Editor’s note: These devotional thoughts are excerpted from the sermon series that accompanies CTA’s new theme for Easter preparation, The Shepherd, the Lamb. The sermon series includes six sermons and six sets of discussion questions based on them – all free! They are designed for use with our new product line, The Shepherd, the Lamb. We think churches that observe the six weeks of Lent will find much of value here, as will all churches that are looking for ways to help members prepare to observe Good Friday and celebrate our Savior’s Resurrection! (March 5, 2014 is Ash Wednesday; Resurrection Sunday is April 20.)
Read John 10:1-14 as you begin.
Sheep are, to put it nicely, very simple creatures. Sheep raise a whole host of questions about Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” theories. It’s a stretch to imagine sheep as somehow among “the fittest”; their survival over all these centuries seems to be an enigma. Sheep are not fierce predators. Sheep are not intellectual giants. In fact, sheep are such non-extraordinary animals that the mere thought of counting them puts us to sleep!
When Jesus first spoke the words recorded for us in John 10, he likely spoke them to a diverse group of people. He spoke to both his disciples and to his dissenters. But, everyone gathered around Jesus had one thing in common—they all knew sheep well. Many of them made their living by leading sheep. They knew the simplicity of the sheep they tended. They knew how easily sheep could be led off a cliff.
The crowd that day knew what Jesus was saying to them: You are sheep in desperate need of a shepherd. I am your shepherd.
When Jesus called the people sheep, one of two things happened: They either rejoiced or they rejected his words. Some rejoiced over the fact that they had such a Good Shepherd. Some rejected Jesus’ words because they resented the implications. They rejected his words and in doing so, they rejected him. The Lord’s words angered them. Scripture tells us about those who became angry: “They did not understand what he was saying to them” (John 10:6).
These people were willfully blind to their own sheep-like tendencies. They heard Jesus’ words and fought against them. They were blind to the fact that they were wandering sheep in need of a shepherd. They were sinful people in need of a Savior.
The same is true for us. The prophet Isaiah writes, “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). This sheep-like tendency to wander resides in all of humanity. . . .
We are all blinded by our desires, lusts, greed, anger, or addictions. We are like lost sheep, carelessly and sometimes willfully careening off a cliff. From the time of Adam onward, we have been a people who do not know our right hand from our left. All we like sheep have gone astray.
To make matters worse, we are very slow learners. When sheep are placed inside a fenced pen, they have the tendency to do something strange. In an attempt to reach the grass on the other side, sheep will run full speed into the fence. And then, they will almost immediately forget that the fence is there. They begin to eye the green grass on the other side. Seeing that it is good for eating, they rear back again and run full speed into the same fence!
And we, like sheep, enter into the same sins with the same consequences again and again. We talk behind our friend’s backs. We look with sinful pride and self-righteousness at the people around us. We treat members of our own family with anger and contempt. We lie. We see ways to help others, but ignore them instead.
All we like sheep have gone astray. Nevertheless, we have reason rejoice because we are not just sheep. We are Christ’s sheep! He is our Good Shepherd, the one described in Psalm 23. Christ is the Good Shepherd who leads us besides still waters. Christ is the one who restores our soul. Christ walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death.
We are not just sheep – we are Jesus’ sheep! He laid down his life for us at the cross. How great his love must be! We rejoice in that love. We rejoice in the fact that he knows us by name, and he calls us by name to be his own. We rejoice that we know our Good Shepherd’s voice, and that when he speaks to us we can trust his promises of forgiveness, care, and protection. We rejoice, knowing that when we stray, he seeks us out, finds us, and brings us back home to himself. He died to make you his very own. That is how much you mean to him! We rejoice knowing that we are little lambs of the Good Shepherd. . . .