Sunday, May 6, 2012

On 5-13-12 John 10:7-18 will be our Adult Sunday School/Uniform Series/International Sunday School Lesson, herein is my commentary. This lesson is known by some as The Good Shepherd.

The Good Shepherd
John 10:7-18
International Sunday School Lesson
May 13, 2012

Jed Greenough

I grew up raising a flock of sheep so whenever I read the scripture from John 10 I know that it rings true.  Sheep do not have a complicated life but they are creatures of habit.  Within their own flock they have leaders who they follow as they feed and there is a hierarchy that they follow and one of their number cannot usurp that position.

Likewise the sheep know who their master is, their shepherd.  They will in fact come at their master’s voice and anyone else who tries is just wasting theirs. 

If a stranger attempted to enter their pen the nervousness they would feel would be evident but when the shepherd appeared he could move through their midst as if he were one of them.

I think that this comparison of us to sheep and Christ as the great shepherd is an apt one.  Those who are His spend time in His word and recognize His voice.  His flock wants to follow where He leads them, He can impart comfort and confidence.  Just as a ewe in difficult labor must rely on her shepherd so must we rely upon Him for help through our travails.  Just as the master over a flock knows what is best for a flock because of the mind that God has given man so is God’s knowledge of what is best for us.  And just as a predator stalks a flock so are we stalked “as our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Those are just some of the parallels that can be drawn but there are also places that they cannot.  Unlike the sheep in a flock we have a complicated life.  We have other leaders that we follow unlike the sheep we have people who have gone against the natural leadership that should be followed.

In the case of the Jews that is what happened with the Pharisees and the high priests.  Those leaders had become thieves and robbers who destroyed by their lack of godly leadership and like the hired hand who doesn’t own the sheep.  No one cared for the people as a true shepherd would his flock.

Fortunately for us Christ is the shepherd.  Though we were sheep that were not of the original sheep pen we have heard and listened to His voice. But…the Bible tells us that there will be another.  2 Thessalonians 2 tells us of the man of lawlessness and elsewhere in John 5:43, “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him.”

The following quote is an extensive one but vital to our scripture from today:

Zechariah 11:4-17

4 This is what the LORD my God says: “Pasture the flock marked for slaughter. 5 Their buyers slaughter them and go unpunished. Those who sell them say, ‘Praise the LORD, I am rich!’ Their own shepherds do not spare them. 6 For I will no longer have pity on the people of the land,” declares the LORD. “I will hand everyone over to his neighbor and his king. They will oppress the land, and I will not rescue them from their hands.”
 7 So I pastured the flock marked for slaughter, particularly the oppressed of the flock. Then I took two staffs and called one Favor and the other Union, and I pastured the flock. 8 In one month I got rid of the three shepherds.

   The flock detested me, and I grew weary of them 9 and said, “I will not be your shepherd. Let the dying die, and the perishing perish. Let those who are left eat one another’s flesh.”

 10 Then I took my staff called Favor and broke it, revoking the covenant I had made with all the nations. 11 It was revoked on that day, and so the afflicted of the flock who were watching me knew it was the word of the LORD.

 12 I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.

 13 And the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the handsome price at which they priced me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD to the potter.

 14 Then I broke my second staff called Union, breaking the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.

 15 Then the LORD said to me, “Take again the equipment of a foolish shepherd. 16 For I am going to raise up a shepherd over the land who will not care for the lost, or seek the young, or heal the injured, or feed the healthy, but will eat the meat of the choice sheep, tearing off their hoofs.

 17 “Woe to the worthless shepherd,
   who deserts the flock!
May the sword strike his arm and his right eye!
   May his arm be completely withered,
   his right eye totally blinded!”

But again as it said in John 5:43 above, they or is it “we” will accept him.  Why is the discernment of men sometimes worse than sheep?  Christ said in the first verse for today that He was the gate.  If we go through that gate we will be as sheep entering a pasture receiving all we will ever need.  The Jewish people had leaders similar to what we can have today.  Like them we will be in essence killed and destroyed just as a thief would do a flock.

I think I would be remiss if I didn’t take this all the way and say examine those you follow.  Examine what you hear and what you want to hear from these leaders.  Can you take what they offer from sermons to curriculum and compare it to the teaching of Christ and the Apostles?  Do those things sound like Christ’s voice?  I pray so and encourage you then to follow away little flock.  But what if what you hear and see bears very little resemblance to His voice?  What if what you hear is what someone thinks you want to hear, the old itching ears syndrome you know?  There has been lots of entering into the sheep pen by some other way than the gate.  The real sheep would run when they saw that.  What will you do?

I say you are not really sheep, contend for the faith!

For Discussion:

1.      What are your favorite shepherd scriptures outside of John 10?  The 23rd Psalm and 1 Peter 5:1-4 are two of my favorites.
2.      Discuss who is most likely to follow a false leader.
3.      Based on a quick review of shepherd qualities from the Bible discuss the characteristics of a good shepherd of the people.
4.      Christ said, “I am the gate.”  Therefore it is only through Him that we may gain admittance.  I pray that you don’t but you probably do have those who think otherwise in your midst.  Discuss.
5.      Verse 8 is difficult to understand.  Get people’s viewpoints.
6.      It might be hard to believe but a shepherd knows each of his sheep.  Of course so does Christ.
7.      See if you think that chapter 10 is a continuation of the discussion Jesus was having with the Pharisees at the conclusion of chapter 9.  It appears from verses 19-21 that it was and so it is vital that those who lead place themselves in the role of a Pharisee for self-examination purposes when reading this passage.

Upcoming Adult Sunday School Class Commentaries

5-20-12:  The Resurrection and the Life John 11:17-27 or John 11:17-27, 41-44
5-27-12:  The Way, the Truth, and the Life John 14:1-14
6-3-12:    Rules for Just Living (Practice Justice) Exodus 23:1-9
6-10-12:  Living as God’s Just People Leviticus 19:9-18, 33-37

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved

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