Sermon on Jesus the Good Shepherd
The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman
John 10: 11 - 18
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."
One Shepherd – One Sheep herd
Question: What has 6LL3 got to do with today’s gospel reading?
Answer: It’s nearly 10 years ago that we heard the news about Dolly the Sheep, or 6LL3 as she was scientifically known, had been born on 5 July 1996
For some people it was a big issue, breaking new ground in the area of cloning with all the implications that carried, both positive and negative
For some it was less important, they couldn’t understand all the fuss. All sheep look alike anyway so what was so important and groundbreaking about creating one sheep that was the same as another?
But were we, as some people proposed, playing at being God by manipulating DNA, the very stuff that we are all made of, and creating flocks of sheep (clones)
10 years later cloning has moved on but the image of Dolly the sheep, or 6LL3, will remain with us for a long time
But what makes is all the more fascinating is the linkage that was made between the image of playing God and having responsibility for the outcome of sheep – because the theme of God looking after His sheep, the people of his flock, goes back thousands of years
Jacob, in his prayer for Joseph refers to ‘the God who has been my shepherd’ (Gen 48 v 15) and throughout the Old Testament the Kings of Israel and Judah were shepherds on God’s behalf and it was because of their general corruption that Ezekiel had prophesied that God would personally come to be their shepherd.
And in the gospel reading today we see God's desire to shepherd His people, to look after his sheep, wherever they have come from, personally being fulfilled.
What Ezekiel expected to be exercised by God is now accomplished in Jesus.
And Jesus' care for his sheep is perfect and total (a more accurate translation than just good)
He shepherds the flock at the cost of laying down his own life for them
In some ways this is the reverse of what we might expect. Ordinarily in biblical times it was the sheep that were sacrificed not the shepherd. But in Jesus we have no ordinary shepherd!
And its because He laid down His life for us on the cross at Easter looking at the story of the good shepherd is appropriate for the Easter season
And in laying down his life for us, in being the good shepherd, He says He will never leave us. Unlike the fickle kings of he Old Testament who were often more interested in their own power and glory or unlike the hired hands who ran away at any sign of trouble, Jesus will not let us down and will never leave us.
Technically Dolly didn’t have a name, she had a number – 6LL3
Jesus tells us that He knows each one of us, were more than a number, He knows us by name and calls to each on of us
In Jesus’ time the flocks of sheep were much smaller and the shepherd would be able to call to his sheep and they would recognise his voice and follow him, even if different flocks were intermingled and mixed up
Jesus says to us that we should be able to recognise his voice when He speaks to us, even among all the other voices we might hear
Sometimes we hear Jesus’ voice in the things we hear at church and the things we read about Him in the bible
Sometimes we hear Jesus’ voice speaking directly to us, as if it’s a person standing next to us. Often its useful to check with others to be certain we’ve really heard Jesus in these cases and make sure we’ve not misheard Him because recognising someone’s voice can take time, we need to practice to listening to it
And just as Jesus looks after us, so we are to look after each other
We are called to be as caring and perfect as He was, to be as caring for others as He was
To be as open to others as He was, to be the shepherd of those who are not like us but to go out of our way to reach them with our faith and what we believe so that they can come into the fold of God’s love
We have one shepherd and we should be one sheep herd