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Jun 7 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 6, 2010

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. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. John 10:14-16  

INTRO: Do you know anything about caring for sheep?
I know nothing about it, but I found an informative  website regarding feeding, sheltering and raising sheep  

Paul Johnson, “I believe he was for some time a shepherd. Sheep and their care are so pervasive in his sayings, and the nature of the Good Shepherd so central to his teaching, that I think this calling had a special place not only in his experience but in his affection. Those rough men who crowded round his crib at birth made him, as it were, and honorary shepherd for life.”
– William Barclay, greatly enhanced our appreciation for this passage by providing important details regarding shepherding in his commentary on John
– Philip Keller did the same thing several years ago in his popular book, A Shepherd Looks At the Twenty-third Psalm  

My point is that the distance between our lives and that of a shepherd’s life in ancient Israel is symbolic: We live in a very different world from that of Jesus, both in time and culture
– yet the Christian life is defined as being a follower of Jesus and knowing him
– and as we saw last week, it is through knowing Jesus that we come to know ourselves  

There are two big challenges to knowing Jesus today:  

  1. We can’t develop a relational knowledge with people from history
    – Even those present didn’t understand him (v. 6)
    – We stand at an even greater distance from understanding him than they did
  2. We cannot develop a relational knowledge with a transcendent being
    – that is, someone who is not physically present to us

So how can we know Jesus?  

Jesus had us in mind when he says, “I have other sheep”
So there must be some way for us to get to know him today  

Does Jesus give us any hints? 
I think so–in fact, I think he gives us at least six hints

  1. He tells a story
    Story is the fundamental starting point of consciousness
    – we once believed that language made consciousness possible
    – today, neuroscience tells us how the brain “makes sense” of our perceptual experience
    Antonio Damasio, “Consciousness begins when brains acquire the power, the simple power I must add, of telling a story without words, the story that there is life ticking away in an organism . . . When the story is first told . . . knowledge about what the organism is living through automatically emerges as the answer to a question never asked. From that moment on, we begin to know”
      (1) we live in a world of story – the way we view of reality is in the form of a story
      (2) the purpose of Jesus’ parables was to enlarge our story
    – Question: What were NT writers trying to do for us?
    Galatians 3:1, “before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed”
    1 John 1:1-3, “what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands . . . we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ”
    – Answer: To share with us the experience of Jesus, and through that experience we get to know Jesus
  2. He tells us that the sheep “know his voice” (v. 4)
    Even an author has a recognizable voice
    – the more familiar we are with the gospels, more we learn to recognize the voice of Jesus
    – also, we can get to know others by really listening to them
  3. He tells us he is “the door of the sheep”
    In the Hebrew Scriptures, the doorway is place of encounter with God (Ex. 29:42-43)
    – everyone has threshold experiences–panic, need, surprise, joy, contentment
    – we’ve felt Jesus come near to us in threshold–eon’t let go of that experience without contemplating it
  4. He tells us he is the good shepherd
    He values his sheep above his own life
    This is reminiscent of Psalm 23
    – we get to know Jesus in worship
    Luke 24:35, “their eyes were opened and they knew Him”
  5. He tells us that he knows us and calls us by name
    He is the one who knows us – better than we know ourselves
    Notice that Jesus doesn’t reveal or identify himself through theological formulas
    – i.e., the “Doctrine of the two natures of Christ”
    – rather, he reveals himself according to who he is to us and what he does for us; he “leads” us and he meets our needs
  6. He tells us that he gives us life
    That this life is “abundant” and “eternal” (vv. 10 & 28)

This is a lot!
But it isn’t enough
Why not?
Because all this helps us only to get acquainted with him
– Knowing him comes through being with him
– So, in a way, we come back to where we started 

Imagine a conversation between three people:

  • The Atheist: I cannot know Jesus. I’ve never seen or met this person
  • The Agnostic: I’m not sure that I know Jesus. I’ve felt him close at times, but I’ve also felt abandoned, forgotten, rejected
  • The Believer: I know him. Like St. Paul, this person can say, “I know whom I have believed” and I’ve given up everything to spend the rest of my life getting to know him even better (1 Tim. 1:12; Php. 3:7-12) 

Now I want you to imagine that you are all three of these people:

  • your intellect is the atheist – it can only know by sense experience and reasoning from that
  • your emotions are the agnostic
  • your spirit is the believer

That is where we need to go–to the spirit–to get to know Jesus by being with him
In 1 Corinthians, chapter two, Paul says that the spiritual person knows what natural person cannot
There are “things which the eye has not seen” that we must learn, so we need another way of knowing than with the eyes
– in the case of a blind person, the other senses can be intensified
– but in this regard, all of our physical senses are useless  

We come back to Nicodemus, “How can a man be born when he is old?”
Jesus’s answer was not an answer – he did not explain “how”
– there is no “how” – no method, no “steps”
– it is a mystery and something that God’s Spirit does in our spirit 

What this means:
We have to believe in him before we can know him
– it’s the great paradox of Xianity, but there’s no getting around it

“Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” John 20:29

Again, Jesus was talking about us
Thomas could have believed on the authority of witnesses
– he could have, because it was exactly what Jesus had predicted
– he could have because it would have been true to what Thomas knew of Jesus

Faith can give us a direct experience of the Jesus who is unseen, yet here
– an exerience of him that transcends our intellect and by-passes our senses

1 Peter 1:8, “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory”

CONC: I don’t think anything will present a greater challenge to our life in God than getting to know Jesus

When Paul talked about knowing Jesus, he said, “I press on”
That is exactly what it takes

Hosea 6:3, “So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD”

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