Fourth Sunday of Easter – Sermon 277
Fourth Sunday of Easter –
10.00 am Holy Communion.
7th May 2017
Prayer to start
May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ AMEN
Two friends stood up to recite the Twenty-third Psalm to a large classroom of children
One was trained in speech and drama and repeated the psalm in a powerful way. When he had finished, the children cheered and asked for an encore so they could hear it again.
Then the second person repeated the same words- but this time, no sound came from the class. Instead, they sat in a mood of deep devotion and prayer.
The first reciter stood to his feet. “I have a confession to make,” he said. “The difference between what you have just heard from my friend, and what you heard from me is that I know the Psalm, – but my friend here knows the Shepherd.”
Point 1 Jesus is God’s true Shepherd
John uses many images in his Gospel, but perhaps one of the most memorable – is that of Jesus as a shepherd.
As a shepherd, Jesus is concerned with the welfare and the care of His sheep. The shepherd loves his sheep.
But in our Gospel reading Jesus goes one further – He is not only the shepherd – but also the sheep gate.
To realise what Jesus is saying to us – it is important to understand some of the cultural background to this parable-
In first century Palestine a shepherd raised sheep primarily for their wool – A shepherd lived with his sheep – He knew his sheep and named every one of them –
Every village has a communal sheepfold – with only one door for the protection of the sheep at night – The shepherds took turn guarding the door and in the morning – each shepherd would come to the sheep fold and ‘call’ his sheep – making his own unique sound-
Only the shepherds own sheep would recognise the sound and follow him –
So with this in mind let’s look at what Jesus is telling us-
In the first part of his parable – Jesus is identifying Himself as the true King of Israel –
The Shepherd and the sheep are frequently used in the Bible – to represent the king and the people of Israel –
The first five verses of this passage are Jesus’ way of declaring Himself as being sent by God – to care for God’s people –
only the true King enters by the gate – says Jesus – and the gatekeeper – God – opens the gate for Him – and allows Him to enter –
those who do not enter by the gate but climb in another way – the leaders who had emerged during Jesus’ own lifetime – are the thieves and the bandits – who are there to lead Israel – the wrong way – away from God’s care –
Only the one who comes by the way God appointed – has the right to lead the sheep –
and the sheep know the shepherd and trust Him – they do not follow a stranger –
Today here in this church – we are all God’s sheep – in God’s pasture –
Jesus is our shepherd – sent by God – to care and guide us – in the right way – and we have to trust Him – to do it-
As Jesus reminds us – there are many around – that are trying to encourage us to leave the fold – telling us to do things their way – but we have got to run from them – and only follow Jesus –
Point 2 Believe in His promises –
The shepherd protects His sheep – and as the gate to the sheepfold – only those who go through Jesus can receive His protection –
In Jesus’ time – shepherds didn’t have many sheep – around 20 or 30 – not like the big flocks of today –
and in the country – the shepherd would go everywhere with them – the landscape in Judea is treacherous – and sheep were never left on their own –
By day and night the shepherd would care for his sheep –
By day he would go before his flock and lead them – he would not ask them to go anywhere – he has not gone before –
He would watch over them – and they would depend on him for everything –
As the evening draws near – he would return them to the sheepfold to keep them safe – there would be no gate – he would stand in the entrance so that his sheep would be counted and protected –
and as they entered – he would know and check each one for scratches or wounds caused by thorns or stumbles – soothing them with oil – providing water if his sheep are thirsty –
At night – the shepherd himself would lay across the opening – to keep the sheep safe – and to keep the other animals out – He would literally become the door – laying down his life for his sheep –
‘I am the gate says Jesus – whoever enters by me will be saved – and will come in and go out and find pasture – the thief came to only to steal and destroy – I came that they may have life – and have it abundantly ‘-
Jesus will mend our wounds – and refresh us for a new day – protect us – when we are most vulnerable – and more than that He will give us life – life eternal –
Jesus has laid down his life for us – on the cross – died or our sins – so we can receive new life – today – and everyday – and through His resurrection – He will lead us – through the heavenly gate to eternal salvation –
Point 3 ‘Listen for His voice’
‘The shepherd calls his own sheep by name – and the sheep follow him because they know His voice
Jesus calls out to us to come to Him – so He can provide us with what we need – and we have to listen and respond to his call –
Imagine a cliff edge full of sea birds – with the mother birds swooping in from the sea with food in their beaks – searching to feed their chicks –
There’s literally thousands of sea birds swooping around the rocks and thousands of chicks – jostling and pushing – and – crying out to be heard
And somehow amid the loud noise of those desperate cries – the mother finds her chick and the chick the mother – and she feeds it –
To an unconcerned ear – one child’s voice might sound similar to another – but a mother can recognise her own child’s voice in a crowded room – and when it’s in need – The love within a family draws them together –
Jesus will come to us – His family – whenever we need Him – His love for us is never ending – He will sustain us with life giving food – and we need to listen for His voice and respond to His love –
Conclusion Our success is based on Jesus
As Christians our salvation and security – is not dependent on our own abilities – but on the strength and love of the shepherd – He keeps us safe – In life Jesus is our standard – our example – in death our substitute – the spotless lamb of God – sent to redeem us all – Our success is based on the love of a shepherd who was willing to lay down his life for us.
Jesus the Good shepherd can show us the way to change and to grow – to come alive with His grace – with him our present and our future is assured –
Our issue is confidence – and trust in the shepherd knowing that He will always keep us safe – only under the guidance and protection of the shepherd –will we have life –
Jesus is the way into the Kingdom – we are His sheep – having Him in our hearts and lives – makes all the difference –
There can be no clearer truth than that –
Prayer to Finish