The Lord is MY shepherd John 10:1-10
The story is told of an actor who was asked to read Psalm 23 at a big event by a minister. He said that he would on one condition – that after he had read the Psalm, the vicar would read the Psalm as well. She was surprised but agreed. He read the Psalm. It was beautiful. And then she read the Psalm. It wasn’t the same; there were one or two mistakes. But when she finished there was one of those awesome silences that there can be when we worship, and when we know that God is present. And the actor said, “Do you see the difference? I read it as someone who knows the Psalm. You read it as someone who knows the shepherd”.
I want to talk with you today – from John 10 - about our shepherd.
It is an incredibly rich passage – there is a cascading waterfall of metaphors!
But I would like to focus on just one verse: ‘The gatekeeper opens the gate for him (the shepherd of the sheep), and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out’ (10:3)
1. Jesus is the true shepherd.
‘The gatekeeper opens the gate for him’
Jesus is the shepherd who was sent by God to pastor his people.
A couple of years ago I was invited to attend the Patriarch’s Christmas speech in the Duma. I turned up with my passport and invitation, but the guards did not let me in. I did not have the correct papers – because I am not Russian. It was only after a few phone calls that I was permitted to go in.
The Storozh had no problem letting Jesus into the sheep pen, because he was the real thing. He came with the accreditation of God.
Some of the early commentators speak of the gatekeeper here as being Moses and the Prophets – the promises and prophetic declarations in the Old Testament. Jesus was the one they were speaking about. He fulfilled them all.
2000 years earlier, Moses – just before he was about to die – prays
“Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint someone over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the LORD may not be like sheep without a shepherd.” Numbers 27:16-17
It is an important prayer.
God answers it immediately by appointing Joshua – who leads the people into the promised land.
But God answers it for all time by appointing another Joshua (Jesus is another version of the name Joshua) – who leads people out of slavery to sin and death and into life.
Jesus is the lamb who was slain for the sins of the world; he is the shepherd who died and rose again to lead his people out.
This is the accreditation. These are the correct papers.
The Old Testament prophets speak of him.
The New Testament writers speak of him.
We’ve been listening to them as they witness about the resurrection of Jesus. Look, they say, at the empty tomb, the grave clothes, the appearance to Mary Magdalene, to the disciples, to Thomas.
John says that the reason he writes his gospel is so that we might believe that Jesus really is the Son of God, that he is the shepherd who God has sent.
2. Jesus is the shepherd who speaks to us
‘the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name’
He speaks to us personally. He knows us by name.
On another occasion, Jesus tells the story of the shepherd who has 100 sheep. He loses one. So he leaves the 99 sheep in order to search for the one lost sheep. You are that one lost sheep, and he has come for you.
You are not a statistic to God. He knows you by name.
Other leaders came, false shepherds – ‘thieves and bandits’ – who were not interested in you.
They were interested in what they could get from you.
You were a tool to be used – either to further their own personal ambition, or to further the cause that they fought for.
The church – and leaders of the church – can be like that: you only matter to us because you add to the numbers, or you put your money into our account, or you promote the cause which we are identified with, or you satisfy our petty needs and little egos. And when that happens, it is bad and all I can say is sorry.
But before you judge us too harshly, look at yourself. We are all like that. We use other people for our own ends.
That is why we need someone who loves us and dies for us and forgives us and changes us.
We need Jesus. We need this shepherd.
He knows you and loves you and created you.
He is the only person who does not use you to meet his needs. Instead he wants you to become the person who he created you to be. And for that to happen, he is prepared to give his life for you.
And when we do listen to Jesus, listen to his words in scripture, and allow them to come and live in us and shape us – then we realise that we know his voice.
Think of the time when you became a believer. Think of how you suddenly heard his word – it came alive for you – and you realised that this word was for you.
Or maybe, in your experience, it was not so dramatic. But you can remember a time when his word meant nothing to you – and now it means everything to you.
You hear his voice and you know that he is your shepherd.
Or maybe you are not there yet!
One of the joys about livestreaming is that we get all sorts of people joining in.
We’ve had one or two who have said that they are atheists.
We’ve had some who says that we have got it all wrong about Jesus – that we should be following Mohammed.
And it is fantastic that you are joining us.
All I can ask of you is that – just as we need to listen to you – so please listen to us, or more to the point, listen to the one who the writers of the bible say, died and rose from the dead for you, who speaks to us through the scriptures, and in other ways.
Listen to the one who forgives you, loves you and would lead you. And I pray that as you listen to the voice of this person, you will know that he is your shepherd.
3. Jesus is the shepherd who leads us into life
He leads them out.
That seems to be a very appropriate picture
For many, self-isolation is getting tough. It has been four weeks in Moscow, and it is getting warmer outside, which makes the lock in even harder.
Some of you, especially those with children, will be desperate for space and time – you are simply exhausted.
Try and find some time to be with your shepherd.
Suzannah Wesley, the mother of John and Charles and – I believe – 14 other children, used to sit in the kitchen and, when she wanted time to pray, put her apron over her head. The children knew then that mum was not to be disturbed.
And some of us are having to face up to stuff in ourselves that we’ve tried to push away. Many of us now can’t hide behind activity: the work or meeting up for coffee or shopping or walking or going out or discovering new places or whatever it was that we did.
Of course, those things are good in themselves – but they can also become excuses to avoid facing up to ourselves, for avoiding the really deep painful stuff, the muck that is in us, our sin.
And now that we haven’t got those things (although we can replace them with Netflix and social media) – we are, to an extent, having to face up to our fears and loneliness, our weakness, mortality, sense of inadequacy and our guilt.
That is what can happen when we go into the wilderness. All the things that we normally trust in are stripped away from us. We are alone, naked, very weak and very mortal. We are like lost sheep facing some very savage wild dogs.
Again, I would say to you, try and find some time to be with the shepherd.
The people of Israel were in captivity in Egypt.
They longed for freedom, they longed to go out.
It didn’t happen immediately – they had to wait for freedom.
But God did not abandon them. He sent them shepherds (Moses and Joshua) to lead them out.
We too have to wait. To wait for the day when lock down is over; more than that – to wait for the day when we are set free from sin and death.
But we are not alone. God has not abandoned us.
The true shepherd, God’s shepherd, the Lord Jesus has come to us, is with us, is speaking to us now, calling us by name, and is leading us on the good and right path.
And when the time is right, he will lead us out, and he will set us free.
For those in countries where we wear wedding rings on our left hand, in Russia people wear wedding rings on their right hand. I would put mine on the right, but it is stuck.
A shepherd was asked one day what his faith meant to him. In answer, he held up his five fingers, and he said, “The Lord is my shepherd”