Calling the Sheep
Sunday Morning, May 2, 2021
Text: John 10:1-18
Good morning, church. Today we are wrapping up our series that has focused on shepherds as we get ready to appoint additional shepherds here in Bella Vista. We have talked about the importance of biblical leadership. And I hope we have seen the difference in biblical leadership versus the way in which we typically think of leadership in our culture. Biblical leadership among God's people is not a "top-down" proposition. It is not a ruling class that the rest of us are to obey and serve. Biblical leadership is service. It is serving others and caring for others and attending to God. It is attending to God on behalf of others. It is not an executive board room that issues edicts. It is modeled after a shepherd; one who is with the sheep. I know we hear this in the 23rd Psalm that was read this morning.
We have talked about qualities of those men who will be suggested and ultimately appointed as shepherds. We noticed that the lists that we find in 1 Timothy and Titus are characteristics that each of us as followers of Jesus ought to have. We should all be people who are striving to be above reproach, faithful in our relationships as defined by our Creator. We should all strive to be sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, and hospitable. We should all be people who have a growing faith in God and a desire to tell others about Jesus.
Last week Randall talked about function of elders and what the name implies from looking at Psalm 23. He ended last Sunday with a reminder about the providence of God in this process. I think that bears repeating. God is still active among his people. He has given us the Holy Spirit who dwells in us and among us. We are reliant on him and on his power in all that we do, including the direction of this congregation.
This morning I would like for us to grab each of these threads that we have identified in this series and sort of tie them together. I appreciate the reading of the 23rd Psalm this morning and my hope is that that Psalm is moving through our minds as we continue on with the sermon. This particular Psalm is incredibly well known. We immediately recognize it as soon as we hear it. In fact once that Psalm is started, once we hear those opening words, "The Lord is my shepherd….." we know what comes next. It is a beautiful Psalm of comfort that really rings out what life looks like with the Lord as our shepherd. It is a song that is filled with blessing and hope and confidence in God to take care of us, even in the midst of our darkest times.
I want for that Psalm to echo in our ears, because I believe it echoed in the ears of the Jews of Palestine in the days of Jesus. They were looking, they were hoping, they were longing to be liberated and truly home in God's presence. I believe that this longing was found in all the Jews of Jesus' day, both in and out of Palestine. I hope that describes us. I hope we all have that longing to see our shepherd face to face. I really think that this particular Psalm is what in the mind of many Jews in Jerusalem on the day when Jesus said:
"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. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers."
"Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is ha 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. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father." (John 10:1-18 ESV)
This passage, this teaching of Jesus, is one that I hope rings in our ears. It is not as poetic as a Psalm, but this is just as beautiful. For the last several weeks we seem to have focused somewhat on elders, or those who would be elders. This passage speaks to us all, no matter our position or station in the church. Young or old, new believer or one who has been a Christian for years, there is something here for all of us. This is a calling to all the sheep.
There's a lot to see here. There's a lot to unpack, but let's focus on some of the things we have addressed already in this short series. The first thing we need to see has to do with authority. Jesus has been in another of the many disagreements he has with the Jewish leadership. He has healed a man who was born blind and as a result the formerly blind man was kicked out of the synagogue by those who believed they had the authority to do it. Jesus lets them (and us) know who the authority really is. Verses 1-2 and verse 18 serve as bookends of this section. They tell us who really has authority and how we know.
How do we know that Jesus is the One? How do we know he is the Shepherd? How do we know he is the authority? First is the image of the gatekeeper, the watchman (NIV). The watchman is another word for prophet in the Old Testament. The prophets down through the centuries had point to the coming of the shepherd.
Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15 - The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—
Ezekiel in Ezekiel 34:22-24 - I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken.
Micah from Micah 5:2-4 - But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.
John the Baptist from John 1:29-34 - The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.' I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel." And John bore witness: "I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God."
Jesus is the authority. Jesus is the one humanity was waiting for. All of Scripture points to him. He is the one through whom all scripture is interpreted (Luke 24). Church, as we think about authority in the church, there is one head and that is Jesus. The men who will be selected as additional elders are not the final authority, but they understand that Jesus is the sole authority and their lives are to testify to that. That's not just for elders, by the way. That is for all of us. Jesus is to be the authority in every area of our lives. He is the one who was sent from the Father. He is the one to which all the prophets pointed. He is the one who has demonstrated what biblical leadership, Godly leadership looks like by laying down his life for the sheep. He has demonstrated this by facing down the wolf (death itself). He is calling us to follow. He is calling us to life, the abundant life. Will we listen?
Ours is to listen and follow. Jesus says that his sheep hear is voice and that his is the voice they recognize and follow. We hear a lot of voices, a lot of noise, don't we. Sometimes it seems like it is too much. It is constant. All of our boys played in the Bentonville orchestra. It is a great program and we have really enjoyed it down through the years. We've gone to a countless number of concerts and they have all be good. If you have ever been to something like this and you get there early you'll see a stage full of students, all with their instruments and music stands, all dressed in their concert attire. Before things get started all of them are tuning and practicing and talking and all at the same time. No one seems to be playing the same thing or even the same part of any song. It is constant noise. I think that is a good illustration for our lives in general. We are listening for something. We are wanting something. But we are surrounded by an almost steady chorus of various voices calling us in various directions. Voices that whisper to us. Voices that speak or sing to us. Voices that shout at us trying to get our attention. It is hard to pick out one particular voice or determine the direction we ought to go.
There is one voice that needs to be recognized and followed to the exclusion of all others. The voice that leads us to growth and maturity in him. The voice that leads us toward a changed life and real purpose in the Kingdom. The voice that wants the best for us, wants safety for us, want to be with us. The voice that offers hope. How can we hear that voice? Can we pick it out from all the other noise that competes for our attention? The only way I know for that to happen is if we are willing to spend time with him.
It is a little sad that I remember this, but believe it or not there was a time when the telephone would ring and we would have no idea who was on the other end of the line. Scary isn't it? Now my phone rings and I can see the number (most of the time) and think, "I don't know anyone from Frozen Monkey Montana (thank you Curt)." And hit decline. It wasn't always like this. But I can remember picking up the phone and immediately recognizing who was on the other end. They didn't need to tell me their name. As soon as they said, "Hello." I knew who they were. I want that relationship with Jesus. I want to hear his voice and recognize it immediately. Church, don't we all want that? I think we do. But unless we are willing to spend a lot of time listening to him, listening for him, all we will hear is the noise.
Shepherds, those who would be shepherds, need to be people who have spent and continue to spend a lot of time listening to the Good Shepherd. Church, this is what we want from our eldership, right?
Church, we need to be people who listen to the call of the Good Shepherd. We need to spend a lot of time listening for him and hearing his voice call us as we make decisions every single day. This is not something reserved for the elders. It is the desire that we all should have to hear the voice of Jesus above all of the noise. We need to hear him and follow, even when it is difficult. Even when things don't seem to go our way. Even when the name we put in the box does not get called to be a shepherd. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Jesus is the authority. Jesus is alive and well and still active in his church.
Will we follow? Will we answer the call? Do we believe in his leadership? Do we believe his hand is in this process and every ministry in which this church is involved?