Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
The Voice of the Shepherd
AThe other day my parents came into town and we were waiting at a pizza place for one of my sisters to arrive. My dad had gone out to the street and was some distance away. It turned out that my sister was already there so I went out into the parking lot and called out ?Dad!? Despite the distance, despite the road noise, and despite the fact that my father is hard of hearing, he turned after just a couple of calls. He recognized my voice. There was a study that showed mothers could recognize the cry of their baby in a room full of crying babies. I don?t know what it is but there is something to a voice that we know that cuts through all the ambient sound of a busy street or a busy mall.
There is also something even deeper than recognizing the voice of a loved one?it?s recognizing the voice of The Loving One?God Himself crying into your heart, calling you and then holding on to you with an unbreakable grip. But God?s voice is not the only one out there?like a room full of people all shouting?all competing. To which one will we respond?
1 ? 6
Jesus has just got done telling the Pharisees that they are blind to the spiritual truth around them and because they claim to see the truth their guilt and culpability remains?they should know that Jesus is from God but refuse in the presence of overwhelming evidence to acknowledge him, much less put their faith and trust in him.
Now he uses a reference to sheepherding to accuse them of trying to steal sheep away that belong to God. Jesus will describe himself in this chapter as the door of the sheep (7), and the good shepherd (14). He controls access to God?s true people and provides for God?s people?two things the Pharisees were trying to subvert. You could say that the sheepfold here is Judaism, and that Jesus is the door from Judaism to life.
Their system of burdensome rules and regulations made up by men served to lay heavy loads on people and make it impossible for someone to understand God and come to His Messiah. He calls them ?thieves and robbers? because they are trying to steal those that belong to God by going a different way than through the door, which is Jesus.
Palestinian shepherds congregate their flocks all together but when it comes time to leave, a shepherd will simply sing a special song or make a certain cry and you will see sheep?s heads pop up from amongst the throng and come running to their shepherd. Why? They know his voice; he provides protection for them and leads them to green pastures. They will not follow someone whose voice they don?t recognize. The false religion of the Pharisees is like a stranger calling out ?I?ve got some candy little boy, just get in my car!? It?s the promise of good with the payoff of danger and peril because going the way of legalism puts someone further away from God, not closer.
They don?t get it, though so Jesus makes it even plainer.
7 ? 10
What a powerful set of verses. The current religious leaders of Israel did not care for the spiritual well being of their sheep, thus they are robbers and thieves. This whole thing is really reminiscent of Ezekiel 34 where God chastises the evil leaders of Israel as bad shepherds.
But their voice is not the authentic voice of the true Messiah and anyone really seeking God will simply not listen?but will listen to the voice of Jesus and find freedom (?go in and out?) and fulfillment (?good pasture?).
Jesus then talks about thieves and hired hands. Thieves can represent any false way to God, a false messiah, perhaps. Hired hands are those God put in charge of leading his people to the true Messiah but who really care only for themselves.
The contrast in verse 10 cannot be starker. People will come on the scene that are only in it for themselves. They will try to sound as much like Jesus as possible but their real intent is to take anything they can and kill (?slaughter?) anything that gets in their way. This exists today as well. There are people, famous people in the church, who appear as sheep on the outside but inside are ravenous wolves.
Jesus, on the other hand, comes to give, and it will cost him everything. Some people think that when they come to Jesus they enter an eternal boring church service where they can?t do anything or have any fun but must sit with hands folded and a frown on their face.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus brings life, joy, happiness, blessing, abundance, overflow?all never ending. He brings freedom, not chains, a removing of burdens, healing, and life.
11 ? 13
The Good Shepherd is one of the most important and wonderful titles Jesus gives to himself. It gives Psalm 23 a completely new meaning. The Lord as a shepherd is not new. The Lord as a shepherd who actually lays down his life for the sheep was. A real live shepherd will put his life at risk to protect his flock?I think of David in 1 Samuel 17 going after a bear and a lion to protect the sheep.
In this case, Jesus actually goes against the wolf and lets the wolf (Satan) kill him. However, in doing so the shepherd can actually do so much more for the sheep?leading them in ?paths of righteousness? ?and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.?
Jesus describes the Jewish leaders here as the hired hands. Their job was to shepherd the sheep and provide for them a way to God that led eventually through the Messiah. But their true motive was to feather their own nest. It?s like Saul, Israel?s first king, who was after his own prestige and power to the detriment of the people. When the people are in real peril of perishing from sin, they run the other way instead of pointing the way to the real Messiah, Jesus.
Only with Jesus can we walk through the valley of the shadow of death and not fear evil, because Jesus stuck with us even to his own death! It?s so important that he says it again.
14 ? 16
The sheep not of this fold refers to us Gentiles! Here Jesus hints that there would be no division between Jew and Gentile when it comes to his flock. The Jews were always supposed to be a light to the Gentiles anyway but instead they just turned the light inward.
17 ? 21
Notice here the voluntary nature of Jesus gift. Jesus? life was not taken from him, he gave it up voluntarily. On the cross Jesus died when he knew it was time. He said ?It is finished? and gave up his spirit. We can?t do that, but Jesus can and did. And he also had the power to take that life up again in the resurrection?the proof that the new life he offers is real.
And, as we have seen before, the words of Jesus make sense to some?those that are his own?and don?t make sense to others who reject him. I think if you really listen, Jesus does not speak like someone who is insane, but makes perfect sense.
22 ? 30
Again, the Jews want a showdown. They want Jesus to declare himself and just do what everyone expected him to do anyway, which was rule as earthly king and get rid of Rome. Jesus has a more important task to accomplish first.
Jesus never openly said the words ?I am the Messiah.? But everything he said and did should have pointed them to that conclusion. I think Jesus doesn?t want to declare it partly because that puts these people on immediate notice?deny him and die eternally. Jesus always wants us to consider what he says and what he has done and let his voice speak to our hearts that he is the one that we all long for. Sometimes that takes a while to sink in and Jesus always gives us enough time to make a thoughtful decision.
Verses 27 and 28 are among the most comforting in all Scripture. Listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd. Follow him. He gives a permanent gift of eternal life that cannot be taken away. It?s like the ad says ?you?re in good hands with Allstate? well, ?you?re in good hands with the Father.? Now Allstate might cancel you (like they did me) if you have a claim. But God will never cancel on you. Once you are his child you are always his child. Now the question becomes, are you his child? Do you believe?
Then Jesus makes his very crucial statement that we kind of gloss over but the Jews did not: ?I and the Father are one.? Whoa! This doesn?t mean that they are the same person because the Greek ?one? is neuter. This is the clearest declaration that Jesus is divine and of the Trinity in the gospels. They had asked if he was the Messiah. Jesus declared that he was God!
31 ? 39
Jesus is only speaking blaspheme if he is wrong. But what if he is right? He says that even if the words don?t make sense to you, look at the works. Look at the miracles, and for us, look at the crucifixion and resurrection. God (the Word) became flesh and dwelt among us (as John said in chapter 1).
Jesus statement about them being gods comes from Psalm 82. It?s interesting to read:
Psalms 82:6-7 I said, \"You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.\"
We will die because of sin and God will rightly judge all sin (the Psalm ends with that thought). But if we belong to the Good Shepherd we pass from death to life. Jesus is saying if you can be called a son of God in the Scriptures?you who will die in sin?why is it wrong to call the One that God sent THE Son of God?
Nothing will convince them, however, and they try to arrest him. But It?s not time for that, so Jesus moves on, in this case, to people who wanted to hear his message.
40 ? 42
John said he was not the Messiah and didn?t do the works the Messiah would do, but he prophesied about Jesus and everything he said came true. It?s that eyewitness testimony that is among the most powerful evidence of the reality of Jesus as the Messiah. So here, back where John did his ministry and had that impression on people, that belief came.
Do you feel the strong hand of the Father holding you?
You cannot be lost if the Father owns you. That?s the kind of security a child has, knowing that no matter how much they blow it, they have a loving father who will not let them go?discipline them, yes, but they are still children.
Liar Lunatic or Lord?
The people felt like Jesus was out of his mind. That?s certainly a possibility. It?s also possible that he was a master liar and manipulator of people. Some claim that Jesus faked his death. But if you weigh the evidence it just seems ludicrous to conclude that he lied or was insane. That only leaves one choice. What if really he is who is says he is? What then?
Are you listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd?
He is speaking quietly to your heart. Take the time to listen and engage him in conversation. Take the time to learn about what he said and did.
Are you in need of the good pasture?
Maybe you know him but haven?t been walking with him. Instead of allowing him to lead you into good pasture you?ve been sneaking out of the sheepfold at night and going down to the bad pasture. Oh it looks so good from a distance but when you get close it is a place full of wolves and danger.
Sometimes for a sheep that strays the shepherd has to break its legs and carry it on his shoulders for a while so they?ll get used to sticking close to safety. Sometimes God has to discipline us but it is for our own good. Don?t think God will reject you just because you?ve blown it. Come on back and let him do some breaking so he can then do some incredible mending!