Jesus Cares & Sacrificed His Life For All People

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John 10:11 – 21

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.

17 “The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. 18 No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”

19 When he said these things, the people were again divided in their opinions about him. 20 Some said, “He’s demon possessed and out of his mind. Why listen to a man like that?” 21 Others said, “This doesn’t sound like a man possessed by a demon! Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

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In our last study, we saw the interesting paradoxes that Jesus was both the Shepherd for the sheep, as well as the Gate for the sheep through which they must pass in order to be safe.  We touched on another Biblical paradox in our last article as we suggested that Jesus was both the Savior and Mediator as well as the Sacrifice of this covenant of love and forgiveness from which we benefit eternally.

In verse 6 of this chapter, his listeners had asked Jesus what all his figurative language meant.  But we see in this next passage of the story here that Jesus continued using metaphorical language as he went on to talk more about sheep and shepherds, and the sacrifices that shepherds would make on behalf of their sheep.  So it may look like Jesus still had not answered their questions.  Or perhaps he did.

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Actually, I believe that Jesus’ opening words in verse 11 would have spoken quite loudly to his audience that day.  In the Old Testament, the people of Israel were often portrayed in poetic and prophetic material as being sheep.  And the leaders of the Jewish people were portrayed as shepherds who were to watch over and care for the flock, God’s people.

But as is so true in any human organization or institution, it does not take very long before those who are supposed to act as humble servants of God, caring for His people, start to become dominating overlords who look out for their own interests first.  So when Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd,” He was contrasting himself against the religious leaders of His day, the Pharisees and Sadducees.

These leaders were very self-righteous and exercised great influence over the people of Israel.  But they did not really care about the people, other than that they would obey all the rules and rituals that they had created and imposed upon the people.  When Jesus came on to the scene and started to preach and teach and even heal people, rather than rejoice at the power of God being displayed among them, they became very jealous and threatened by Him.  That is the primary reason why Jesus was accused, convicted and then killed on a cross.

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Jesus clearly marked out the difference between them and himself.  He said he was the “good” shepherd, who was so devoted to his sheep (the people) that he was willing to sacrifice his life in order to save them.  The religious leaders though were afraid of the Roman government which had control over Palestine back then.

If there was even the hint of a rebellion or a disturbance of the peace, there was the threat of the Romans coming back in and not only squelching the uprising, but also of destroying and dispersing the entire Jewish nation.  That is why Caiaphus, the high priest back then said in John 11:49-50, “it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.

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Jesus was not caught up in all this political religious intrigue by accident though.  He knew that He would die, but even here in chapter 10, He says that he would sacrifice himself “voluntarily”.  And not only for the lost sheep (people) of Israel, Jesus said He would do this for those who were “outside the sheepfold”.  Jesus considered people who were not Jewish to also be part of His flock, and He would die to save them spiritually too.

And thank goodness for that!  Because you and I (who are not Jewish by birth) are able to be included within the family of God.  We are the “other sheep” whom Jesus wanted to bring inside of His sheepfold.  You see, God’s love is so big that it could never be contained within one cultural group.

And that is why I and my wife and many others are working diligently at translating the Bible into these remote minority languages around the world.  Because Jesus loves them too, and gave His life for them as well.  Our work is to bring this message to them in a language that they can truly understand, so that all who accept Him, will become part of His great flock.  Praise God!

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Jesus Saves & Grants Full Satisfying Lives

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John 10:1 – 10

10 “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

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This parable, or illustration, of Jesus is a good example of how Jesus used the events of every day life to help drive home some deep spiritual truths.  In verses 1-5, Jesus described in very simple terms what life was like for shepherds in the middle east and their sheep in the 1st century.  The listeners are most likely the “blind” Pharisees we read about at the end of chapter nine.

These Pharisees heard this story, and then it says that they did not understand this illustration.  Most likely, due to all their previous encounters with Jesus, the Pharisees knew that Jesus never told “simple” stories, just because they were nice stories.  No, they knew that there was some deeper meaning involved here, and they wanted Jesus to speak clearly as to what meaning He had intended for his audience to get out of this story.

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What is most interesting is that even though Jesus was asked a fairly straight forward question, his response is anything but a clear answer.  He used much of the same figurative language in his response to the Pharisees as He did in the illustration above.  Jesus still used metaphorical language of “sheep”, “gate”, “thieves and robbers”, and then adds “pastures” which suggests that the “sheep” will be well fed and nourished.

We just finished the last chapter where Jesus was basically accusing the Pharisees as being “blind” religious leaders.  This leads right into this story about those who are the “thieves and robbers”.  The leaders believed they were helping the people by imposing all the religious rituals that they thought would “save” them from sin.

Instead, their regulations and rituals kept them further away from a meaningful relationship with God.  And so, what they thought was for the good of the people actually was harmful to the people.  Thus they could be compared to “thieves and robbers” who destroyed true faith in God for the people.

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On the other hand, Jesus is the Good Shepherd, which we will see that more clearly in our next article.  Jesus is the One who truly cares about the people.  He leads them into places of refuge and safety (the sheepfold within the fenced area).  And He will lead them out into “green pastures” (see Psalm 23), where there is an abundant supply of very nourishing food.  Jesus is the source for us as we hunger for spiritual nourishment.  He will meet our spiritual needs.

But note one very peculiar thing here.  Not only is Jesus metaphorically our Good Shepherd, but He is also the Gate, through which all the sheep (which represent us as people) must go in order to find protection and salvation (going in) and find sustenance and nourishment (going out).  Jesus is both the Shepherd of the sheep and the Gate for the sheep.

This should seem a bit odd, that Jesus was referring to himself as both Shepherd and Gate.  And yet, at the same time, it should not be that odd.  For you see, Jesus was both man (formed into a human body) and also God incarnate (the fullness of God living among us).  This seems to be a paradox, but only because the human mind cannot fully grasp the full reality about the nature of God.

And there is one more mixed metaphor that is definitely worth mentioning here as we consider who Jesus was and what He is able to accomplish for all mankind.  Using the picture language again of Jesus being the Gate, it reveals a truth to us that we can only come to God by going through Jesus.  In John 14:6, Jesus said, ““I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

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We know by reading the New Testament that the means by which Jesus was able to save people from sin was to die on a cross to pay the punishment for our sins.  He was the “perfect sacrifice” offered up to God.  But He rose again, and so is still able to act as our mediator between us and God (see 1 Timothy 2:5).  That means that Jesus was and is both the priest who offers up acceptable sacrifice to God, and at the same time is the perfect sacrifice offered to God.

What a great message is contained for us in this passage.  Jesus is both our Sacrifice and our Savior.  He is our Guard and our Guide.  He is our Helper and our Healer.  Wouldn’t you like to get to know Him better and to experience the full life that He can offer?  Please feel free to write back to me if you have any questions about all this.  And may God bless you richly through Christ our Lord.