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Worship Series: Change of Plans
Worship Theme: We Don’t Want to Listen
First Lesson: 1 Samuel 17:34-37 (EHV)
Gospel & Sermon Text: John 10:1-10 (EHV)
Songs: Lord, Have Mercy, CW 436 Jesus, Shepherd of the Sheep, Psalm 23, CW 442 Have No Fear, Little Flock, CW 432 I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb (in worship folder)
Message Notes & Growth Group Questions
Message: We Don’t Want to Listen
He could see. Jesus had just given sight to a man who was born completely blind. It was a miracle, phenomenal in every regard. The bigger miracle was the man could now see in a different way. He could see spiritually. When the formerly sightless man was asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” the man replied to Jesus through the eyes of faith. “Lord, I do believe.” He could see more clearly than he ever could. Not because of his newfound physical sight, but because of Jesus’ spiritual work, he saw that Jesus was the Savior, his Savior. Not everyone understood this. When the Pharisees learned that Jesus healed the man, they started attacks on both the man and Jesus. They claimed Jesus was not from God. They threw the blind man out of the Synagogue. Imagine that, being thrown out of your church for someone healing your sight! The man might have been physically blind, but it seems the Pharisees were the ones with the true disability. The Pharisees were spiritually deaf. In our text for today, this confrontation finally reaches the breaking point. The Pharisees confront Jesus face-to-face. “How dare you heal a blind-man and claim you are the Savior!!”
Jesus answers them with a parable, an analogy of sorts, to help them and us recognize Jesus as the Savior, the one who truly gives us life in every sense of the word. He tells us about a sheep-pen. “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.”
Ok. Let’s unpack this a bit. A sheep pen in ancient times would often be a place with walls of stone. The entrance would be a small gap in the stone wall. And of course, this entrance would be the only gap in the wall of the sheep pen to protect the sheep from outside threats. In this parable, the sheep are the followers of Jesus. I would say, “Imagine, you are in your house.” but there is a good chance you are already there. So, look around your house. If your entire family is already in the house and it’s late at night and suddenly you hear someone trying to enter in through the window, who would you think it is? You would probably think it was a robber or someone up to no good. It would be a good guess because people usually use the door in the middle of daylight. If a person is using a window and hasn't locked themselves out of the house by accident, it’s probably a sign they are trying to sneak in. This is what Jesus is saying. There is no way to lock yourself out of the sheep pen. Therefore, if someone is trying to come to the sheep pen in a different way than the gate, they are probably up to no good. Meanwhile the shepherd uses the door because he’s not up to anything suspicious at all. He only wants what is best for his sheep. His sheep know the shepherd treats them well. They only follow his voice. If they follow his voice and his Words, they will be taken care of in every way. They will be protected, they will have food, they will have family, they will have life.
Let me give you an example. In our household, we have two cats. One of them is named Evee. I spent a lot of time feeding her and playing with her as a kitten and she learned my voice pretty quickly. If anyone else calls her, she looks at them like they are completely crazy. Her expression ranges anywhere from “What do you want” to “Are you trying to trick me?” to “Ha! You fool! Like I would ever resign myself to the lowly position of coming to the beck and call of some petty human!” Then she usually does something interesting. After she has made sure you know she’s heard you, she turns and gives something I like to call, “the rear end of rejection.” It is the ultimate act of defiance. “I hear you, but I have only this to show you.” When I call her, she comes. She hears me and walks toward the sound of my voice. When she sees me, she sometimes even runs to me to give me a kiss on the nose. Once, she bolted out of the house. She is an indoor cat and we live right next to a road, so that is not a good thing. But I called her, she heard my voice, and she came right back into the house.
This is the shepherd with his sheep. It does not mean the sheep are perfect. It does not mean the sheep listen perfectly to every command, even though they should. Remember, the sheep-pen even has walls to help them not wander. But the sheep know who their shepherd is. Jesus’ followers know who their Savior is and they follow him. No other shepherd will do. Jesus is the one shepherd who leads the sheep. He doesn’t drive them in front of him, asking them to take the brunt of danger. He goes in front, protecting them and leading them on the path to heavenly pastures.
The Pharisees did not understand what Jesus was saying. Personally, and the wording in the Greek allows for this meaning too, I think the message did not go over their heads. It was not too complicated for them to understand, but the Pharisees were choosing not to listen. As in, “I don’t want to hear that. LALALALA I’M NOT LISTENING!”
Jesus simplified things for the Pharisees 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.”
We think how could the Pharisees be against Jesus? How could they choose not to listen to God incarnate? They were selfish, looking only after their own interests. The Pharisees saw themselves as the shepherds of Israel. Most of them did not care about the sheep at all. They just enjoyed having power over the sheep. Jesus burst their idealistic bubble. Not only were they not the shepherds in the parable. They were the thieves and robbers who stole, killed, and destroyed. They were false prophets following their own way, rather than God’s. They wanted as many people to follow them in the wrong direction as possible. Sound familiar? I find that in my own life it is often a struggle to keep my focus on Jesus. I don’t always listen to him because I so desperately want to be my own leader. My sinful nature wants to keep the focus on me. What about you? Do you listen to the Good Shepherd or put your fingers in your ears, screaming, “LALALA. I CAN’T HEAR YOU! Do you find yourself doing good things only because you are expecting a reward or generous compliments about how good you are? Do you solely listen to other people’s stories so you can jump in with a better one and draw the attention back to you? How about this one: Are you more concerned with what your kids think of you, then what is best for them? Often those two ideas go hand in hand, but sometimes they don’t. I don’t think anyone ever enjoys discipline or even appreciates it at the time, but a little bit is good for everyone. Be honest with yourself. What have you done more: opened your Bible and followed Jesus or opened your Facebook, Twitter account, Youtube channel, etc. and checked how many followers you have just like the Pharisees? #Pharisee. We take so many selfies, talk about our life’s every occurrence, we even take pictures of our food. These things are not necessarily bad, but it is so easy for you to tangle yourself up in the thing that can trip you up the most: you! When we spend our every waking moment thinking about ourselves, it does not leave any room for the true shepherd who cares about us. Do you really think that the hundreds of superficial relationships on twitter would care if something really went down? Oh, there’s that lady who showed us a picture of her food, what was her name? Oh, I don’t know, but we have to help her.” Probably not. Someone who does help is the good shepherd, Jesus. He isn’t just fulfilling this role out of self-interest. He’s doing it out of love. He really cares about you.
There are many people out there who try to steal and destroy the sheep, to hurt you. But there are also many who help shepherd people in the right direction: pastors, teachers, parents, friends. How do we know which are helping and which are hurting? We know based on who follows the voice of Jesus. Jesus is not just the good shepherd (verse 11) who takes care of his followers. He is also the gate (verse 9). Anyone who enters through him will be saved. He is the way and the truth and the life (14:6). He is the narrow gate to eternal life (Matthew 7:13-14). If you spend all your time looking at yourself, you will miss the only way into heaven. He is the gate and gives you access to the flock through his death and resurrection. He calls you with his own voice, a voice that you can trust and follow. As a shepherd, Jesus promises to take care of his sheep. He says he will look after the sheep (Ezekiel 34:12). He promises to lead them to green pastures (Psalm 23). He tends to the flock’s every need (Isaiah 40:11). He protects them from the thieves and murderers (aka the false prophets) who try to break into the sheep pen (see the gatekeeper/bouncer for the sheep-pen in verse 3). His sheep pen even helps you not wander away. Through his Word the Holy Spirit instead brings you in closer and closer, putting you deeper into the safety of the flock. You do not just survive under Jesus’ watch. You thrive. He has promised to give his sheep an abundance of life, so strong that even death cannot touch it. This is the eternal life found in Jesus, the shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. Amen.