Listen to the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.

April 22, 2018

Pastor Gunnar Ledermann

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 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. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 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.”

Statistically, flying is one of the safest ways to travel, yet it is also one of the most feared ways to travel. Most people do not fear getting into their car and driving to work or the grocery store…unless you live in Texas. Most Texans are afraid of their fellow, overly aggressive drivers, which is why a lot of us in Texas drive trucks…but I digress…flying is one of the safest ways to travel, but according to flyfright.com 1 out of 3 people has a fear of flying. Perhaps, lots of people have a fear of flying because they are in a metal tube, 30,000 feet above the solid ground, traveling close to the speed of sound and they worry that if something were to go wrong, there isn’t much hope for a safe landing.

On the other hand, maybe some people are afraid to fly because they aren’t the ones in control of the plane. When you get on a plane today, you have no control over where it’s going, how smooth the takeoff and landing is and rarely do you even get to meet the pilot. Perhaps some people are afraid of flying because their lives are in the hands of someone they don’t know and if something were to go wrong, they wonder if the pilot will be able to handle the situation. Anytime our lives are in danger and we have to rely on someone else to save us, there is a level of fear that we can’t rely on that person to save us. For the sheep in our gospel lesson from John 10, they were in danger for their lives from wolves and Jesus said there was only one person who could protect them. We also need protection in our lives and in order to be saved, we must Listen to the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.

Sheep are scared of wolves. It’s in their blood to stop, listen closely and circle together when there is any sign that wolves are close. Sheep know how to recognize a wolf, but they don’t always know who to run to for protection. Jesus painted a clear picture of the danger sheep are in when the wrong person is watching over them, he said,

“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 because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”

In Jesus’ day, large flocks of sheep were watched over by a shepherd or a hired hand. The shepherd owned the sheep, cared for them and depended on them for his livelihood, while the shepherd’s hired hand looked after the sheep just to earn a paycheck. So, if the sheep were attacked by wolves, then the shepherd would do all he could to fight off the wolves and protect his flock. On the other hand, if the sheep were attacked while the hired hand was watching them, then the sheep would be left defenseless because the hired hand would run away for fear that the wolves might attack him. Jesus’ point was that the sheep need a good shepherd to protect them.

You and I don’t need protection from wolves like sheep, but we do need protection. We need protection from the elements, that’s why we live in houses with roofs, walls and HVAC systems to keep us cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Or if you live in Texas during the Spring, to keep you cool one day, warm the next, then cool, then hot and so on. We also need protection from our government. The government protects us with laws and police to enforce those laws. We are also protected from other countries or organizations that want to hurt us by our military. Even the lines down the middle of the street and traffic lights serve to protect us when we drive, so that we don’t crash into one another. We need protection from a lot of things in our lives, but Jesus told the illustration of the sheep and the Good Shepherd to talk about our spiritual protection.

You and I are in danger from sin, even more than sheep are in danger from wolves. From the time Adam and Eve listened to the devil and fell into sin in the Garden of Eden, we have been in danger. King David wrote in Psalm 51:5,

“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”

And Paul wrote in Romans 6:23,

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Sin puts all of us in danger because we are all guilty of it and it leads to our death.

Therefore, sin is a matter of life and death. Since, it is a matter of life and death, the only way to get rid of sin is through death, as Jesus said,

“The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

Jesus talked about dying three times in our gospel lesson, but to those without faith, that doesn’t make sense. Instead, when the unbelieving world recognizes sin in its various forms, even though it may not call it by that name, it works very hard to get rid of it or make up for it. For example, when couples run into trouble with their marriage, they often try marriage counseling. And, marriage counseling is all fine and good if the counselor is able to address the real problem.

When marriages run into trouble, it is because they are made up of two sinful people. So, if two sinful people go to a marriage counselor asking for help and the marriage counselor gives them a list of rules to follow, steps to take or a dialogue to follow, then the couple will only run into more problems. Sinful people can’t help themselves. For a while, the couple might be able to follow the program, but in the end, it won’t help because the real problem hasn’t been addressed. The real problem the couple has is sin. And we are defenseless against sin, so what the couple really needs is protection from sin, not a program to get through it. Assigning a program to a troubled marriage is as effective as giving sheep a membership to CrossFit so that they can defend themselves from wolves.

Whatever dangers sin has put into your lives, you need protection from them and there is only one person who can protect us from sin. Jesus said,

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—…15—and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Jesus protected us from our sins by confronting its greatest danger to us; Jesus lay down his life to save us from our sins. Jesus knew that death comes for all of us as punishment for our sins, so he took that punishment for us. Through Jesus’ death, we now have protection from the punishment of our sins and through Jesus’ resurrection, we have life. Our Good Shepherd has saved us and that is why we must listen to him alone.

Under the Good Shepherd’s care, we enjoy all kinds of blessings in our lives. When we no longer have to worry about the greatest dangers in our lives like sin and death, we get to live in peace. With Jesus, we are no longer like scared sheep, constantly worrying and anxious that over the next hill there might be wolves hiding in the long grass because we have someone who protects us when the bad things do come into our lives. Jesus even helps us when we face troubles in our marriages.

When you face trouble in your marriage, the answer is not to work on your marriage, but to listen to your Good Shepherd. Therefore, marriage counseling must begin by addressing each spouse’s individual sin before talking about repairing the marriage. When each spouse is able to see their own sin and get the reminder that Jesus has died for their sins, then the marriage relationship can begin to heal. In all situations, we have peace when we are reminded that we are forgiven through what Jesus has done for us, not what we do for ourselves. The feeling we have when we know the sound of our Savior’s voice is summed up in our Good Shepherd Jesus words from John 14:27,

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Statistically, flying is one of the safest ways to travel, yet according to flyfright.com 1 out of 3 people has a fear of flying. Some are afraid to fly because they are in a metal tube, 30,000 feet above the solid ground, traveling close to the speed of sound and they worry that if something were to go wrong, there isn’t much hope for a safe landing. Others, are likely afraid to fly because they are not the ones in control of the plane. I’m sure everyone on the Southwest flight 1380, was hoping they had someone who they could trust to land their plane safely when one of the engines blew up midflight. By God’s grace, the pilot, Tammie Jo Shults was a very good pilot. She remained calm, stayed with her flock and guided them safely back to earth with only one engine.

There are many dangers facing you in this world as a believer and many voices claiming they can protect you, but only one who saved you. And Jesus said,

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.”

By God’s grace, you know your Good Shepherd and all he has done for you. He has not abandoned you in your sin, he has saved you from death, called you his own and prepared a place for you in heaven. Go share the good news so that others can Listen to the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. Amen.

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