Sermon – November 24, 2019
Shepherds were not how we might picture them today. We often think of shepherds as being somewhat soft or effeminate, but they were hardly that. Shepherds are much closer to our modern myth of the cowboy than to the gentle pictures of a smiling, clean man holding a luxuriously soft sheep in his arms. In both pictures, the weak and the strong, are wrong in certain respects, yet speak the truth in others. How are we to think of Jesus as our Good Shepherd? Today, as Jesus furthers his instruction from the metaphor of 10:1-6, we can see how a Good Shepherd loves his sheep.
1. His love is priceless
The love that Jesus has for his sheep is not simply worth a lot, like a priceless work of art. Rather, it is not for sale at all. There is no price. He is not like the hired hand, working only for his own gain, and not caring for the sheep. He loves simply because he loves. So should we! Let us act like our good Shepherd toward one another, and not as hired hands.
2. His love is personal
He loves each of his sheep, and knows them by name. But, what is more, is that he dies for each of them, sacrificially, even as he dies for them all. Jesus is not like a soldier who dies for his country as a whole; rather, he dies for each of his sheep individually all at once. He knows you, and loves you, intimately and personally.
3. His love is particular
He also loves us particularly. It is not that he doesn’t love the world, and all who are in the world, for he does. But he has a particular love for his sheep, those who hear his voice, follow him, and are of his flock. These are who he dies for. He doesn’t die for the sheep that are not his, for they are not his to die for. In this sense, his love is quite particular.
4. His love is planetary
Yet, this must be balanced by the fact that Jesus does indeed love the whole world. He has sheep in other pens – Gentiles – who will hear his call and come follow him. He dies for all his sheep, Greeks and Barbarians, wise and foolish, free and slave, male and female. The great multitude surrounding his throne and praising him forever will speak to the greatness of his love.
5. His love is permanent
The love that the Father has for the son is not conditional, as some might take v. 17 to imply. Rather, the Father loves the Son precisely because he both lays down his life AND takes it up again. Here, we see the love of the Trinity – the Son showing the honor and glory of the Father through his wholesale obedience even to the point of laying down his life, and the Father through the resurrection, justifying every great claim the Son has made. The Son loves the Father and shows it in his obedience; the Father loves the Son and shows it by the honor of the resurrection. Our redemption is caught up in this – both love us because both love each other more. This is what makes his love for us permanent – not because we are lovely, but by being found in Jesus, the Father could love nothing more.