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Every Sheep Needs a Shepherd, Part 1

From the series Jesus Unfiltered - Follow

In this message, Chip shares one of the most powerful images of Jesus - a description that Jesus gave of Himself. It’s probably a different Jesus than you’re used to thinking about. Join Chip as he reveals Jesus as He would like you to think of Him.

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Message Transcript

In all the time the earth has ever been, the most important thing that ever happened wasn’t simply the birth of Christ, as wonderful as that is, and not simply His life, but the fact that that being fully God and fully man, He died, rose from the dead to give life.

Now, here is the question in light of that. Consciously or unconsciously we all ask a question or two as we go through life and what I want you to know is how you answer these two questions will determine the course of your life. I’m not overstating that.

If you’ll notice, I put a teaching handout, I put the two questions there. Question number one is: In light of this resurrection, this Man who claimed to be God, all of history – B.C., A.D. – how do you see God? What comes to your mind when you think, God? What is He really like?

Is He harsh? Is He down on you? Is He kind? Is He angry? Is He mildly ticked off? Is He distant? Is He really engaged in what is going on or kind of impersonal? Did He just set this whole thing up and whatever happens, happens?

The second question might even be more important: How do you think God sees you? Imagine, if you will, long before computers, long before servers, long before Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, anything – the infinite mind of God, who knows all things about all people, every moment, your thoughts, your behavior, your motives – when the picture of you comes up on the screen of this infinite God, how do you think He thinks about you?

What is His response? How does He feel? Is it like, Man, I wish you’d get with the program? Or, How come you’re never doing enough? Or, Oh, brother, still working with this one. Or is it, You’re cherished, you’re special, you’re loved, you matter, I designed you, I’ve got a plan for you, there is a special purpose for you.

How do you think God thinks about you? Because what I can tell you is, most of us don’t answer that question very accurately as well.

In Matthew chapter 9, toward the end of Jesus’ life, He comes into Jerusalem and He sees a multitude of people, not unlike in this room.

And when He looked at the people, and He wasn’t just looking physically, as He looked at their heart, their motives, their lives, their marriages, their singleness, their work, their pain, their hurt, their cancer, the betrayals, the struggles, the infighting, the division. He says, “He looked at the multitudes, and seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them.”

Would you circle the word in your notes: compassion? I don’t think most of us know what that means. He felt compassion for them for two reasons. Because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.

Put a line under distressed and a line under downcast. Distressed, that doesn’t take a lot of explanation, right? Stressed out, worn out, burned out, struggling, relationships not working, looking for purpose in life.

But the word downcast is a little bit different. Downcast is a shepherd’s term. Sheep wander around and they lie down. And sometimes they get where the grass is very soft and there is a little indentation and it feels really good. And they will lean over. And if a sheep leans over a little too much it gets almost upside down, it can’t get up. It can’t get up.

You know what happens to what is called a “cast sheep?” One hundred percent of the time, they die, unless a shepherd comes and lifts them and gets them back on their feet.

When Jesus saw the multitudes, when He sees us, He sees our distress, He sees our hurts, He sees our struggles, He sees our insecurities, He sees our pain, He knows our past, He knows what people have done to us, He knows the mistakes we have made, He sees our distress and He sees us as downcast. That we are in a situation that we can’t solve on our own, because we are like sheep without a shepherd.

And guess what it stirs in Him – this is how God thinks about you. Compassion. Not down on you; not, Get with the program; not, Do more; not, What’s wrong with you? Why did you make that mistake? Why did you make that decision?

It says He saw the multitudes and He felt compassion. The Greek word here means, literally, from the innermost parts or the bowels. The Hebrews thought that the seat of your emotions was visceral. If you have ever had your heart go out to someone where almost you watered up just when you saw someone’s pain, and it was almost like something down in your stomach hurt, that you had to do something to help them. That’s this word.

In fact, in English, I put a good definition there. It’s a deep awareness and understanding of another person’s struggle or hurt or pain that compels you to want to help them.

Sympathy and compassion are very different. Compassion is: you are compelled and you just long to help solve it and make it right.

I had probably one of the most compassionate moments I have had in the last maybe ten years or so. On Tuesday, I have a little grandson, his name is Noah.

So we have gotten really close. And Tuesday his mom was just mopping a floor and he came running behind and just slipped in a very unusual way, came down on his knee, and he broke his femur. And when he hit, Theresa got a call from Annie, “Mom, I don’t know what’s wrong. He’s crying and no matter what I do, he is uncontrollable. It’s like he’s in terror.” And so they took him to the ER and then they took him to the orthopedic guy and by the time I heard about it, I drove over to the orthopedic guy across from Good Sam’s and I walked in. As I walked in, the orthopedic doctor had put up his x-ray. I saw this bone, it had this diagonal fracture in it.

And he was just beside himself. And if it moved at all, this poor, little kid who I am so close to. And Annie had been in there for a couple of hours. And so she had to go get a drink of water and the doctor and everybody left. And I just sat there with this little guy and he looked at me with terror in his eyes, like, Fix me! Papa! What’s wrong? And everything in me, something happened, has this ever happened to you? Something happened down deep inside of me like, I just wanted to say, It’s going to be okay! And it’s going to heal up. And probably five years from now, you won’t even remember.

And, of course, he’s nineteen months old. He can’t understand anything. And then he just looked at me like, Papa! Why don’t you help?

Here’s what I want you to know. What I felt inside when I saw his need is how God feels about you when He sees your need. Splagchnon is the word. When He sees the divorce in your past, when He sees the strife in your marriage, when He sees the depression and the anger, when He sees the conflict that is happening at work, when He sees whatever need; the cancer that you’re battling, the parent that is dying, the kid that just doesn’t seem to get with the program.

Your deepest hurts, needs, and mistakes are like a magnet that draw Jesus’ love and compassion to you. That’s what the Bible teaches God is like.

Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s not the picture that I have had of God most of my life, and I have been a pastor for over thirty years. And I can tell you that that is intellectually the picture I know is true, but I have this default mechanism. Anybody have that?

Like, on any given day, I can think, Oh, I don’t think I measure up, I don’t think I’m doing very well, God is probably kind of mad at me. None of that is true, but I act that way.

And part of my family of origin, and part my personality. And so we have to be reminded.

Why did He come? It was compassion!

So Old and New Testament, sometimes a word picture helps people grasp it, especially if it comes out of a culture, so we can take these concepts and get them into real life.

And so, two hundred times in the Old and New Testament, God makes the metaphor of sheep/shepherd, sheep/shepherd. Because that is their world.

And sheep are dependent, vulnerable. Has anyone ever seen a wild sheep or a documentary on a wild sheep? You know why? They don’t exist. They don’t exist. They don’t.

A sheep without a shepherd – here is the game plan – die. They can’t find water on their own; they are vulnerable. If they are not moved to get new food, they will sit and eat the grass there down until the roots kill themselves. If they roll over or cast, they can’t pick themselves up. They have to be led.

Don’t take this personally, God calls us sheep. Pigs are way smarter than sheep. Sorry. And Orangutans are way up there. And so sheep are these not-that-intelligent animals. But they are super valuable. Their wool, their milk, whole villages, whole nations have lived on the great value and specialness of what a sheep brings.

And so, all through Scripture, God helps us understand the compassion and what He is really like by the shepherd and the sheep.

There was a time where Israel had, just to use the vernacular, blown it big time. And you would think God would be just like, You know what? I’m just going to start over.

In Ezekiel 34, after speaking to a group of shepherds who were fleecing the sheep, literally, and using them and just messing up things, this is God’s word to them in Ezekiel 34:11. He says, “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.”

And here’s the metaphor, or the simile, “As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep, and I will deliver them from all the places in which they are scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day. I Myself,” it’s Yahweh, Elohim, this is God the Lord, and He looks at His people and He says, “I Myself, I am going to go after them like a shepherd goes for his scattered sheep.”

And He doesn’t stop. He says, “I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest.” Anybody here need rest? I don’t mean just physical, I mean in your soul. “…declares the Lord God. I will seek” – who is He after? “the lost, I will bring back the scattered, I will bind up the broken, and I will strengthen the sick.”

Even David, when he was trying to express the intimacy that he had with God. Remember what he would say? Here’s a guy that was a king and psalmist and powerful. And then on a really, really weak moment on a bad day, commits adultery, and then covers it up, and commits murder.

And yet the New Testament looks back on this very flawed person who was very gifted and said he was a man after God’s own heart, not because he never messed up, but because of the tenderness of his heart.

What he understood was, here’s what David got, I see how God sees me. I see that God is a God of mercy and compassion and forgiveness and wants to restore. And so the Holy Spirit led him one day to say, “The Lord Yahweh is my shepherd and I won’t be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures and what He does, He is going to lead me by quiet waters because He is going to restore my soul.”

And he says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I won’t fear evil, because He is with me. His rod, His staff, they comfort me. He will lead me in paths of righteousness. He is going to direct my life.”

And there will be a day when I come through all these difficulties and there is going to be this victory banquet and He is going to allow me, “He is going to set a table” – a buffet, if you will – “in the very presence of my enemies.”

And then just like in the big buffets and the huge moments, “He will anoint my head with oil,” like what happens on these marvelous celebrations. And then instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop and something bad to happen, “His mercy and His love will follow me,” and the word literally is: pursue me, come after me, chase me, “all the days of my life.”

Do you think of God like that? So good, so kind, so loving that He is trying to chase you down to say, Would you let Me give you the best? And then maybe the last thing, “And I know,” he says, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

And so, Jesus in John chapter 10 is speaking to a group of people who just can’t figure out, some believe in Him and some have rejected Him. And He wants them to know, even those who are trying to kill Him, about His compassion and His love, of why He came.
And you pick up the story in John 10. Open your notes if you will. And as you do, John chapter 10, we are going to get the story of Jesus speaking to a mixed group of people, some trying to kill Him and some who believed.

And so He gives them this metaphor, and what you are going to see first is you’re going to see a parable, because He longs for people, even those who want to kill Him, He longs for them to understand God’s compassion. So He gives them a picture in their world that they can understand.

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus says, “‘that the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in some other way is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman or the porter opens the gate for him and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and he leads them out. When he has brought them all out, his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him, because they know his voice. But they will not follow a stranger, in fact, they will run from him, because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.’ Jesus used this figure of speech or parable, but they did not understand what He was telling them.”

Now, I don’t know about you, and I didn’t grow up in the Church, didn’t grow up reading the Bible, but if I wanted to know about God’s compassion and I heard those six verses about a parable about sheep, it didn’t do a lot for me, okay?

If you understand the culture, you’ll understand what He now says later. What He basically said was, “Look, you all understand how life works with sheep.” It’s an agrarian culture, they are shepherds, they can’t grow a whole lot, the land isn’t all that good.

So if you’re the youngest son, your job is to be the shepherd. And then in the village, you lived off the wool, you lived off, you could sell the wool, the milk, occasionally you would sacrifice one.

And so, I am a shepherd, you’re a shepherd, he’s a shepherd, she’s a shepherdess. And so, at the end of the day, we would go to the village, and in our village would be a shepherd’s pen, if you will. It often would be about four feet high, all made out of stone, a large area, and there would be a gate.

And so, I would bring my sheep and I would stand and I would put my rod and I would count them, and maybe I’ve got fifty-three sheep. And then the next shepherd or shepherdess comes and they’ve got thirty-five, fifty, forty. And so, this whole big area is filled with sheep.

And there is an entrance. He is just describing their everyday life. But now He says some things that they really get. And if you have ever seen a documentary or this still happens today – shepherds name their sheep. And sometimes it’s Striped-Legged or Bad Attitude or stuff like that, or White Spotted Face. But they name all their sheep and they know them personally.

But they build this intimacy and relationship, it’s why Jesus uses this. So, when a shepherd would come in the next morning, all the sheep are there; they are safe. He might come and they almost have a talk. He might go, “Yo-ho! Yo-ho! Yo-ho!” And all about fifty sheep, they look, and he walks and they follow him. None of the other sheep move.

And then another shepherd comes and goes, “Oh-oh! Oh-oh!” Another thirty-five sheep, and they walk out. So He is explaining how it happens.

And then He says, “Thieves and robbers,” see, at night, it’s about four feet or so of stone and some might be a little bit higher. A thief would come during the dark and he would climb over and have a couple friends slit the neck of a sheep and then get as many as they could. Robbers didn’t just steal, they would beat up who was on guard, often kill them, and try and get the whole herd.

So He is just describing a world, about the relationship between sheep and shepherds. Now, listen carefully, because now He applies it to Himself. We pick up the teaching in verses 7 through 10.

Verse 7 says, “Therefore, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, I am the gate,’” or, “the door for the sheep. All whoever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate.” Here is His offer, “Whoever enters through Me will be saved,” He is talking about a spiritual salvation in the context of this book.

“He will come in and go out and find pasture.” So, Come to Me and believe in Me; I will provide for you and I will protect you. A Good Shepherd. This is the part of your view of God, my view of God, most people’s view of God I think is completely skewed. We don’t believe He is good. And you can’t trust someone who you don’t think is good.

And He is going to say, “The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

“The thief comes only to steal and to kill and destroy.” And then He gives His purpose statement for why He came, “I came that you might have life and have it to the full,” or, “have it abundantly.” Literally the word means, to excess and to overflowing. And so, that door, the entranceway in and out and relationship – I am the answer. I am the Shepherd. Jesus is the Good Shepherd.