May 7, 2017

Pastor Bernt Tweit

First Lesson; Acts 6:1-9

                      Acts 7:2a

                     Acts 7:51-60

Second Lesson; 1 Peter 2:19-25

Sermon Text; John 10:1-10

You have heard me share before that Jesus' ministry can be broken down into three periods.

       -The first year of Jesus' ministry we refer to as, His Year of Inauguration. And just as a president has an Inauguration, when they come into office, so also, the first year of His ministry was His Inauguration, in which He was being introduced to the people.

       -The second year of Jesus' ministry was His Year of Popularity. It was really during that second year that people were becoming excited. Some for the right reasons, and some for the wrong reasons. Some of them were putting their trust in that Jesus was the fulfillment of The Old Testament Messiah. Some wrongly thinking Jesus was going to establish an earthly kingdom.

       -Then it is the third year of Jesus' ministry we could refer to as, The Year of Opposition. More and more people, specifically the religious leaders, the Pharisees, and the Sadducee, were opposed to Jesus. They were not excited that people were putting their faith, and trust in Jesus.

The text we look at for today, falls in this Year of Opposition, the third year of Jesus' ministry. It was the religious leaders who were opposed to Jesus. Right before our text, there were some conflicts. There were conflicts over The Law. There were conflicts over Jesus saying He was The Light of the world. And there was a conflict that Jesus had healed a man who had been blind from birth, and He healed him on the Sabbath. The religious leaders were really opposed to Jesus doing this. In response to all of those conflicts, Jesus shares this illustration. He shares a parable of being the Shepherd of the sheep.

Let's look at these words for today, and focus on them, taken from John chapter 10, looking at verses 1 through 10. This is God's Word.

“Amen, Amen, I tell you: Anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the door, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. The doorkeeper opens the door for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own sheep, he walks ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will never follow a stranger, but will run away from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”

Jesus used this illustration in speaking to the people, but they did not understand what He was telling them. So Jesus said again, “Amen, Amen, I tell you: I am the door for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. Whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. “A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

When I was growing up, if you are a contemporary of mine, or slightly older, you might know what I am referring to. When I was growing up, I loved to watch cartoons, specifically Loony Toons. Two characters who were prominent were Ralph Wolf , and Sam Sheepdog. At the very beginning of each episode, you would see these two characters punching in at the time clock. Ralph Wolf's job was to try to steal the sheep, while it was Sam Sheepdog's job to protect the sheep.

In every, single, episode you would see Ralph Wolf trying to steal the sheep away. One example is when Ralph Wolf is underneath the sheep, and he is trying to quickly escort the little sheep away from the watchful eyes of Sam Sheepdog. But in the distance, Sam Sheepdog was always watching over the whole situation.

In every, single, episode Ralph Wolf was never successful. Sam Sheepdog always had his watchful eyes on those sheep, making sure they were safe, secure, and protected.

Well, today it is Jesus, our Savior, who shares this illustration, or this parable of a shepherd with their sheep.

Jesus is the Shepherd.

It was the Pharisees, the religious leaders, who were the false shepherds.

But, as Jesus shares this parable, or this illustration, it was the people, the Pharisees, the religious leaders who didn't understand what it was that Jesus was talking about. Well, here is what it is that Jesus was really saying.

       -It was those Pharisees, those religious leaders, who were trying to steal the people by fear. Right before our text, remember, I had said it was Jesus who had healed the man who was born blind. The religious leaders, the Pharisees, were opposed to Jesus doing that. And so, when the blind man told them Jesus had done this, they kicked the blind man out of the synagogue. There were many people who feared the same thing was going to happen to them. The parents of the blind man said this in John, chapter nine. “The parents of that man who had received his sight were afraid of the religious leaders, and Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged Jesus was the Christ, would be put out of the synagogue.” So those religious leaders were trying to steal the people by fear. “If you believe in Jesus, you will be kicked out of the synagogue.”

       -The religious leaders were also trying to rob the people of hope. The religious leaders had added to God's Law, so much so that it became a burden. Scripture says this about it. It says,

“The religious leaders tie heavy loads,

and put them on peoples' shoulders.”

The requirements they gave above, and beyond The Ten Commandments just really weighed people down. The religious leaders were robbing people of the hope they had in salvation, through Christ.

The Old Testament even goes so far as to say this about those religious leaders in Jeremiah, chapter 23,

“Woe to shepherds

who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture.”

That is exactly what those false shepherds were doing. Those religious leaders were stealing, robbing, destroying, and killing the true sheep of the true Shepherd.

Now what is the point of this parable, or illustration for us? Certainly it applies to the religious leaders of Jesus' day, but there is also an application for us, today. The application is that there are people, and things in our lives that are 'false shepherds', who want to steal, and rob, and kill, and destroy you, so that you do not follow the voice of the Good Shepherd.

       -It could be bad peer pressure. It could be friends who we hang around with, who ridicule us for our faith in Jesus, as our Savior. They steal, and rob us from the true Shepherd.

       -It could be a spouse who leads their husband, or their wife, away from the cross of Jesus, and in doing so become a false shepherd.

       -It could be programs on TV, or it could be Hollywood movies in which they kill, rob, and destroy us away from looking at who the true Shepherd is, Jesus our Savior.

       -Even our own sinful nature, we ourselves, in our sinful nature can kill, rob, and destroy us from not only knowing, but also following the Good Shepherd.

Do we want a leader, or a shepherd, who steals from us? Certainly the answer is, “Of course not!”

Do we want a leader, or a shepherd, who robs from us? The answer is, “Of course not!”

But, here in our text for today, Jesus shares with us He is the Shepherd of the sheep. Not only does He want us to know Him, but He also wants us to follow Him, as well. As sheep who listen to His voice, He also wants us to walk in step behind Him.

This past week I had a funeral at Gunderson Funeral Home. Before the funeral service, I like to go to a semi-private spot, to make sure I have all of my thoughts in my head, before I share the funeral message with the family. So, I went to this semi-private spot that I like to go to, at Gunderson. I know there are going to be people who walk past me, while I am there. It was then that a worker from Gunderson came to me, and said, “Hey, I have a place where you can go, that is more private than this one. Why don't you follow me?”

And so, he opened a door that I did not have access to. I walked through the door with him, and then he showed me a spot that was just perfect to collect, and gather my thoughts. He also showed me some other rooms that, again, I would not have had access to, unless he had opened the door, and showed me the way.

In our text for today, Jesus is the Shepherd who opens those doors for us. He wants us to follow, as He leads us.

In our text for today there are three, very comforting phrases Jesus shares. He says He is the Shepherd, and He wants us to follow Him. When you look at pictures of shepherds with their sheep, you notice they are often standing in front of the sheep, so the sheep can follow their shepherd. The sheep know his voice. He leads, and they follow.

But, here are the comforting things Jesus says in our text for today. I am going to take these in order. Jesus says, “As the good shepherd he calls his own sheep by name.” Jesus knows your name, and He calls your name. In the Old Testament book of Isaiah Jesus says,

“Fear not,

for I have redeemed you.

I have called you by name.

You are mine.”

Your Savior, your Shepherd, knows your name. Not only does He call your name, but He reminds you that He redeemed you. That simply means He has bought us back. He has purchased us at a great price. He has redeemed us from sin, death, and the devil.

As I shared in The Children's Sermon this morning, shepherds oftentimes bring their multiple flocks together into one sheep pen at night. In the morning, when it is time to go, the shepherd just simply speaks his voice, and keeps on talking, and those sheep follow where it is he is going, much like a shepherd with their sheep following. Jesus is our Shepherd. He knows you, and He calls you by name.

In our text for today, Jesus also says, “Whoever enters through me will be saved.” Jesus is the door. Jesus is the gate. It is through Him that we have eternal life in Heaven.

Next week, as I was looking ahead, I saw the Gospel Lesson selected is from John, chapter fourteen. In John, chapter fourteen, Jesus said,

“I am the way,

and the truth,

and the life.

No one comes to the Father,

except through me.”

Jesus is the only door. Jesus is the only gate through which we get to Heaven. The New Testament also says this, in the book of Acts, “Salvation is found in no one else,

for there is no other name under Heaven

given to me

by which we must be saved.”

Jesus is the door through which we get to Heaven.

But maybe the most comforting of all of the three Jesus speaks in our text for today, is when He says,

“I came that they may have life

and have it abundantly.”

It was our Savior, Jesus, who came as our Shepherd. He doesn't just want you the have life, here and now. He wants you to have life eternally in Heaven. That is when He says,

“You may have life and have it abundantly.”

Through faith in Jesus, as your Savior, we have the confidence not only of the life here, but we have confidence of the life to come. That is the abundance of eternal life in Heaven.

There once was a man who grew up in an obscure town. He left that town, and became a world famous Shakespearean actor. Well, after being gone for many years, he came home.

The town wanted to have a big reunion for him. And so, during the course of his stay, during the course of that big party, they thought they would have a contest.

They asked the elderly pastor in town if he would be willing to quote some lines from Shakespeare. They would see who could do a better job.

The pastor, sheepishly admitted he didn't know any lines from Shakespeare.

But then, they remembered that in Sunday School, the famous actor had learned the 23rd Psalm. So, they said, “I tell you what, we will have both of you recite the 23rd Psalm.”

And so, both of them did. The pastor went first, and he recited the 23rd Psalm. Next, the actor stood up, and with perfect diction, and with wonderful gestures, he recited the 23rd Psalm. There was no question who had done a better job. It was the actor.

But, the actor stepped forward, and this is what he said to the people there, that day. “I just recited the 23rd Psalm, but it is the pastor who knows the Shepherd.”

You see, there is a difference between reciting the 23rd Psalm, and believing who the Shepherd really is.

The Shepherd is Jesus.

On this Good Shepherd Sunday, we are reminded again of how wonderful it is Jesus is our Shepherd. During the course of this service, you may have noticed the sun going across the front banner, almost as if it was shining on our banner, “Jesus is our Good Shepherd.” You not only know the Shepherd, but in believing in the Shepherd, it is our desire, and want, to share the Good Shepherd with other people, so that they also know the Shepherd, and believe and follow Him. And so, may we know the Shepherd, but knowing the Shepherd, may we trustingly follow where He leads us.