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The Good Shepherd (and a Bunch of Happy Sheep!) - Part A

Connect with Skip Heitzig / Skip Heitzig
The Truth Network Radio
October 8, 2023 6:00 am

The Good Shepherd (and a Bunch of Happy Sheep!) - Part A

Connect with Skip Heitzig / Skip Heitzig

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October 8, 2023 6:00 am

This is one of the most beloved passages to be found anywhere in Scripture. But it's not a stand-alone passage: The healing of the blind man in chapter 9 was more than a miracle. It was part of the process of Jesus forming His flock. The leadership had cast the healed man out of the synagogue. Jesus found him, accepted him, saved him, and placed him in His own fold.


All we, like sheep, have gone astray. Because that's what sheep do. They are prone to wander.

They're prone to lead the path. One professor of philosophy said, the existence of sheep is evidence against the theory of evolution. For he continues, there's no way sheep could survive if you're into survival of the fittest.

Welcome to Connect with Skip Weekend Edition. Shawn the Sheep is a show from the creators of Wallace and Gromit that follows a rather unusual sheep. Now, most sheep are fairly docile, ho-hum creatures that don't lead very interesting lives. Shawn, however, is more of an adventurous sheep.

He's curious, he's impetuous, and these un-sheep qualities often lead him and his friends into some sticky and humorous situations. Well, today in Connect with Skip Weekend Edition, Skip Heitzig talks a bit about how we're rather like Shawn the Sheep and how left to our own devices we can get into trouble. And that's why we need a shepherd, and we'll explore all the reasons why in just a moment.

But first, let's find out more about this month's Connect with Skip resource offer. What is the purpose that God created man for? Listen to this from Skip Heitzig about God's ultimate purpose. God's creation of man was so that his reflection would be in man, but the ultimate purpose is that God might interact with man and woman.

Fellowship, intimacy, to be conversant with, at ease with, to interact with. Fulfilling purpose requires clarity of vision. You'll want to order our vision resource package for this month, which also includes a full color magazine about the vision that drives Skip's ministry. You'll also receive an audio copy of Skip clearly outlining his philosophy of ministry in the past, present, and future. Receive your vision package when you make a donation of $50 or more to Connect with Skip. Give your gift by calling 1-800-922-1888 or online at

That's 1-800-922-1888 or online at We've made it to chapter 10 at our study of the gospel of John, so if you turn there in your Bibles, Skip Heitzig begins by telling us a little bit about sheep. You will probably never see a professional sports team when coming up for a mascot to represent their team. You'll probably never see a sheep being used.

Not going to happen. If you look at coins or paper money, you'll probably never find when a nation wants to represent its strength or majesty, you'll never see them use a sheep on the front of the coin. When it comes to protecting property, you don't usually buy sheep to do that. You'll never see a sign, for instance, on a chain link fence that says, beware of sheep or attack lamb.

Lambo is here. And we laugh at that because we know better that sheep are docile creatures. They are creatures driven together to act, following one another rather than being independent, not known for their strength.

And you should also know that when the Bible wants to talk about human beings, it often uses this analogy of us being sheep. I heard a story of a woman. She was blonde.

And I know, I know, I know, you think you know where this is going, but follow me here. And she was sick of all the blonde jokes that she would hear at work and she would hear everywhere she went, so she just got fed up with it. So she decided she's gonna dye her hair black. She dyed her hair black, thought it looked great, and it worked. There were no blonde jokes that she heard.

Life was good. One day she's driving out in the countryside and she stops because a flock of sheep is going across the road with the shepherd, so she stops, gets out, enjoys the view, and then finally says to the shepherd, hey, if I can guess how many sheep are in your flock, can I have one of them? He thought about it, he said, sure, if you can guess how many sheep I have on my flock, you can take one.

It's yours. So she said, you have 257 sheep in your flock. He was pretty impressed because that's exactly how many he had, so he said, okay, you can take any one you want. So she reached down and picked up one of the animals and put it in her car. She was about to leave, started up her car, rolled up her window, was driving away. The shepherd knocked on the window and she rolled it down, and he leaned in and he said, hey, if I can guess what color your hair really is, can I have my dog back?

See how I snuck that in that way? For those of us in the Western world, an analogy of a shepherd and sheep isn't too relevant because most of us aren't on a farm, it's not a part of our culture. Thousands of years ago, however, for Jesus to give this kind of a word picture or illustration, everyone instantly knew what it meant because that was part of their culture. The Old Testament, Job, one of the early patriarchs, it is believed, had 14,000 sheep that he owned.

Solomon, when he wanted to give a grand sacrifice to the Lord in the first temple, sacrificed on one occasion 120,000 sheep. And so the Bible uses this metaphor because it was common to people back then. It's one of the most loved ideas in all of the Bible. For example, Psalm 100, it is he who made us and we are his people, we are the sheep of his pasture. So it's a beautiful thought that we have a shepherd who takes care of the sheep. However, in the Bible, the nature and the character of sheep is not put in the best light. For example, when Isaiah wants to write about what we are like and what we need, he says, all we, like sheep, have gone astray because that's what sheep do.

They are prone to wander they're prone to leave the path. One professor of philosophy said, the existence of sheep is evidence against the theory of evolution. For he continues, there's no way sheep could survive if you're into survival of the fittest.

They require constant attention, constant rescue, constant cleaning, constant everything or they'll die. One of my favorite writings is by Philip Keller, who was a shepherd in Canada. And Keller writes of his own experience and he says, sheep do not just take care of themselves as some might suppose, they require more than any other class of livestock, endless attention and meticulous care. It is no accident that God has chosen to call us sheep. The behavior of sheep in human beings is similar in so many ways.

Our mass mind or mob instinct, our fears and timidity, our stubbornness and stupidity, our perverse habits are all parallels of profound importance. God calls the sheep because he knows people, he knows human nature. Moreover, it says a lot about the shepherd because it says because it's not about, and I don't want you to walk away from this going, yep, I'm just a dumb sheep, but rather I have a wonderful shepherd. That was David's thought in Psalm 23. The Lord is my shepherd. The point wasn't I'm just some dumb sheep.

The point was a bragging point. Look at who my shepherd is. Look at who's in control of my life because David knew being a shepherd in Bethlehem that the quality of life for any sheep depends on the kind of shepherd that takes care of you. I bet you've all known people who've had pets and you wonder why they have them. They don't take care of them much. They don't walk their dog. The dog is chained in the backyard and barks all day and digs holes, is never walked, and you wonder why do they have a dog. On the other extreme, you have people who not only have dogs, they adopt them like their own children. The dogs have wardrobes, monogram sweaters, coiffed hairdos, air-conditioned dog houses. They go to all the shows and you look at the way some people pamper their pets and you think oh my goodness that's so extreme we mock them.

At least I do. But I have a question for you. If you were a dog and had the choice of owner A or owner B, which one would you pick?

Owner B hands down. I want the guys who are going to take care of me and dote over me. So when David said the Lord is my shepherd, I won't need a thing, he's bragging not on his own stupidity but on God's greatness. Now we're in chapter 10 of John, not Psalm 23. And in John chapter 10, the first 10 verses, which we're going to look at this morning, can be divided into two sections. And if you'll just take a look at it, if you have a red letter Bible, you'll notice that everything's red except verse six. That's the dividing line. The first red letter section is Jesus giving a point.

Then there's a reaction. Then Jesus says something else again. And so I want you to see that this section that we're going to read is divided up into two. The first, verses one through six, is the village scene. And verses seven through 10 is the countryside scene. The first is the shepherd gathering his flock. And the second is the shepherd guiding his flock.

Let's go ahead and read through verses one through six and see the gathering. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheep hole by the door but climbs up some other way, the same as a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, the sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them and the sheep follow him for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger but will flee from him for they do not know the stranger's voice. Jesus used this illustration but they didn't understand the things which he spoke to them. Now it's going to be helpful for you to understand that there were two different kinds of sheepfolds.

That's the word used here. That is a corral, an enclosure, two different types. One was the village sheepfold and the other was the countryside sheepfold.

This is the village sheepfold, the first six verses. In every single village in the ancient Middle East there was a communal corral somewhere in the middle of town or somewhere by the town, a communal corral. That is if you were a shepherd and your neighbor was a shepherd and your other buddy was a shepherd you would all put your flocks in one common enclosure.

This is how it would work. You were coming in from the fields at night and you would line up your sheep to enter the sheepfold. Your rod would go down and the shepherd's rod kept each sheep from entering and the shepherd would inspect each sheep after looking through its fur making sure there were no scratches or no parasites that would infect the rest of the flock. He would lift his rod and the sheep would go under the rod and then he'd put it back down again and inspect the next one and the next one etc. All of the shepherds did that in this communal sheepfold. Communal sheepfold. Then in the morning it's time to take them out of the village and out to the countryside so each of the shepherds would come one by one and because they were the shepherds that the gatekeeper or the porter knew being instantly recognized by the porter he would allow the shepherd to walk into that enclosure and then the shepherd would take his flock out of the village out to the countryside. Now it's sort of interesting that many commentators try to pin the identity of the sheepfold and take it into different categories. Some say it represents heaven.

The sheepfold is heaven. I disagree completely with that because we have thieves and robbers climbing over the wall in this story. I don't think you're going to have thieves and robbers climbing over any wall to get into heaven. First of all you can't climb into heaven on your own. Some people say this is a picture of salvation or it's a picture of the church. I don't agree with that either because here in this first section the shepherd goes to lead his flock out of the fold. God doesn't lead anybody out of the body of Christ. He doesn't lead anybody out of salvation.

So it can't be either of those or any of those. In its context it's easy to see and understand what he's referring to. The fold or the enclosure represents Judaism that has kept God's flock safe until the Messiah could come. Keep in mind that in the original documents there's no chapter break. There's no chapter 9, chapter 10 and if you read this you find that this is part of the last conversation in chapter 9. He's speaking to the leaders and he says for judgment I have come into this world that those who are blind may see and those who see may be made blind and they say what are we blind to? And all that conversation is because they just kicked a man out of the synagogue, right?

A blind man who has been healed. They kicked him out of the synagogue and then it says Jesus found him. So he found the man and he indicts the leaders. So Judaism is that religious system that kept God's people until the Messiah could come. That's what the fold represents. It's easy to see if you go down to verse 16. Jesus says and other sheep I have which are not of this fold.

Speaking of non-Jews, Gentiles, the church will be birthed in Jerusalem but spread all over the Gentile world. Them also I must bring and they will hear my voice and there will be one flock and one shepherd. So this shepherd goes in the morning and finds that flock already in the fold and he leads them out. The shepherd is Jesus. He is the good shepherd. In fact if you look at verse 11 he says I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. Jesus does three things as the shepherd. He comes the right way.

He calls the right way and he conducts or leads the right way. You notice something in verse one. The illustration that Jesus employs, the analogy of a shepherd and sheep begins in verse one on a negative note, not a positive note. Notice most assuredly I say to you he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs up some other way the same is a thief and a robber. What is he talking about? Sheep rustlers.

That's what he's talking about. Those guys who at night would climb over the wall because the gate of that village enclosure was locked and guarded by a porter. Hopefully he had fallen asleep and they can climb over the wall and steal sheep. So you have people in verse one that are hostile toward the sheep and toward the owner of the sheep and one cannot help but make the comparison to the previous chapter where the Pharisees were hostile to the blind man and hostile to Jesus and they kicked that man out of their fold.

They were the sheep rustlers. You see the Pharisees were the latest in a long line of false prophets. If you read through the Bible in the Old Testament you discover that many of the true prophets of God speak against the false prophets. Three of the major books that do that are the book of Isaiah, the book of Jeremiah, and the book of Ezekiel.

Where God speaks against false leaders, corrupt priests, wicked kings, false prophets who say things that aren't true. One famous passage is Jeremiah 23 where the Lord says through that prophet, woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture declares the Lord. Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel says to the shepherds who tend my people because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and not bestowed care on them I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done. Another famous one is in the book of Ezekiel chapter 34 where he says son of man prophesy to the shepherds of Israel and say to them woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves when they should be feeding my flock.

And so that is what this analogy is all about, thieves and robbers. In contrast to them, verse two, he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. See the true shepherd doesn't have to sneak in.

He just uses the front door. They're his sheep. The porter or the gatekeeper recognizes the shepherd.

That's the point. Jesus came the right way because Jesus is the true shepherd. He came from heaven to the earth. He came after the prophesying 300 plus predictions in the Old Testament of what the Messiah, the shepherd of Israel would be like, where he would be born. He fits the messianic description as being the son of David, born in Bethlehem, born of the royal line or as Paul said in Galatians when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth his son, born of a virgin, born under the law, as if to say he's the true shepherd who comes the right way and uses the front door. Look also at verse three a little more carefully.

Not only does he come the right way, but he calls the right way. For Jesus says in this analogy, he calls his own sheep by name. You know, being compared to sheep probably doesn't seem like the most flattering of comparisons, but stop and think about it a bit more. Sheep are tended, they're cared for, they're protected, and they actually have a pretty good life when they're in the hands of a good shepherd. We're in the hands of a great shepherd, so why not enjoy being in his care as one of his sheep? We'll continue to explore this some more next time, but before we go, here's a word from Skip and Lenya today.

Lenya? Today it's one of the great aspects about Jesus being the good shepherd, and you know, we tease, because there's all these celebrities that have little dogs, you know, and they like quaff them and feed them gourmet stuff. And carry them everywhere.

And designer bags, like I think there's like Louis Vuitton, I don't know, dog bags. Crazy? Crazy. So, but if you were the dog and you were like living in the back, you know, of somebody's— If you're going to be somebody's pet, you want to find those people who do that to their dogs. Right, and I love— All the crazy people.

Because you know you're going to be treated like royalty. Well, and I think that's how Jesus treats his sheep. So it's really neat that we talked about that and used the word good. Exactly, a good shepherd. So some people kind of mix up his goodness, meaning they're good. Like they're good enough to get into heaven without the good shepherd's goodness. So does being good get you into heaven? Remember the story of the rich young ruler who said, Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life? So he called Jesus good, and Jesus stopped him and said, Why do you call me good?

Now Jesus like didn't need the information. He was testing the guy to find out what his answer would be. Why do you call me good? There's only one good, and that is God.

Now that could only mean one of two things. Either Jesus is saying, I'm no good. Why are you calling me good? Or he means, I am God. There's no one good but God.

Are you asking me that? Are you saying that because you recognize you see something in me of goodness, of a quality that is God-like? Why are you calling me good? So the question that a person should ask themselves when they say, I'm a good person. Are you as good as God? Uh oh. Yep. Is your righteousness as good as that?

Probably not. Probably not, because when you look at reality, Paul was right. We've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Somebody once put it this way, the worst badness is my goodness when it's substituted for the new birth.

So you're right. The goodness of the shepherd is what makes us good. And it is a conferred goodness. It's his righteousness, because the Bible says we can't get there by our own good works. Well, I was going to say, I'm not even as good as you are. And so I beg to disagree. So I mean, if God's that good, well, you know how we are as sheep. We like to compare ourselves, you know, like my sheep fur is a little better than yours, you know, I'm a little beefier, whatever it is. But the point is, none of us are good enough. But he is.

He's good all the time. Well, thanks, Skip and Lenya. And remember, if you'd like a copy of today's message, you can find it at Or you can call us and order one at 1-800-922-1888.

Each copy is just $4 plus shipping. We'll talk more about how you and I are a lot like sheep and what that means for our lives when we resume this study next time, right here in Connect with Skip Weekend Edition, a presentation of Connection Communications. Connecting you to God's never changing truth in ever changing times.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-25 07:55:09 / 2023-10-25 08:04:19 / 9

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