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Subtitle: 
Easter Sunday
Speaker: 
John Piper
Date Given: 
April 11, 1993

I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his
life for the sheep. He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who
is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the wolf coming, and leaves
the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters
them. He flees because he is a hireling, and is not concerned about
the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know my own, and my own
know me, even as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I
lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, which are
not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear my
voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd. For this
reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may
take it again. No one has taken it away from me, but I lay it down
on my own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have
authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from my
Father.

The Difference Between Renters and Owners 

The interest rates on home loans are lower than they have been
in years and so the housing market is hot. In March sales were 20%
ahead of the same month last year. 5,588 homes were sold last month
in the Twin Cities. One of the things people think about when
houses are selling around them is not just who will live next door,
but will they be renters or owners? Will the owner of the house
next door be an absentee landlord, or will he be a homesteader in
the building?

Now why does that matter? Well, as a matter of fact it may not
matter in any given case. But statistically it matters because
homesteaders tend to take better care of their property than
renters do. It's not a good commentary on human nature, but in
general it's true. Kids get a lot more angry about the misuse of
their own bikes than they do about their misuse of other's. And
adults are a lot more likely to throw trash out the window of their
car than they are to throw it in their own backyard.

Our standards for our own homes and our own car and our own toys
and our own tools is higher than our standards for the things of
others. That's not good. It's one of the things Jesus came into the
world to change (Matthew 7:12; Philippians 2:3–5). But that's the
way human nature is apart from the transforming grace of God
through Jesus Christ. And Jesus knew it and used it to contrast his
commitment to his own sheep with the commitment of hired help.

The Shepherd, the Sheep, and the Hireling 

He pictures himself in this text as a shepherd. And he pictures
his people as the sheep that he owns and cares about. And in verses
12–13 he contrasts the way the owner responds to wolves and the way
the hired help responds.

The Hireling

He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner
of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and
flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters them. He flees
because he is a hireling, and is not concerned about the sheep.

To the hireling sheep-tending is just a job. (It's just rental
property, not a homestead.) They don't really care about the sheep.
They are doing this to earn a living, not because they love sheep.
And so they say, "No job is worth your life. If you're just working
for a living, then you sure don't need a job that might kill you."
So if a pack of wolves attacks your sheep, and you're just a hired
hand, you run. You don't risk your life and fight the wolves. Who
cares about a few sheep?

Who cares if the place gets trashed; it's not our house anyway.
We understand these hired hands. We've dished it out ourselves at
times, and we've had it dished out to us at times.

The Good Shepherd

But the reason Jesus mentions these hired hands is to show that
he's not like that. He's not a hired hand. He's the good shepherd
and the owner of the sheep. Verse 14: "I am the good shepherd; and
I know my own, and my own know me."

The difference is that the hired hand loves his life more than
the sheep, but Jesus loves his sheep more than his life. Four times
in this passage Jesus says he lays down his life for the sheep.
Verse 11: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his
life for the sheep." Verse 15b: "I lay down my life for the sheep."
Verse 17: "For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down
my life." Verse 18: "No one has taken [my life] away from me, but I
lay it down on my own initiative."

So Jesus is not a hired hand, because the sheep belong to him
and because he loves the sheep more than he loves his own life.

When he sees the wolves coming, he does not leave the sheep to be
destroyed. He fights the wolves and saves the sheep. And in doing
it, he lays down his life for the sheep.

What's This Really About? 

So what's this really talking about? What does it have to do
with us? If we are the sheep that he loves, what are the wolves?
What is it that threatens to destroy us?

Three Destroying Wolves

There are at least three things—three destroying wolves—mentioned in
the gospel of John. Three wolves that Jesus lays down his life to
save us from.

First there is the wolf of sin: John 1:29 says of Jesus, "Behold
the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world." Sin is a
wolf that destroys the world and cuts us off from God. And Jesus
came into the world to draw the wolf of sin off the world onto
himself, and to die in the place of his sheep. When the good
shepherd sacrifices himself for the flock, he becomes like a Lamb
and bears the sin of many (Isaiah 53:6–12).

The second and third wolves are death and divine judgment. Death
is a great destroyer. It attacks and destroys everyone, great and
small, rich and poor, men and women, every race, every creed. It is
an omnivorous wolf of destruction. And after death comes judgment:
"It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment"
(Hebrews 9:27). Death does not destroy by ending what we had
planned in this life and leading to nothingness. It destroys by
ending what we had planned in this life and leading us into the
courtroom of God Almighty whose law we have broken and whose glory
we have despised (Romans 3:23).

Jesus Lays Down His Life to Destroy Them

But Jesus is not a weak shepherd. When those three wolves threaten
his sheep, he lays down his life to destroy them and to save us from
them. He says in John 5:24,

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word, and
believes him who sent me, has eternal life, and does not come into
judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

When Jesus laid down his life for the sheep, he saved us from
three destroying wolves: sin and death and judgment. He saw them
coming; he went out to meet them; he drew them away from the flock
and gave his life to kill them and take away their power so that
they could not destroy the flock.

Are the Sheep Left Shepherdless?

But now, if the story ended here, there would be a great problem.
If a flock of sheep lose their shepherd because he laid down his
life to save them from a pack of wolves, they are now shepherdless.
And even if no more wolves come, they will sooner or later run out
of green pasture and wander away into the desert valleys of death
and perish. And in the end they will not be saved. And the death of
the shepherd will have been in vain.

But the story doesn't end with a mangled shepherd lying dead
among three dead wolves, and sheep scattered thirsting and starving
in the desert. Verse 18 tells us why:

No one has taken [my life] away from me, but I lay it down
on my own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have
authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from my
Father.

Jesus' Authority and Jesus' Triumph

When Jesus came into the world to save his sheep from sin and
death and judgment, he came with a commandment from his Father in
heaven. The commandment was that he should die for sinners and rise
again. And with the commandment came the authority to do it. "I
have authority to lay down my life, and I have authority to take it
up again."

He decided by his own authority when he would give himself into
the jaws of sin and death and judgment. And after he had lain among
the slain for three days, he alone had the authority to take back
his life again.

And when he did, it became clear for all who would see that the
battle had not been a draw: with sin and death and judgment just as
triumphant as Jesus—with them dead and him dead, even-steven. No.
He alone had authority as the Son of God to take back his life. And
therefore he alone was triumphant. Sin and death and judgment can
never again destroy the sheep of Jesus.

The Sheep Have a Shepherd

But not only that; the sheep now have a shepherd. Christianity
is not merely being saved from sin and death and judgment; it also
means having a living shepherd to guide you and feed you and heal
you and protect you and help you love. The words of verse 14 are
astonishing, if you've ever dreamed of a deep, deep, deep
relationship: "I know  my own, and my own know me, even as the
Father knows me and I know the Father." Jesus took his life back
again from death so that he might have that kind of personal
relationship with all his sheep: "I know them and they know me; and
the relationship that we enjoy is like the relationship between God
the Son and God the Father." And there is no deeper, nor more
satisfying, relationship in the world than the eternal relationship
between God the Father and God the Son.

The Shepherd Has a Worldwide Mission to Fulfill

But there is more. He took back his life from sin and death and
judgment not only to prove that he, and not they, was triumphant,
and not only to give himself to his sheep in the deepest personal
relationship, but also because he now has a worldwide mission to
fulfill with the
very authority with which he rose from the dead.
Verse 16:

And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must
bring them also, and they shall hear my voice; and they shall
become one flock with one shepherd.

Jesus didn't come into the world to lay down his life only for a
few Jewish disciples in Palestine. He has other sheep that are not
of that fold. He has sheep in Antioch, and Athens, and Rome, and
Cairo, and London, and New York, and Mexico City, and Sao Paulo, and
Tokyo, and Manila, and Sydney, and Singapore, and Jakarta, and Beijing,
and Calcutta, and Kabul, and Tehran, and Moscow, and Minneapolis.

And he is not in the grave waiting to see if there might be
enough recruits to bring him out. He is the living Shepherd,
triumphant over death, and with authority over all the world to
gather his own sheep from all the peoples of the world. After his
resurrection he said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has
been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations"
(Matthew 28:18–19).

The Shepherd Cannot Be Defeated

And because he moves now through the world with the very
authority that raised him from the dead, he cannot be defeated. His
sheep will hear his voice and they will become one flock with one
shepherd. The Christian movement began with a dozen blue-collar men
filled with the love and the Spirit of the risen Christ, and today
1.3 billion people from every country of the world give some kind
of allegiance to Jesus Christ. And we are perhaps only a few years
away from seeing sheep gathered from every one of the 24,000 people
groups in the world. The risen Christ cannot fail. He reigns by
virtue of an indestructible life, with absolute authority over
every created reality.

Are You One of Christ's Sheep? 

And so the utterly crucial question for each of us this morning
is this: Are we his sheep? Are you one of Christ's sheep today?
That is, do you hear his voice? Do you follow him? Do you trust in
his saving work and promise of life? This is what it means to be
his sheep. John 10:27–28,

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me;
and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and
no one shall snatch them out of my hand.

I plead with every one of you this morning: Listen to the voice
of Jesus, and follow him when he calls you to trust him. You will
not come into judgment but will pass from death into life (John
5:24).

© 2014 Bethlehem Baptist Church