Sunday 22nd April, 2018
1 John 3:16-24
Hymn of meditation: PH 549
I am one of Jesus’ lambs,
In this blessing I rejoice.
I have Christ as Shepherd in life,
In Him I have all I need here.
Jesus knows me and loves me,
And He calls me by my name.
I am very grateful to the Lord for what He has done for me. Kindly permit me to tell Him…
Majie oyi, mi Nyonmo ee
Jiemo Nuntso gbei le yi, mi susuma
Dromo nikeenii ni je Tse Ofe le den
Hewo mibii nyekaa mi nyekwea
Ake migbeleee nwei sanfeji anaa
Koni mana ane ashwie nye no
Immediately, shepherd is mentioned, the next thing that comes to mind is the sheep, and so today I want us to take a look at the sheep and what makes Christ the Good Shepherd. If you don’t have or own a sheep you certainly would have seen one before in your neighbourhood. There are certain characteristics of sheep that we also see in human beings; when you let it out, sometimes it doesn’t go out but will stay in there and begin to jump and do its own thing; and sometimes when it goes out, it does not come back until you go out to look for it. You may find it wounded somewhere because it went out to cause trouble, dead because it had been hit by a vehicle or seized by another man wanting a ransom for any damages it has caused, or you may even be threatened by certain men for the harm your sheep has caused, creating disputes between neighbours.
For those who drive, we might have encountered sheep crossing our way on some occasions, causing us to slam on our brakes, sometimes somersaulting the vehicle while the sheep in question continues its ‘majestic walk’ across. Beloved, this is exactly how our human lives are.
How many times has God not talked to us? What are the commandments? What are we doing with what He tells us? We always go wayward but He never leaves us. A good shepherd, no matter the frustration the sheep gives him, always continues to be a good shepherd unless, like the reading said, he is a hired man.
Three things are eminent in the characteristics of every good shepherd:
- He cares for the flock
- Protects the sheep
- He provides for the sheep
In ancient times, and in some few areas around modern-day Palestine, shepherding was a full-time job. The shepherd goes to the pen of the sheep in the morning to call out his flock. Each shepherd has a unique way of calling his sheep, the shepherd takes them out for food, water, rest them and brings them back to the pen. Some of the shepherds are owners of the sheep whiles others are hired. It is expected of the shepherd to protect the sheep once they are out of the pen.
The anchor that is usually at the end of every shepherd’s staff has a very unique purpose. Their lands have numerous valleys into which the sheep sometimes fall. The shepherd kneels, does whatever possible and uses the anchor staff to bring the sheep back up again. There are also wolves and other wild animals who would come to devour the sheep; the shepherd defends the sheep with his very life. After feeding the sheep , the shepherd looks for water and a resting place so their long journey back would be smooth.
Someone who is hired to look after someone else’s flock may take the sheep out and the sheep may not want to be in line and follow orders or eat what the hired man offers. These sometimes makes the hired man grow tired of caring for the sheep. Some of the sheep fall into the valley and are neglected because of the risk in rescuing them.
…but Christ is described as the good shepherd because:
- Christ Cares:
He cares so much for us that when we want to go wayward, He calls us back unto Himself. He does all that he can so no one will be left out. When everyone despised the woman in John 4 (the Samaritan woman), nobody wanted to talk to her or listen to her story. Others branded her with so many names but Christ went to her rescue. He descended to her level and was able to get the woman to tell others about salvation. When Zacchaeus was branded a thief in the community, Christ brought salvation to his house and dined with him.
People may be doing unthinkable things to us but if Christ could do all these for you and me then we can also do same for our fellows.
- Christ Provides for us:
He assured us in Matthew 7:7 that “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you”. He knew we will need a lot of things. Christ is aware we can’t do anything without His support, He knows that without Him in our vessel we cannot get anywhere and so He tells us to ask and it will be given unto us. Beloved, what are you asking? Abraham named that mount Jehovah Jireh because God provided for the sacrifices in the nick of time. Have that faith and it will work for you too.
- Christ Protects us:
In Isaiah 43 He promises us “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze”.
His protection is ever faithful, ever sure, ever present wherever we find ourselves. Have you ever stopped a minute to think about how you go to work and come back? Do you think it’s because you are an expert in driving? Do you know how you wake up from sleep each morning? These are not automatic; it is always because Christ has been there for you and He sent His angels to fight numerous unseen battles on our behalf.
Beloved in the Lord, why and how did He do it? 1 John 3 tells us it is because He loves us – “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him”.
Yet another quality of the good shepherd. He loved us and has not stopped loving us; He still loves us. This love is not the mere four-letter word ‘L-O-V-E’. This love goes beyond love for friends and spouses. When everything else says “I can’t do it anymore”, this love alone says “yes, I can”. Love that never fights for itself or fights against anybody, love that does not remember past mistakes, love that come deep down from the heart and the innermost part of the body.
Christ was despised. He was brought before the Council and falsely accused yet He went on the cross to save us. Christ emptied Himself of all except love. If it were you and I, we would have given up saying “the same people I came to save are the very same doing this to me”. The same Council did same to Peter and the Apostles.
Beloved, Christ sent me this morning to tell you that you can also be a good shepherd, because that love has been imbibed in you; you have it in you. We only need to exercise it despite the number of times you have been hurt. In contrast to this, God warned the people in Ezekiel 34 that the people have refused to take care of the sheep so He the Lord will come forth to do it by Himself.
Ezekiel 34:3-10 “You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them. ….This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.”
We can be good shepherds if we take away the back biting and slandering from our midst and our heart. We can do it if we stop looking at the bad mistakes that someone may have committed. We can do it when we focus on Christ. This is the love David saw in the Lord towards him (David) in Psalm 23. If you lack the strength to do anything, go to God. If you lack the capacity to accomplish something go to God because He will supply all that you need and lead you to the living water that you need so you can also give to others. He will never leave nor forsake you. He’s waiting on you to respond “I am ready to do it”.
He is the Good Shepherd who protects, provides and cares. You may say I am not the leader of the church or any group but I believe you have siblings and people working under you or leading in a way. Whichever way it is and in whatever capacity, feed them, bind their wounds and make sure they are resting, bring them back into the fold and you will be qualified as a good shepherd. May the Lord give unto us as we have asked.