Posts Tagged 'false shepherd'

Jesus: The Good Shepherd

The Good Shepherd would give His life for one lost sheep.

The Good Shepherd would give His life for one lost sheep.

John 10:1 – 29

That Jesus is “the Good Shepherd” is not a new idea.  Children learn about this in Sunday School.  It’s an enduring image of a Savior caring for white, fluffy, bleating sheep; protecting them from wild beasts; keeping them fed, warm, and secure.  But is there more to the figure of “the Good Shepherd” than we first thought?

In Scripture, context is everything.  While our English Bibles (the NIV in our study) insert a chapter break between the last verse of chapter 9 and the first verse of chapter 10, there is no break in the original.  In the new chapter, Jesus continues to speak to exactly the same group of people He was addressing in the previous chapter:  some disciples, some Pharisees, some Jews, and the man born blind, whom Jesus healed.  The last few verses of chapter 9 sets up Jesus’ teaching on “the Good Shepherd.”

Jesus said, For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.  Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, What? Are we blind too?  Jesus said, If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.  (John 9:39-41 NIV84)

What Jesus said here is really quite stunning, considering Jesus has said on numerous occasions that He did NOT come into the world to judge it, but to save the lost.  So what does He mean?  There are two types of people Jesus has in mind here.  First, the blind like the man born blind, whom He just healed.  His blindness was not caused by his actions – he was a “victim of circumstances” – he was literally born in blindness with no choice in the matter.  This kind of blind person, Jesus said, “will see.”  The second type of blind person is represented by the assembled Pharisees, who were willingly blind.  They claimed to see, but they were just as blind as the man born blind, only their blindness was spiritual.  This kind of blind person “will become blind,” or they can’t be helped because they don’t think they need help.  This kind of blind person has deluded himself into thinking he has great spiritual vision, so much so that he leads others who are blind, looking to be led.  In reality, these Pharisees were spiritually blind and were not really leaders or teachers as they portrayed themselves.   They were pseudo-leaders and pseudo-teachers who did more damage than good.

Against these “false shepherds” is “the Good Shepherd,” Jesus.

1.  Jesus leads and saves, John 10:1 – 10

(a)     The genuine Shepherd, verses 1, 2

I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.  The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep.   (John 10:1-2 NIV84)

These two verses constitute a mashal – a parable – and even though it is very brief, it is powerful.  The image is that of a sheep pen; a fenced-in yard where the sheep spend the night.  During the day they are led out to pasture.  But the important part of this mashal is not the sheep pen and not the sheep but the two men:  the one who sneaks into the sheep pen and the one who enters the sheep pen the correct way – through the door.  The first man is not a good man, he’s a “thief and a robber,” while the second man is a good man, he’s the shepherd.

Knowing the context makes the parable clear.  A thief is a person who is determined to take another’s private property and a robber is one who uses violence to get the goods.  Of course this first person would never go through the front door because it’s locked at night and it has a door-keeper.  Therefore, this nefarious man will climb over the fence to get what he wants.  This is what the Pharisees were doing. They were hostile to Jesus and they were cheating!  They were trying to sway the people of Israel by tricking them into thinking they (the Pharisees) were great and caring spiritual leaders.  They used intimidation and threats to keep “their people” from leaving them to follow Jesus.  Therefore, the Pharisees were thieves and robbers.

Over against them is Jesus, who had been appointed by God the Father and sent from Heaven to be the Good Shepherd.  He goes in and out of sheep pen through the door.  He doesn’t have to be sneaky with the sheep.  He has no reason to trick them.  They belong to Him!

(b)  The guiding Shepherd, verses 3 – 5

The mashal is over, but Jesus goes on and expands it so as to make His meaning crystal clear.  During the night, the true shepherd has been by his sheep.  He has slept near by, guarding them.  He knows each sheep and each sheep knows him.  He spends so much time with the sheep that they recognize everything about their shepherd; they know how he walks, where he goes, and the sound of his voice.  They’ll follow their shepherd anywhere because they know him and they have come to trust him.  Jesus is describing how real sheep are, but He is also describing how true disciples are.  Jesus, as “the Good Shepherd,” personally knows those who are following Him; those He has saved.

When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.   But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a strangers voice.   (John 10:4-5 NIV84)

There’s an exclusiveness about being a member of Jesus’ flock.  There is ONE voice we hear.  There is ONE Shepherd we follow.  There is ONE direction we go.  This kind of message may not go over well in our PC-charged age, but it is the way life in the Kingdom is supposed to be.  This  kind of Christ-centered life virtually guarantees one’s protection from heresy and backsliding.  If Christ is your focus, everything else blurs.  The Christian, like true sheep, must continually orient their lives around Christ, the true Shepherd.

(c)  The saving Shepherd, verses 6 – 10

The Pharisees had no clue what Jesus was talking about.  Even though Jesus, the master mashal teller, used an Old Testament analogy, these so-called experts in the Scriptures failed to grasp the truth.  As the old saying goes, “There is none so blind those who will not see.”  The Pharisees, and all those listening who did not understand the meaning of Jesus’ teaching, were literally proving the truthfulness of it!

Therefore, Jesus takes another stab at them.  This time, he doesn’t retell the mashal, He amplifies it.

Therefore Jesus said again, I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.   All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.”   (John 10:7-8 NIV84)

Again we see just how exclusive the way of faith is.  Christ is the way to Christ.   We live in a day when people who live moral and ethical lives and who say they believe in God are called “Christians.”  No, a Christian is one who knows who Christ is, who listens to Christ, and who follows Christ.  Throughout human history, men have come with wise teachings and helpful sayings claiming they had the keys to heaven, yet even the teachings of Moses had been perverted by the Pharisees as though they were life-giving and life-saving.  Not so, says Jesus.  The way to Christ is only by way of Christ!  The way to obtain eternal life is to become a sheep of the Great Shepherd.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  (John 10:10 NIV84)

The work of “the thief,” who we know represents the Pharisees or the religious elite is starkly contrasted with the work of Jesus, “the Good Shepherd.”  The work of one party is the polar opposite to the other!  Even though the Pharisees looked like the real article, the work of Jesus and the ensuing result shows the truth:  He brings life, and that shows how phony the Pharisees really were.

2.  Jesus lays down His life, John 10:11 – 18

Jesus makes His teaching even simpler for the dull-witted Pharisees to grasp.  These verses contain some of the most beautiful claims Jesus ever made about Himself.

(a)     The dedication of the Shepherd, verses 11 – 13

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  (John 10:11 NIV84)

The character of the true shepherd, the Good Shepherd, is illustrated by Himself.  The Greek looks a little different than its English translation:

I am the shepherd, the good one.

It’s the adjective that’s important.  Jesus isn’t just a Shepherd, He’s the GOOD one!  But the Greek word used for “good” really means excellent.  Jesus, then, is the Excellent Shepherd!  In every way, Jesus’ character is that of the absolute best shepherd that could possibly exist.

How excellent is His character?  It’s so excellent that not only does Jesus care for His sheep and watch over them constantly, but He would even die for them if need be.  Jesus would give up His own life for the benefit of His sheep, He cares for them so much.   In this statement we have a very basic definition of the Atonement:  Jesus would die only for His sheep. In a sense, the great Atonement wrought at the Cross is only for the benefit of the sheep – the true followers of Christ.

But the point of these three verses is to show how dependable the Good Shepherd is.  A hireling may abandon the sheep if confronted with danger, but not the Good Shepherd!  He’s so excellent He would step in harm’s way to protect His sheep.

(b)  The reach of the Shepherd, verses 14 – 16

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me just as the Father knows me and I know the Fatherand I lay down my life for the sheep.  (John 10:14-15 NIV84)

Jesus here repeats what He has previously said and emphasizes a number of points.  First, with Jesus, it’s always personal.  He knows His sheep, and they know Him.  This implies that the Pharisees, the false shepherds, were really strangers.  They didn’t really know the sheep and the sheep didn’t know them.

Second, note the sheep belong to the Good Shepherd.  He isn’t tending somebody elses’ herd, He owns each and every sheep in the pen!  No wonder He knows them so well.

Third, Jesus knows His followers as well as the Father knows Him and He knows the Father.  Not only does this show an intimate, personal relationship, but it also describes the kind of knowledge Jesus has:  it’s love.  He doesn’t just know us, He loves us.  That’s the kind of relationship that exists between the Father and the Son and that’s precisely the kind of relationship that exists between Jesus the Good Shepherd and us, the sheep.

But, it goes ever farther.  Look at the scope  or the reach of the Good Shepherd:

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.  (John 10:16 NIV84)

The other sheep refer, not to Mormons, but to the future Gentile believers of His day and to future believers yet unborn,!  They all belong to Jesus.  He knows who they are and who they will be.  The foreknowledge of the Good Shepherd is flawless.

God’s love is not just for some, but for all, John 3:16.  Yes, God loves the world, but only some in the world will become part of the great flock.

The voluntary, self-giving nature of Jesus’s sacrifice is given as a kind of climax in His own interpretation of this wonderful mashal:

The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my lifeonly to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.  (John 10:17-18 NIV84)

The love that exists between the Father and the Son and the self-giving of the Son are so bound together they cannot be separated.  In Christian circles, we often sing hymns or hear Gospel songs that tell us it was out of love for US that Jesus died.  That may be true to an extent, but Jesus did what He did on the Cross because of the great love He had (has) for His Father.

Jesus is very forceful when He speaks of His upcoming death as being His choice and His choice alone.  The enemies of Christ won NO victory when they crucified Him and the followers of Christ need not despair as if He was defeated.

Jesus was always in control of the events leading up to the Cross and beyond.

The death and resurrection of our Lord were not experiences, but deeds.  They were not things that happened to Jesus that He made the best of.  They were deeds of perfect obedience and love – love for His Father and, yes, love for the lost.  It was Jesus’ right to lay down His life.  It was His right to lay it down and also to take it again.  Jesus in these statements reveals that He is, in every sense of the word free.  He is free to do as He wills, within the bounds of His Father’s will.  We humans speak of freedom, but Jesus alone experiences it to the fullest.

It’s little wonder the religious leaders of the day  hated Jesus so much.  Not only did His teachings challenge the status quo, but Jesus was living a life they could only dream of living.  Bound by endless rules and regulations, the Pharisees were locked in a religious prison they themselves made.  But Jesus, as the only truly free Man ever, was free to live and to die – and to live again –  because He chose to.

Ezekiel and the False Shepherds


Ezekiel 34:11 – 30

God wants very much to bless; He takes no pleasure in cursing.  However, both blessing and cursing are part of how God dealt with Israel.  Both are elements in His covenant arrangement with His people.

Even though we as Christians are not under any of His covenants per se, God has not changed how He deals with His people.  Obedience is rewarded, disobedience carries with it unpleasant consequences for the believer.

Ezekiel’s prophecies and sermons were given with God’s covenants in view.  It might be helpful to understand those covenants as we proceed to look at Israel’s glorious future.

1.  A God of Covenants

(A)  The Abrahamic Covenant, Genesis 12:1-3

This covenant is really God’s declaration of how He wants to bless the world.  Through one man, Abram, God would establish a nation – Israel – and through that nation God would bless the entire world.  This is the covenant that is in focus from Genesis through Joshua.  The Hebrew people became a nation in Egypt, during their captivity.  Israel’s government was established at Mount Sinai, after they left Egypt.  They acquired their homeland after the conquest of Canaan, being led by Joshua.

(B)  The Mosaic Covenant, Exodus 20 – Numbers 9, Deuteronomy.

The covenant Moses and the people entered into with God was a detailed expansion of the Abrahamic covenant.  This one gave Israel it’s national constitution and its laws, both civil and religious.  This covenant, though, carried with it a caveat.  Incredible blessings would fall on Israel only so long as they lived up to their end of the covenant.  If, at any time in her history Israel rebelled and disobeyed the stipulations of the covenant, she would find herself a nation without a homeland.  That’s why she found herself in exile in Babylon.  God was faithful in how He dealt with His people.  He warned them in the covenant (Deuteronomy 27, 28) and He sent prophet after prophet to warn them.

(C)  The Davidic Covenant, 2 Samuel 7:12 – 16

This covenant is a little different than the previous two.  Here, God promised David that one of his descendants would always – forever – sit on his throne.  It was to be an eternal throne in an eternal kingdom.  This is where the Jews get their concept of “Messiah.”  Each king was, in essence, their “messiah,” their “anointed ruler.”  But the Davidic covenant went a step further promising a “final son” of David who would rule over the world from David’s throne.

(D)  The New Covenant, Jeremiah 36, 2 Corinthians 3

A lot of Christians think the New Covenant was first mentioned by Jesus, and later by Paul, and is all about them.  That’s not entirely wrong, but when understood correctly the New Covenant takes on profound meaning.

In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”  (Luke 22:20  TNIV)

The New Covenant may have been established by the sacrifice of Jesus, but it was first announced by the prophet Jeremiah!

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.”  (Jeremiah 31:31  TNIV)

This New covenant, by name, would take in parts of the Mosaic covenant and, instead of being recorded on stone or parchment, it would now be inscribed on the hearts of the people.  This New covenant though would be a great improvement over the other ones in all ways because now, for the very first time, all sins would be forgiven once and for all by the Messiah and the Spirit of God would be poured out all those who believe.

As Ezekiel preached, he always had these covenants in his view.  Because the people had not been faithful in respect to the Mosaic covenant, they would lose their homes and homeland and would be scattered among the nations.  This happened when Jerusalem finally fell.  The Israelites were now a people without a country.  But God didn’t want His people to think He was done with them and that it was all over!  In addition to dealing with them – exiling them temporarily – God promised to deal most severely with the nations surrounding Israel that had oppressed her.  We can see the results of this in history.

2.  Rotten shepherds

What was Israel’s biggest problem?  They were stiff necked and rebellious to be sure, but their biggest problem were the false shepherds that continually led them astray.

Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: `This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? [5] So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals.  (Ezekiel 34:2, 5  TNIV)

No nation can survive long with leaders who don’t look out for the well-being of the people under their care.  It was all the worse for Israel given their divine origins.  Essentially the Israelites lost the land because of these false shepherds.  The sheep – the people – became lost, distracted souls looking for the light but finding only darkness.

Not every Israelite was rotten and rebellious, but the punishment was national.  Fortunately, the faithlessness of some cannot nullify the grace of God.

What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness?  (Romans 3:3  TNIV)

The people were stuck in Babylon for the foreseeable future; there was nothing they could do about that.  But all was not lost!  God had not given up on Israel, and He HAS not given up on His people.  A faithful and just Shepherd will come – the Messiah – and will completely restore Israel’s fortunes and glory and the world will be blessed by her.

3.  What God will do for His sheep

(A)  He will search for them.

For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.”  (Ezekiel 34:11  TNIV)

In the context of Ezekiel’s sermon, God will search out and find all the Israelites scattered among the nations.  He knows where they are and He will find them.  But there is a wonderfully comforting feeling you get from reading this verse, especially when we compare it to what Jesus said of Himself:

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.  (Luke 19:10  TNIV)

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  (John 10:11  TNIV)

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  (John 10:27  TNIV)

The good news is that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He is looking for lost sheep.  As far as the exiles were concerned, even though they had been led astray by the false shepherds, they were responsible but God would seek them out and would lead them personally.  It’s good to know that Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, has loving concern for people gone astray and who are willfully rebellious.  He never gives up!

(B)  He will rescue them.

As shepherds look after their scattered flocks when they are with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.   (Ezekiel 34:12  TNIV)

The Good Shepherd doesn’t just stumble upon a lost sheep, He is out there actively searching for them and He will do whatever it takes to get hold of that sheep and save him.

God would find His people, wherever they were, and would restore them to their land no matter what.

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.  (John 10:14-15  TNIV)

(C)  He will bring them.

I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land.  (Ezekiel 34:13  TNIV)

Again, all this what God WILL DO for Israel.  It has yet to occur; it will happen in the future, when the Messiah comes in glory.  There is no way God is close to being finished with Israel!  It has a glorious future.

(D)  He will feed them.

I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.   (Ezekiel 34:14  TNIV)

One day, in the future, all their needs will be met.  Hunger, food shortages, all the things that have plagued mankind since the dawn of time will be taken away.

As Christians we are able to enjoy a foretaste of this kind of divine provision today.

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:19  TNIV)

(E)  He will give them rest.

I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord.  (Ezekiel 34:15  TNIV)

When the Messiah comes, there will be no more wandering around for Israel; no more threat of attack.  She will finally and forever be a nation at peace.

Thank God as Christians we have the promise of peace right now!  One of the benefits of a relationship with the Good Shepherd is an abiding peace.   It’s in us because it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and if you’re born again, then you are full of the Holy Spirit and you are able to access that supernatural peace any time you need it!

(F)  He will bind them (heal them).

I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.  (Ezekiel 34:16  TNIV)

God will restore the nation in every way and justice will finally prevail.

(G)  He will rule over them.

I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd.  I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.  (Ezekiel 34:23-24  TNIV)

Here’s an allusion to the David covenant.  God would forever deliver Israel from all her enemies and distress.  No more poor, directionless leadership!  A final, Good Shepherd would come for His people:  the Messiah, whom Ezekiel refers to as “my servant David.”  Really, that’s another term for “a descendant of David.”

(H)  He will make them a blessing.

I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.  (Ezekiel 34:26  TNIV)

Here’s an allusion to an earlier covenant.  When Christ, the Good Shepherd, comes as Messiah, Israel will finally be the conduit of blessing she was always intended to be.  God will bless them and will make them a blessing to the whole world.

3.  A prelude to the Millennial Kingdom

The similarities between John 10 and Ezekiel 34 are so strong that it is obvious that Jesus had Ezekiel’s sermon in mind when He said, “I am the good shepherd.”  When Jesus spoke those words and gave the teaching in John 10, He was telling the Jews with discernment who He really was.  He was the Shepherd of whom Ezekiel spoke.

Spiritually, we may enjoy a full and satisfying relationship with the Good Shepherd today.  We don’t have to wait until the Millennium to have the Messiah reign in our hearts.    The promises made to Israel are real and awaiting fulfillment.  But we who are born again are already part of the Good Shepherd’s flock!  We know His voice.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  (Romans 5:8  TNIV)

The Good Shepherd gave His life for us, the lost the sheep.  How will you respond?


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