The Privilege Of Being Jesus’ Sheep

Text:  John 10:11-18 

This idea of a shepherd and sheep is such a great image for us to think about. Sheep tend to be fairly helpless animals. They don’t have fangs or claws or a mean spirit where they will lash out and attack. They are powerless to defend themselves from hungry predators. Thus, there is a great deal of comfort when we see a shepherd next to the sheep. In a sense the shepherd is heroic. They tend to the sheep. They protect the sheep. They lead the sheep to shelter, good foot and fresh water. They typically have ownership and investment of the sheep. The sheep know the voice of the shepherd and there is trust. 

There is a reason why Jesus chooses this illustration. He calls himself the good shepherd, “I… I am the good shepherd.” If Jesus is the shepherd, we obviously are what? We are his sheep. Jesus chooses this illustration, not only because it is used in the Old Testament, but because it is a fitting image of our relationship with Him. It is a picture of trust, a picture of being under Christ’s protection and authority. 

Now, let me ask you all a question now. How many of you enjoy and appreciate being a sheep? How is it going having a shepherd? It seems to me that if we are going to answer this truthfully that it may go well some days and terrible other days. The reason being, we enjoy the benefits of having a shepherd but deep down we really don’t want to be sheep but want to be the shepherd. In other words, how many of you think that you have control over your lives? The issue of control is really man’s struggle with God over all the ages. God says, “I’m the creator, I am in control. I am the Creator. I am the beginning and the end. I am the one that gives life, creates faith and holds the universe together.” God says that He is in control and we then say, “Now wait a minute God. Seriously, I understand you are a big shot but I am free, I am in control. I am the master and commander of my own destiny.” 

My friends, when we confess Jesus as our Shepherd we are confessing Him as Lord. When we confess Jesus as our Savior we are confessing Him as our Master. By confessing Jesus as our Shepherd we are essentially confessing our lack of control over our lives. It isn’t easy for us to confess this is it? To say that I am out of control, that I am not in charge grates against the American dream that we “can do anything we set our minds to.” To confess that we are not in control also offends our sinful nature. It offends our worth, our pride and this notion that our will is free. Now, hold with me here as I define a highly sophisticated and profound theological word in describing ourselves. When we confess that we are sheep and not the shepherd it causes us to what? It causes us to quote-unquote, “FREAK OUT.” We are control freaks are we not? Deep down we struggle praying and saying, “Thy will be done.” 

Our general tendency is that we want to put God in our debt. We want to be the shepherd and we want God to be our sheep. We want to have full reign of everything. This is the essence of the Fall of Adam and Eve where they rebelled and wanted to be like God. Rationally we think to ourselves, “I can handle this. I have a pretty good grasp on things. I have been around the block a few times.” Things can tend to go o.k. for us at times when we are running the show as the shepherd; however, we are simply not built this way. We are not made to be the shepherd. 

My friends, if we are the shepherd, and if we are in charge of our own lives that means that everything is dependent upon us. If God is the sheep and we are the shepherd, that means that the pressure of life and all that goes with it is on us. When the wolves come, it is up to us to fight for ourselves. When the food runs dry, it is up to us to find more food. When we need to find safe land to graze, it is up to us to find it. When it comes time for rest, we can’t totally rest because we will always have to sleep with one eye open to make sure that we won’t be attacked. 

The harsh reality is that even though we want to be in control and that we want to be the shepherd, we are not built this way. We don’t have what it takes to be God. We can’t defend ourselves from the Evil One. We don’t have the wisdom to find the green pasture land and we certainly are unable to die for our own sins. God forgive us for trying to be in control and for trying to be shepherds when we are simply sheep. 

The good news of the Gospel my friends is that we can take comfort and rest in the fact that we are sheep and that Jesus is our shepherd. There is rest here my friends. We get to be sheep! We can rest and take comfort because we belong to Jesus. We falter and run in the midst of attacks when we try to be the shepherd, other false shepherds run when the going gets tough but Jesus shares with us in John 10:14-15 that when the wolves come that He will not run and He will not forsake you. In Matthew 28 Jesus says that He will never leave you nor forsake you, that He will be with us to the end of the age. We belong to Jesus and that is the reason why He lays His life down for you. 

Jesus is the True Shepherd for you and me. He did not come to be served by us sheep but to serve us and give His life for a ransom for many. Think about this for a moment. What is the purpose of a shepherd in the first place? A shepherd is there for the sheep. A hired hand is there for the paycheck, but the main shepherd is there because the sheep belong to Him. He is invested in them. He knows them. He cares for them. The sheep know the shepherds voice. 

God’s love for you is shown to us clearly in the giving of Jesus. The very fact that Jesus was given to serve, ransom, claim, redeem and rescue you and I from our sin and our own attempts at trying to be the shepherd brings about our confession of, “I’m not the shepherd. I confess that I want to be in control, but I now realize that I can’t and I deceive myself into believing that I can. God thank you that you know what you are doing. Thank you for the good Shepherd that comes to me and rescues me from my own attempts of control. Thank you Jesus that you are good. Thank you that you are in control and that you are leading me beside still waters. Thank you that you restore my soul. Thank you that you lead me in paths of righteousness for your name sake. Thank you that you are with me and that your rod and your staff comfort me. Thank you that you protect me from the Evil One. Thank you that you give your life for me.” 

The reality of it my friends is that we belong to Jesus that we are His sheep and that He is our Shepherd. He leads us through the Word. We are sanctified by the Holy Spirit through the Word. He feeds us in communion. He rebukes us through the Law. He mends our wounds through the Gospel. 

As we journey in this Christian life we will continually attempt to say to God, “Let me be the shepherd. Shouldn’t I take the lead for a while? Maybe I should be in control here!” All along we can be thankful that God bears with us. When we wander He follows us. He keeps calling us by name and showing us with gentleness how foolish we are in trying to take the lead. 

We cannot forget though that the most important and the most essential thing for us to ponder from this text, that the most profound thing for us to understand in being a sheep of Jesus is that our shepherd lays down His life. He lays down His life for the safety and welfare of His flock. Jesus holds us tenderly in His arms, protecting us from everything that would destroy us. When sin, death and devil come charging at us like a pack of hungry wolves to devour and steal us away, to confine us to the hell we deserve, our Shepherd says, “Take me. Take me instead. For I am the Good Shepherd. You will not touch them nor have any authority over my sheep. They belong to me. I have promised to keep them safe. Take me instead, for I will gladly give myself to you for the sake of my sheep.” 

My friends, it is a privilege to be a sheep. We are Jesus’ sheep, we belong to Him. He knows you. May we rest in the Shepherd’s care. Amen. 

Sources: Letting Go Of Control (Alan Taylor) ~ Sermon Studies on the Gospels (NWP) ~ Why We Need A God (A Plea To Nihilistic Americans)