Bayou City Women’s 2018 Summer Bible Study Project studied the gospel of King Jesus in his own words. We walked through his statements in the Book of John where he declared himself to be the great I AM. He did so indirectly many times, but also just flat out said he was God. The answer we were seeking was if he is who he says he is, what does that mean for us? What we learned is that Jesus changes everything. I got to be part of a study group, and I thought I’d share some of my notes over the next few weeks from the teaching time for each chapter. This isn’t a synopsis of the study, but rather pieces of my personal research and my testimony and a few fun nuggets I found along the way. You can read previous posts here: (1) The Bread of Life, (2) The Light of the World
Week 3: The Door & The Good Shepherd
I like to joke that I’m a recovering people pleaser. I want to make people happy. I don’t enjoy confrontation. That’s not a bad thing…necessarily. But sometimes it gets me in trouble.
One of my favorite ridiculous examples of this happened in my senior year of high school. My now-husband and I had a class event downtown. The two of us and a friend drove together. So we had a great time off campus, but then it was time to head back to school. This was just before GPS was common. And even though my husband now knows every little street in Houston like the back of his hand and I can navigate just fine with the help of google maps thnkyouverymuch…back then we were both pretty clueless. So our teacher gave us directions, which boiled down to: take I-10 past the beltway all the way to highway 6 and up where school was. So we got started. We made it to I-10 and felt pretty proud of ourselves. But I started to have the feeling that something was wrong. I said…maybe…we’re going the wrong way. I was assured it was fine. We even made it to the beltway and they told me “See? The beltway. We’re definitely going the right way.” (If you’re a Houstonian, you might see where this is going.)
We weren’t going the right way. I knew it for sure. But I didn’t want to rock the boat, or car as it were, so I rode along. It wasn’t until we saw the sign for the San Jacinto monument that everyone in the car got on the same page as me. We were lost. Or at least, we were going in the exact opposite direction than we intended.
Sometimes I look back on my day, or even have a lightbulb moment in the middle of doing something and think “Why am I doing this? How did I get here? Where in the world am I?” But we all do that right? We wander into situations or even commitments. We do things that seem right at the time but then it becomes obvious that it is just not right. We make mistakes. We do good things, but work from of the wrong desires or goal.
I looked up the most common motives for humans. These are the reasons that we do the things we do, for better or worse. (These are in alphabetical order, just so you know.)
We are driven by our needs and desires. Until Jesus gets ahold of us. He is never confused about motives. He’s perfectly intentional. He never missteps. Keep that in mind as we focus on this gorgeous truth from John chapter 10: Jesus is willing to die for his sheep. Some translations say that he is the Gate of the sheep. Some of the people who heard Jesus say this would have perked up their ears because they had been searching for a way to God. A way to make things right. And they were tired. And lost. The jews who heard this might have been surprised. Another counter-cultural teaching. They thought they were God’s only sheep. But Jesus said anyone enters through him, the Door, will be saved. The pharisees were probably upset to hear Jesus say this. They thought they were the only shepherds to God’s only sheep. But Jesus said he was the Door, the Gate to the church. God’s fold. What does the Door do for his sheep?
Jesus is a shut door. He shuts out danger. A house isn’t secure unless the door is shut tight. What better protection for the Church than Jesus with all his power, wisdom, and goodness between us and evil?
Jesus is an open door. He is the Way. He is our passageway, our access point to get into the flock, to meet the Father, to get to heaven. The phrase “they will come in and go out” is an Old Testament phrase to describe everyday life. We live our lives in the presence of Jesus.
In John 8 Jesus declared himself to be I AM. Then in chapter 9 he backed it up in chapter 9 with a healing unheard of since the beginning of time. The man healed of blindness said in John 9:32, “Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind.” In chapter 10 he went further and called himself the Good Shepherd. This is divine language that the people he was teaching would have recognized.
In the Old Testament, the leaders of Israel were called shepherds, especially Moses and David. But God was always considered THE Shepherd. There are tons of examples of this in scripture, like Psalm 80, a prayer that begins, “Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock.” And Ezekiel 34 shows that God, as our shepherd, cares for us and condemns evil rulers. He sets up good and faithful shepherds to tend his flock. But the promise is that ultimately he himself will come and shepherd his flock himself. That promise came true in Jesus.
…The God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep…
1 Peter 5:4
And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
What does Jesus, the Good Shepherd do for his sheep?
We spent a lot of time during our study digging in to the relationship between shepherd and sheep, and what Jesus does for his people. He cares for us. He protects us from evil. But Jesus, our radical Jesus, tells us exactly how far he’ll go for us.
John 10:11 Jesus says,
“The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Matthew Henry’s commentary says, “Jesus not only ventured his life for them, but he actually deposited it, and submitted to a necessity of dying for our redemption. Sheep appointed for the slaughter, ready to be sacrificed, were ransomed with the blood of the shepherd. He laid down his life, not only for the good of the sheep, but in their stead. Thousands of sheep had been offered in sacrifice for their shepherds, as sin-offerings, but here, by a surprising reverse, the shepherd is sacrificed for the sheep.”
Jesus is willing to die for his sheep. It begs the question. Why?
Why was Jesus willing to lay down his life for his sheep? What were his motives? Do you know why he was willing to die for you and for me? Mere sheep? 😉
Jesus is obedient. He says in John 10:17, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again.” I mentioned last week that Jesus has existed eternally as God the Son. But Jesus the Man was born. (My mind is still blown by that, by the way.) The Son of God was loved by the Father always, they exist in perfect unity. But Jesus, the Son of Man, was loved by the Father because he came to earth to lay down his life for God’s people. For us. Here’s another quote from Matthew Henry commentary: “…as the Son of God, [Jesus] was beloved of his Father from eternity, but as God-man, as Immanuel, he was therefore beloved of the Father because he undertook to die for the sheep; therefore God’s soul delighted in him as his elect because herein he was his faithful servant; therefore he said, This is my beloved Son.”
God loves us so much, that he loves Jesus even more because Jesus loves us. What?! And Jesus puts so high a value on the love of his Father that he is willing to die for it. Jesus is obedient, but that’s not the only reason he is willing to die for his sheep.
Jesus is humble. Imagine. From eternity, Jesus is equal with the Father, sharing his glory, with every privilege of being God. And then he became human. Born not only human, but remember, born into a life of poverty. He wasn’t born in his family’s hometown, but rather in a stranger’s stable. Laid in a manger. And who were his first visitors? That’s right, shepherds. When it came time for the temple sacrifice following his birth, Mary and Joseph offered two pigeons. They couldn’t afford a lamb. His earthly father was part of the working class, a carpenter. Jesus even comments on this, in Matthew 8:20: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” When he began his ministry, he didn’t insist on a place with the religious leaders or ruling authorities, even though he had a right to all of it. Instead he was misunderstood and dishonored. He embraced a life of weakness, rejection, shame, homelessness, pain. He was ordinary.
He preached out of borrowed boats.
He multiplied borrowed food.
He rode on a borrowed colt.
He took off his robe and washed the dusty feet of his disciples.
He meekly endured an unfair public trial.
He was tortured. He was mocked. He was deserted.
He carried a sinner’s cross through the city and up a hill.
He was crucified.
He was even buried in a borrowed tomb.
Jesus is humble, even though all glory belongs to him. I cannot possibly better describe it than Isaiah 53, so I highly recommend reading this whole chapter out loud. It will be beyond thrilling to see our Jesus, the Son of Man, lifted high over all.
[Jesus] being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11)
Jesus loves his sheep. Why else would someone be willing to lay down their lives for someone else?
Romans 5:6-8 says, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Love. Jesus loves his sheep. He says in John 10:14 that he knows his sheep and they know him, just as he and the Father know each other. This wasn’t parable, he was speaking directly of his relationship with God. The Father and Son share an intimacy, a profound love. Jesus’ flock – the Church, you, me – we share that same abiding love with him. Jesus has a profound commitment to the ones he loves. He is willing to die for us. Ephesians 5:25-27 says, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
What would change if we lived as daughters who believed all the way down deep in our bones that Jesus, the Door and the Good Shepherd, is willing to die for his sheep? Why should we walk through the Gate, and why should we follow the Good Shepherd?
He has come for us to have life, and have it to the full. He didn’t come just for our survival, he came to fulfill every need and every desire. Knowing God. The Bread of Life. Remember? He has come to redeem our past, restore our present, and reveal our future. The Light of the World. We need him, we follow him, we love him, because Jesus changes everything.