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Oct 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 28, 2012 – John 10:17-18

Why Did Jesus Say That?

For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so 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 John 10:17-18

INTRO: In another week, our government will ask us to cast our vote in the presidential election

If we can get past our pet issues and campaign promises, in a quiet moment we might ask ourselves
“Of the two main candidates, which one really knows and cares about me?”
– like the pressure I feel when I come home to a stack of bills on the counter?
• or when my friend or child can’t find job that pays enough to cover rent?
• and I don’t make enough to be able to help?

Of course, the election is not about me
– and neither is it about the millions of people like me
• its about economics, national policies, foreign affairs, and giant corporations
– still, the candidates are trying to make it sound like the election is about me
• but neither candidate has any idea of what my life is like
• their children will never face trying to support a family of five on $15.00 an hour
• they’ll never feel the pressures that their signature will place on me

As for myself, I represent a class of spiritual leaders
-do we have a better understanding or greater empathy for the average person?
– I’ve been reading up on the history of monks and monasteries from the fourth century to the present
• it’s amazing how little concern spiritual leaders demonstrate toward people
○ from priests and abbots to bishops and  popes
• their leadership is mostly about controlling people–their beliefs, business, marriages, and entire lives
– a vision typical of many Protestant ministers is that of building an audience or healthy donor base

It’s not quite accurate to say Jesus’ teaching and model of leadership was revolutionary
– perhaps it would be more accurate to describe it as ridiculous
• the person he called a leader, we would call a servant, an assistant, or a valet
– for example . . .

Jesus described a spiritual leader with a “figure of speech” (v. 6)

The analogy he used was that of a shepherd (vv. 1-16)
– the following points he made are worth our careful attention

  1. Who is not a spiritual leader
    – someone without direct or legitimate access to the “sheep”
    • the person who seizes control of the sheep is a thief and robber
    – the true leader belongs in that position – has legitimate access
    • such a person is a leader for the simple reason that he has followers
  2. The spiritual leader is recognized as such
    – first, by gatekeepers – those concerned for the safety of the followers
    – then by the followers themselves (they know his voice)
    • they recognize him as someone who cares for them
    • he’s not a “stranger” who has to sell himself to them
  3. The spiritual leader calls and leads the followers
    – in fact, calls them “by name” – he knows them
    – “leads them out” – out of their present knowledge, experience
    • into a fuller understanding and experience of God
  4. The spiritual leader is the protection of the followers
    – he is the “door” (v. 7) – he keeps them safe within – “no one will snatch them out of My hand” (v. 28)
    – he prevents thieves and users from coming in
    • those who just want their money, their votes, etc.
  5. The spiritual leader is “the good” leader – “of beautiful or noble character”
  6. The spiritual leader gives his followers life
    – “abundant life” in v. 10 and “eternal life” in v. 28
  7. The spiritual leader gives his life for his followers
    – the hired hand watches the sheep for a paycheck
    • he doesn’t care about the sheep or their safety
    – the leader Jesus describes cares more for his followers than himself

Which brings us to vv. 17-18

Why did Jesus say that?

When Jesus looked in their faces and told them about the good shepherd, what was he seeing? or feeling?
– what compelled Jesus to say that he lays down his life?

I think he said it because:

  1. He knew it was only way to close the gap between God and us
    – this can be confusing because we don’t get whole concept of sacrifice
    – let’s just say, we needed proof of God’s ultimate love for us
    • until we had that, we couldn’t know that we could trust and love him
  2. He knew if didn’t give his life, his death would be meaningless
    – three times, when talking about his death, Jesus referred to being “lifted up”
    • the reference is ambiguous – the Greek word can be taken literally or metaphorically (exalted)
    – for Jesus, it was both – his literal crucifixion, yet the hour of his glory (Jn. 12:23; 13:31-32; 17:1)
  3. He wanted them to know he chose to give his life for them
    – he was not a victim
    – he had “authority” over his life — cf. Jn. 2:18-22
    • Pilate’s delusion
    So Pilate said, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him . . .” (Jn. 19:10-14)
    He wanted to let them know what they meant to him
    – Jesus wants us to know what we mean to him
    Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you”- he wanted to reiterate the fact of his love and God’s love (Jn. 15:13-14)
    • perhaps, now that he was so close to the cross, he also wanted to comfort himself in the Father’s love
  4. He wanted us to feel watched over and protected
    – here is the leader who is concerned about you and your fears
    • if he tells us not to worry, it’s because God knows all about us and he cares

Is it naive to put our trust in Jesus – for our daily bread? our daily troubles?
– is it naive to choose awareness over anxiety?
• to keep our eyes open for the opportunity our heavenly Father brings our way?
• to prepare ourselves to be ready to respond to the opportunity, because we don’t know the day or hour when he may come?

Psalm 23 is probably the world’s favorite psalm — most printed and read passage at funerals
– it makes us feel cared for
– Jesus stands on the other side of the beautiful image of this psalm
PSALM: “The LORD is my shepherd”
JESUS: “I am the good shepherd”
– “You are cared for; you are loved,” Jesus says, “I lay down my life for you”

There’s an important question we have to ask ourselves

If Jesus is our spiritual leader, and he laid down his life for us, are we supposed to follow him in this way also?
– do we have to lay down our lives?

The answer is yes, of course
– that’s his point in 13:13-15 – our teacher and Lord set an example for us

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 Jn. 3:16)

– the life we lay down is the self-centered and self-indulgent life

When we sit in silence,
– it is not only an opportunity to quiet our thoughts
• but to trace those thoughts back to the (sarchotic) “self”
– our distractions usually spring from the restless self
• its only concerns are its pleasures and pains, its gains and losses
• to be silent is to deprive the self from having a voice
○ to deny its claim on our soul
– but silencing our thoughts is only tearing up the weeds
• silencing the self is going after the roots so weeds don’t grow back

CONC: Most of us know that sometimes our souls dry up

Even though we know all about Jesus’ love and sacrificial death, it doesn’t move us
– it doesn’t seem big enough to help us deal with real-life issues
– we’d rather gossip than pray, argue doctrine than read our Bibles
• every day is the same chores and frustrations that tie us in knots
• or our circumstances go south and we get angry at God
“Why don’t You fix this? And if You don’t, I guess I’m on my own!”

Every once in awhile, we have to reboot our hearts
– to slow ourselves down and force a moment’s pause
• to return and relive the life that Jesus endured
• to meditate on what went through his mind–in garden, on cross
○ and the fact that he chose to take this path for us
– he hasn’t abandoned us – he paid too much for us

Can a woman forget her nursing child
And have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.
Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.
Isaiah 49:14-16

The God who has come to us in Jesus is worthy of our praise, our love, and our trust

One Comment

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  1. Linda Emerson / Nov 1 2012

    Thank you for this respectful, gentle and thoughtful meditation on the heart of a leader. An affirmation and confirmation…

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