Part 43 – John 10:11-15
I am the good shepherd
Now we come to one of the most well-known things Jesus said. He compares himself to a shepherd: a good shepherd. From what he goes on to say he uses the word ‘good’ mainly because he is prepared to die for the sheep. This is the first time Jesus has made any allusion to his death in John’s gospel.
We have to be careful here. We may be so used to thinking of the leaders of Christians as shepherds – which is what pastor means – that we tend to think of Jesus here as simply the top shepherd, the boss shepherd, but Jesus is using the imagery here to emphasize his relationship to his people. He even equates his relationship to his people – that is to you and me – to his relationship to his father, to God. That is amazing! Once again we are seeing the difference between their way of thinking, dominated by the significance to them of the small group to which they belonged, and our (Western) way of thinking where the individual is much more important than anyone else or any group of people. We are, of course, fully entitled to our culture and there is nothing much we can do to escape from it but we must make every effort to grasp hold of the full import of this teaching of Jesus. We have seen it again and again in many different sorts of comments and metaphors throughout John’s Gospel.
Jesus says ‘I am the Good Shepherd’ and then goes on immediately to say that he will lay down his life for the sheep. This leads us to some important made up words for the way the Gospel should be presented. First we get ‘Christocentric’ which clearly emphasises that our Gospel must be centred on Christ. Then we get Cruco-Christocentric which says that our Gospel must be centred on the Crucified Christ. This is important. We must not place the emphasis on the Social Jesus by seeking to emulate him in his many good works – important though those are and our imitation of them is; we must not place the emphasis on his work in outreaching to other people which we copy in evangelism; not even on his divinity as that would lead us to try to emphasise his Glory in pageants of glorious worship and praise. No! Our sole emphasis is to be on the great work that he accomplished on the Cross, for our redemption, our salvation, our growth in purity and holiness, and our eventual glorification with him in the eternal kingdom. There is nothing in what he did that we can emulate at all. He alone did those things and achieved those purposes. That may seem to be an almost useless abstraction. Should we not concentrate on doing things to the glory of God and the benefit of his Kingdom? No! Our central core emphasis must always be on Christ and him crucified. We must be Cruco-Christocentric. Only Jesus, his death and the resurrection that validated that death, are to lie at the centre of our thinking and all our activity. Only then will our motivations be right and acceptable to the Lord God.
Then will we be good and obedient sheep at the centre of his flock, following his guiding, living the sort of lives as we go in and out to the Kingdom pastures that are the best and greatest of all lives to live. Note here how much in this Gospel the emphasis falls not so much on sin, though it is a consideration, but on the importance of the continuing life that is opened up for the Christian as they set out to follow him. Jesus was always looking forward to his follower’s futures, not deeply concerned about their pasts. His was an orientation to the future not the past. Even to the woman caught in adultery he said “go now and leave your life of sin”. As we saw last time .‘Jesus is the gate’; he is about us going in and out to find pasture – it is our continuing lives that are now the prime concern of our most gracious Lord. To keep them strong we must always centre and focus all our beings on Christ and him crucified. We must be Cruco-Christocentric in everything.