect and are most vulnerable. He also described Himself to be our “Good Shepherd” who leads and protects us and shows us the way to eternal life. He is the “GOOD Shepherd” as described in the Old Testament scriptures (Isaiah 7:14 and Daniel 9) and as our Good Shepherd all throughout the New Testament. The sheep… that’s us, are those who believe in and follow our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. We know Him and especially His voice and and as His sheep, we follow no other. A Good Shepherd who properly watched over their flock always made sure they were cared for and would often put themselves in harm’s way to protect them, as with our Shepherd Jesus, He was willing to and did lay down His life for us and our sins.

Although Jesus is our “Good Shepherd” … our True Shepherd, we are all tasked in life to be a shepherd to the sheep that God has called and entrusted to us. Often times I would think that it was the job of my Pastor(s) to be responsible for and to be leading the sheep of our church and our community. But the reality of it is is that shepherding the sheep, especially the lost sheep, is not just the responsibility of our pastor, church council members and/or church leadership. It is the responsibility of all of us to feed and spiritually groom our sheep; to protect them from the evils of our world. We are also tasked by our Lord to be Shepherds in our communities and anywhere that God takes our lives and our light shines. And finally, it is our responsibility to call them, God’s sheep, and lead them to the right direction of our one true — Good Shepherd.

Lord Jesus, Thank you always for your lessons through your parables and always leading us from going astray and protecting us from the evils of the enemy. Raise us up to be shepherds like you, always willing and able to call and lead those sheep going astray; protecting them from the evil one and his ways of deceit. I pray that I will always hear and recognize your voice as my shepherd; always willing to go in the direction you point or lead me because anything else would mean going astray outside of your protection and covering. I Pray This In The Mighty Name of Jesus, Our Lord and Savior, OUR GOOD SHEPHERD