Jesus: The Good Shepherd
This Sunday, April 5, 2020, is Palm Sunday. It is the day we remember the Triumphal Entry, the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey. The people celebrated His coming with shouts of: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9)
At the time of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus knew that His time was fulfilled. He knew that He was going to the cross to die for the sins of the whole world. And yet He went willingly. He was not forced or coerced.
The human conflict that brought about His death on the cross had grown over the 3 years of His public ministry. The spiritual conflict that brought about His death on the cross had been going on from the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned.
We tend to think in terms of human events. The Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem was an event in the history of the nation of Israel. It was an event in the life of Christ. And it was also an event in the eternal plan of God that had been foretold by the prophets and as such it was necessary that it take place.
That day in Jerusalem the children were crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” This offended the chief priests and the scribes. According to Matthew 21:16, they said to Jesus, “Do you hear what these are saying?”
Jesus made it clear that this too had been foretold by God. Quoting Psalm 8:2, He said, “Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise.”
God foreknew and foretold the battle that was going on for the hearts and souls of men and women. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood. And, as insulting or demeaning as it may be, God likens us to sheep. As much as we like to think of ourselves as mighty warriors and invulnerable, the Bible tells us things like, “All we like sheep have gone astray...” (Isaiah 53)
The good news is that God also says in Psalm 100, “We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” (Psalm 100:3)
In the conflict of the ages, the battle for the souls of men and women, we have a shepherd. Psalm 23 speaks of this shepherd and says, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
Jesus has many roles. On Palm Sunday, He entered Jerusalem as a king and was greeted as “the Son of David,” which was a designation pointing to His right to the throne. At the same time, He entered as King, He also entered as the shepherd of His people, and the Lamb of God as well. All of these designations point out different roles He fills as Savior and God and King. These are not divisions of His person, they are offices and roles that He takes on to work our salvation, to lead us, and to protect us in the battle.
My purpose today is to look at how Jesus, as our shepherd, protects and guides us in the battle.
The events of the Passion week are the point in time and space where our salvation was won. The war still rages, but the outcome has already been decided. Our salvation is secure. Jesus will, at some point in time, return, and at some point, there will be no more battles. However, God is still working. We are told that at the current time God is working so that “the fullness of the Gentiles” will come in (Romans 11:25).
During this time, God is at work and His purposes are being fulfilled. The events of Palm Sunday and the Passion week were no accident. Neither are the events of today. God was, is and always will be in control.
In His conflict with the Jewish leaders, Jesus spoke saying:
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. (John 10:1 ESV)
This statement was made some time before Palm Sunday. Jesus said this to the same people who objected to the praise He received. In this statement, Jesus is addressing the escalating conflict between Himself and the Jews. The Jews believed that since they possessed and also taught the Law of Moses, they were the teachers and shepherds of Israel and of the people of God. Jesus had told them earlier:
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,
For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?
According to Jesus then, although the Jews possessed and also taught the Law of Moses, they did not believe it. So, now in John 10, He is making the point that there are those who try to enter the sheepfold by a way other than the door.
In John 10:7, Jesus clearly states that He is the door. Both the door and the sheepfold represent protection.
The sheep in the sheepfold are safe. The thief and robber tries to get in by some other way.
This is the history of the Church. Many of Paul’s letters were written to combat those who tried to worm their way into the Church and draw a following after themselves. We have the same thing happening today. Even at this very hour.
I will take some time on this, although I would rather not. But we have in our present day a situation where some are working to draw a following after themselves. There are those who are capitalizing on the Covid19 outbreak and the fears that accompany it to say that this is the time of the Lord’s return, and they are upsetting the faith of many. Let me give a brief answer to such things. I trust that this answer points us to the door of the sheepfold.
In Matthew 24:6, Jesus says, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.” Please note that this verse says that these things are not the end, and that Jesus encourages us not to be alarmed. Now consider Luke chapter 21 verse 11. In this verse, Jesus talked about earthquakes, famines, pestilence and persecution as normal events on earth. Other passages of Scripture speak of evil growing from bad to worse. These things are not signs of the end. However, in Luke 21:29 Jesus says, “Look at the fig tree and all the trees.” In the same way trees tell us the season by leaves and fruit, there is something that will do the same for us. The trees are the nations. Consider the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Day of the Lord, and many have to do with the nations. In Luke 21:29, the fig tree, in particular, represents the nation of Israel. There are a lot of things listed in Luke 21 that represent the persecution of the Church and the progress of evil on the earth, but these things are not the end. Luke 21 verses 9 through 18, in particular, are not talking about signs of the end. Rather, these verses are talking about the evil we are to expect. Then in Luke 21 verses 20 through 24, Jesus talks about Jerusalem. This is a sign that tells us the season. Verse 24 tells us that Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. This is also consistent with what Romans 11:25 tells us about the fullness of the Gentiles coming in. The signs and shaking of the heavens in Luke 21:25-28 will frighten the whole earth and cause panic. But we are told to watch the fig tree. In our day, the fig tree has come out in leaf, i.e. Israel has become a prosperous nation once again. This is also pictured in Ezekiel 37 as the valley of dry bones with flesh and yet no breath. Israel has not accepted their Messiah yet. Israel accepting their Messiah is represented in Ezekiel by the breath entering the bodies resurrected from the valley of dry bones. We are told in Romans 11 and in other places that this will happen. However, the signs of the times are not pestilence, wars, and earthquakes or the stars. The signs of the times are Israel and the nations. Gog and its multinational alliance that is preparing to invade Israel and take spoils just like it speaks of in Ezekiel 38, these are the signs we can clearly see today. This is why 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 says, “We ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.” Sensationalism abounds and many seek to profit from the fears and uncertainties we all have. But like 2 Thessalonians 2:3 says, “Let no one deceive you in any way.” Two verses I would encourage you with:
“But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.”
1 Thessalonians 5:4 ESV
“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,”
1 Thessalonians 5:9 ESV
The preaching that the Coronavirus is the beginning of the end is another way of getting into the sheepfold by a way other than the door. Certainly, Christ’s coming is near. We see indications of His soon return in the fact that the long dead and forgotten Israel is a nation and has been for over 70 years now. But God has told us clearly that we are not destined for wrath, so we have no reason to fear. Evil times will continue to grow worse. Many Christians have died and continue to die for their faith. Pestilence, war, earthquakes and famine will continue to the end. These are nothing new and they should not upset our faith.
Turning to Jesus for salvation is always urgent for every person for the simple reason that not one of us is guaranteed tomorrow. End times or not, no one knows when his or her life will end and he or she will have to stand before God.
Let’s return to the words of Jesus in John 10:5. He says:
A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." (John 10:5 ESV)
We all should consider this. Ponder what this might mean. 2 Corinthians 13:5 says:
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV)
We all must consider who or what we are following. Who are we listening to?
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:11-15 ESV)
There is one Shepherd. The elders of the Church are called to be under-shepherds, and they are only good as far as they imitate Jesus. And they only do this by the grace of God and through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1 ESV) We should all seek to be imitators of Christ.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem that day, He entered to lay down His life for us, His sheep. No church, no prophet, no teacher and no shepherd can save you except Jesus. He is the Good Shepherd. Follow Him. Listen to His voice. In Psalm 23, the Psalmist wrote, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” We see and understand more of what this means when we see Jesus laying down His life for His sheep. We know that since He was willing to lay down His life for us that we need fear no evil - not the Coronavirus, not the tribulation, no not even the end of the world.
If you have not done it already, come to Jesus, “the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul.” (1 Peter 2:25)