Why did Jesus come? We have seen a different answer to that question over the last four weeks. His coming was pointed to a specific purpose, and yet that purpose is multifaceted, like the point of a diamond. Today we see that he came that we might have life.
There are so many failed attempt to gain life. We lived in Florida for six years and one of my favorite things to do there wasn’t the beach or disney but visiting the natural springs. Florida sits on top of an underground water system call an aquifer. There are springs where this crystal clear water comes up out of the water is the mouth of a large river. Its amazing to see. One of my favorite Springs was Deleon Springs, which is named after the explorer Ponce de Leon, who was supposedly trying to find the fountain of youth. People told us the park was named after him because when he found it he thought he discovered the fountain of youth. I don’t know how true it is but the spring was a beautiful sight, and I could see why he would have thought that. But its just another creek; not a source of life. So many attempts at life can disappoint. Jesus tells us he came that we might have it, and he is the only one that does not disappoint.
We are in a Christmas series studying why Jesus came. Let me help you understand where we are in the Bible today. Last week we studied John 9 and saw Jesus came for judgment. Judgement is encouraging as we think about suffering wrong in the world. Jesus saying he came for judgment occurs when a man blind from birth is healed, and then the people looking to discredit Jesus bind together to unjustly condemn the healed man and kick him out of their society.
Today’s passages comes from John 10. It obviously follows on the heels of John 9. The blind man has been cast out, Jesus comes to him and tells him it is for judgment that he came. Judgement is encouraging to hear when you have been wronged, but not so encouraging if you are the one doing the wrong. The pharisees, the religious leaders of the time, inquire what this judgment is. Specifically they ask what Jesus meant when he said he came that so those who do not see may see and those who see may become blind (v39).
Jesus gives two more explanations of who he is and why he came. He begins to use shepherding imagery that contrasts a good shepherd with false shepherds. This imagery reveals who Jesus is and how he is different from false shepherds or the false teachers of the day. It reveals Jesus has authority over all people. (the sheep hear his voice v3, the gatekeeper opens the door for him v3). He also says he is the door, the door to God. Those who came before him are thieves and robbers. That would be extremely encouraging to a man who had just been kicked out of his people, and his family. This is where we begin today:
Read John 10:7-21
Jesus came to give life and we should seek life in him.
I have to admit when I hear that Jesus is the good shepherd I think of picture of a white guy with lavish flowing hair, a pure white robe, and a clean puffy sheep in his arms as he walks through the patio of a palace. I think it has more to do with a picture I saw at a local bookstore than what Jesus is communicating. No offense if you own one of those pictures. I’m pretty sure we have one somewhere. Probably still in a box! They do convey something of Jesus as shepherd. I admit that. But you also have to admit they are a bit feminine!
There is a toughness to a shepherd. David was a shepherd who fought lions and bears. Caught them by the beard and struck them down (1 Sam 17:34). They were rugged people. Not sentimental or effeminate. David was a warrior who faithfully cared for his flock.
John 10 contrast Jesus with shepherds who do not care for their sheep. The prominent descript of Jesus is that he is a good shepherd. He is the true shepherd. Jesus has said he is the light, he is the bread of life, he is the true vine… and now he is the true shepherd. He sets himself over and against false shepherds that he calls robbers and thieves. These type shepherds are in the world (v8). You shouldn’t pay attention to everything you see. It’s not always as it appears.
My kids have friends that love rocks and minerals so they have been getting into it as well. One of the first things you learn is what fools gold is. It seems to be everywhere, and you find it more than you find the real stuff. It doesn't take long before you are trying to explain to the kids that you are not a millionaire because of what they found. Even though it looks like gold it is a different substance. It’s not as durable and lasting. It’s a different quality and an altogether different element. Not all that glitters is gold.
The same thing is going on here. We just saw the religious leaders persecute this man. They had no interest in doing what was right or what God required of them. They are known in the community as religious leaders and yet they are persecuting a formerly blind man for being healed, and they have repeatedly tried to have Jesus killed. They have a the uniform of a religious teacher but they lack the stuff on the inside. Sadly, the church has a long history of this. It makes it important that our ultimate trust is not in people but the true shepherd.
Jesus is the good shepherd. He is the real shepherd. He does not intend to harm the sheep. He is not trying to manipulate the sheep. He is good and he is leading his sheep in a good and caring manner.
This true shepherd has Authority. Have you ever been in a position that you couldn't make the final call on things. It’s clear here that Jesus isn’t that type of guy. He has full and complete power to do what he wills. He knows his sheep, he knows his Father. Everything is in alignment.
With this true shepherd there is security. The presence of evil threatens us. Fear can run through our veins when tragedy happens or when we are confronted with a threatening person. Consider the fear and anger this man must have had. He was unjustly thrown out of his people. The man who healed him is being attacked. He must have felt threatened. He lost so much. If they are willing to kill Jesus then it is reasonable they might consider killing him too.
But this parable shows we shouldn’t fear what others do. In v9 Jesus says he is the door for the sheep. The door allows the sheep to go out to pasture and it allows them into the safe harbor of the sheep pen. He provides shelter and safe feeding for the sheep. He provides salvation from the others. The door is a form of protection. Jesus says if you are with me there is safety and protection. He will protect us and ultimately allow us to overcome all the threats that come our way in this life. Whether it’s death, evil, or anything else, this shepherd is able to fend it off for us. We simply need to trust him.
With this true shepherd there is a relationship. Its an amazing thing here. Have you ever gone to a friends house that has a dog, and when they say the dog’s name it comes running. But when you say it, he just kind of looks at your funny. The dog knows its master. You can holler all you want. You say the same words. The same volume. The same pitch. But the dog knows the difference. It knows its master. And the same is here. Jesus calls his sheep. They hear his voice. There is a relationship. I can’t undermine the relationship that dog owner has with his dog. Neither can these thieves and wolves undermine the relationship Jesus has with his sheep. He knows them and they know him. This roots our confidence in challenging situations, life may be hard but we hear our shepherds voice.
The true shepherd also proves himself through sacrifice. He is willing to give everything up for the sake of the sheep. What a difference here between who Jesus is and who the others are. The true shepherd sacrifices for his sheep. The others are only hired hands and care nothing for the sheep.
I had a friend in college who got a job as a cashier at a prominent hardware store. He got very little training and was basically thrown on a register. He started checking people out but there would be issues, and there was no manager to call. Customers would get mad when he didn’t know what to do so he had a decision to make: does he make the customer wait forever to get someone there, and also aggravate all the customers in line, or does he take care of the problem. So whenever someone had an issue with the product he just let the person take it home. No issues, no waiting, no complaints from customers. He actually got so many compliments he was named employee of the month. He was a hired hand and didn’t care about the store. He just wanted to get paid in the easiest way possible.
Here the hired worker is called the (ὁ μισθωτος) and it is very similar to the word for wage. He is identified not by his motive. A hired hand. He is only there for his own gain.
You know there are many today who do the same. Ideas can produce money. People are willing to agree with something if it gets them where they want to go. You see that in politics. Positions are changed not out of conviction of right and wrong but out of opportunity. If it gains votes then agree with it. I see this in colleges too where some philosophy professors are hired to teach what is popular and most palatable. How quickly would they deny their teaching if it cost them a paycheck. How about if it cost them their life. They are just hired workers.
Jesus is set over those. He is willing to lay down his life for his sheep (v15). They are his and he cares about them. There is a big difference between the hired hand and the owner of the store. There is a greater affection and commitment. Jesus is the true shepherd who knows and cares for his sheep. He came into the world for them and he is going to care for those who are his.
He came to give life: Jesus contrasts his purpose for coming with the purpose of the false teachers. They only care about themselves and are willing to steal, kill, and destroy to get their way. He came to give life. To lay down his life for others. The very purpose is giving. The result is that they are full in every way. A thief seeks to empty you to enrich himself. A murderer takes another’s life to make his own. Jesus empties himself to fill others. He gives his life that you may have it.
This pertains to eternal life but it also pertains to life in the here and now. It’s not just the future that we find fullness of life. It’s right now. That may surprise many people to hear that Jesus came to give fullness of life. He is a teacher. We don’t typically think of teachers as being fun. Teachers make us do hard things. He is a religious teacher, a moral teacher. Those are a couple more strikes against him, right. We think of these people being a drag on our good time. Ill:
I didn’t become a Christian until I was 18. I seldom went to church. I knew very little about Christianity. I was into the party scene and being a rebellious teenager. I bought into the lies of the world about what “the good life” was. I was all about trying to be cool and doing the things that would made me appear cool. I was deceived and wasnt cool at all, but I was trying. I was doing all the things the world said, and I was miserable. I didn’t trust friends. Was confused, depressed, and grieved by things i did. Never content and never happy. When I went to college I knew things needed to change so I started going to a Bible study and learning about Christianity. I had alway felt sorry for Christians. How do you have any fun without getting drunk?
Then suddenly I found myself around a bunch of people that weren’t drinking and were having a great time. There was real joy. There was love and trust. It blew me away. I actually remember waking up early one Saturday morning in college to study. I was vacuuming my room and straightening the place up a bit, and as I vacuumed I happened to see something in the mirror that made me stop. I was smiling. I was by myself on a was Saturday morning… and smiling! It shocked me. A few months before I would still have been passed out. Here i was alone, vacuuming, getting ready to study, and I was happy. I had found life. This verse right here (v10) was one that meant so much to me. I was miserable before Christ. Doing what everyone said was the way to “live it up,” and there was nothing but emptiness. In Jesus I found life.
It was Serendipitous. I love that word. It means to find pleasure or happiness in an unexpected way or place. I found life and happiness in the most unexpected way. What i thought was a drag actually ended up being more fun than anything else.
I not the only one that can testify to this. The great theologian St. Agustine was entrenched in immorality, taking on mistresses and living the life of a heathen, and then Jesus came into his life. He then penned the famous line, “Our hearts are restless until they come to rest in you.”
Everytime I think of my conversion to Christianity I think of John 10:10. It is my testimony of what Christ was and is to me- a source of abundant life. Not just a supply to get by with, but an abundant life. A life that overflows. But how is it that Christ does this? Is it by bringing money and wealth?
Jonathan Edwards said, “Man has a natural craving and thirst after happiness; and will thirst and crave until his capacity is filled. And his capacity is of vast extent; and nothing but an infinite good can fill and satisfy his desires.”
Another way to put it. I heard a guy speak of his conversion saying he had a God sized hole in his heart. We all have that. Only a relationship with God can fill that infinite hole overflowing. It’s who we were made for. It’s what we were made to do. There are things in this world that God has given us to enjoy, like homes, cars, technology, food and drink. But when we look to those things for ultimate satisfaction they will simply never fill us. The ocean wasn’t made to quench our thirst. Satisfaction with materialism is a never ending pursuit of filling ourselves with something that will never fill. It’s like filling your hunger with air. It’s futile. You constantly have to have more because it cannot fill you up.
In our day there is a constant message that you can and will find happiness in stuff. The credit card commercials tell us this, and so do the hotel, car, school, dress, and every other commercial out there. Don’t buy into believing material things can satisfy spiritual voids. When we buy into that thought we either pride ourselves on what we achieved or we get depressed because of what we do not have.
Tim Keller quotes from Alexis de Tocqville's famous book on the United States and how American's believed that prosperity could bring deep happiness. But such a hope was an illusion. Tocqville argued, because, "the incomplete joys of this world will never satisfy the human heart." As a result, he spoke of "a strange melancholy often haunting inhabitants of democracies in the midst of abundance." Keller concludes, “This melancholy is, of course, the bitter fruit of idolatry that always leads to disappointment. False gods never give us what they promise.”
People have so much and yet they are not happy. People have everything imaginable and yet no gated community can keep out depression. Money can’t bring happiness.
Jesus brings abundant life and if you are following him you need to know he is leading you there. There are no lost signals when this shepherd is leading you. Jesus is talking about fullness of life in the midst of wolves, thieves, and robbers. You might feel like you are in a similar place with threats all around you. Psalm 23 says the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He leads me in green green pasture, he leads me beside quiet waters,” but then it says, “even though i walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” Sometimes the Lord leads us beside quiet waters (and I will take that any day!). But sometimes we have to walk with our shepherd through the dark valleys. It doesn’t mean he is not there in those times. He is. The only difference in the green pastures and dark valleys is the scenery. He is still with us and still leading us. Every path leads to good with him. If you are working through lost jobs, health issues, difficult spouses or kids, oppressive bosses or teachers, don’t doubt he has good in store.
Remember that with this shepherd death is just a shadow. Do you get scared at shadows? You shouldn’t. Sometimes you might see a young kid get scared. Its funny because you know how silly it is. It’s a shadow. It can’t get you. And yet that is all death is when you know Jesus. It’s a shadow. It has no power over you. It cannot harm you. Death loses its power and so do all the other threats.
That is a life giving truth. You can be so scared of losing something that fear robs you of joy in life. Jesus emasculates those fears. He takes their very power. We depend on him for life and joy, not those other things. We are set free. It leads to joy in trials, and everything else. This is why Paul could state “In all my trials my joy knew no bounds.” Shipwrecked, beaten, snake bitten yet always rejoicing. The good shepherd has come and has given life abundantly.
Materialism teaches that all that exists is what you see. This is the stuff that we should live for. It’s what leads to happiness. If so why are so many depressed and looking for happiness. I love how Charles Dickens captures this at the end of his book A Christmas Story with the crotchety Mr. Scrooge looking on Bob Cratchit's family. It says,
There was nothing of high mark in this. They were not a handsome family; they were not well dressed; their shoes were far from being waterproof; their clothes were scanty; and Peter might have known and very likely did, the inside of a pawnbroker's. But they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time; and when they faded, and looked happier yet in the bright sprinklings of the Spirit's torch at parting, Scrooge had his eye upon them, and especially on Tiny Tim, until the last.
A poor family with very little material goods but much love and life. Dickens does a great job showing how little material goods can do a person. And he captures how intriguing joy in the midst of adversity is. But one thing Dickens fails to do in the book is give compelling reason for how life can be gained. True life doesn’t come through fountains, cremes, credit cards, or even ghosts. It comes through a relationship with your maker. Jesus came to give you life. He is the maker of life and so only he can give it. And he gives it to those who come to him. If you have feasted on the things of the world and come away unhappy and unfulfilled, then realize you have spiritual needs that these things cannot satisfy. You need to turn from seeking life and fullness in those and turn to Jesus Christ. Pray and ask him to fill your heart and life. Talk with someone about what it means to have a relationship with God.
Lastly, I want to point out verse v17. Jesus comes and lays down his life. What grounds him. V17 says “for this reason the Father loves me because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.” It’s a hard verse to translate. I think it better to reword it and read the text of 10:17 as, “Because [dia touto] the Father loves me, that is the reason [hoti, therefore] I lay down my life.” Jesus didn’t act in order to be loved by the Father, he acted because he was loved by the father. That in turn means the model of the Father provided the model for the Son, which in turn should provide the model for the followers of Jesus (cf. 13:34; 15:12).
If you have the love of the father you don’t need to fret about material things. If you have the love of the father you don’t have to seek after a fountain of youth. If you have the love of the father you don’t have to find gadgets that will satisfy. If you have the love of the father you don’t have to destroy others to profit yourself. You can bask in his love. You can have joy in the midst of adversity. You can enjoy all the other things in life in their proper place, not as designed to fill an infinite void, but to be enjoyed with you Father in heaven.