“Who Is Jesus, Really? – The Good Shepherd”

At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued our series “Who Is Jesus, Really?.”

Jesus claimed He can protect those who follow Him. What if the news is filled with tragedy, and the world feels unsafe? Discover how a relationship with God helps us connect to the One who can bring us peace and protection in the midst of life’s challenges.

Bonus Resources for “Who is Jesus, Really?”

Next Steps:

Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.

“Who is Jesus, Really? – The Good Shepherd” Next Steps

Message Video:

Gateway in South Austin – Music and Message

Gateway Online Message:

Message Notes from Kenny Green:

The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. – Psalm 23

Seven statements where Jesus is describing to the Jewish people… what God is like

  • His essence
  • His nature
  • His character

Seven miraculous signs that seem to match-up with these I AM statements as out-workings of the identity of Jesus.

  • I AM the bread of Life – feeds the 5000
  • I AM the light of the world – gives sight to a blind man
  • I AM the true vine – John
  • I AM that I am – Carlos
  • I AM the Way, the Truth 7 the Life… I AM the resurrection & the Life -John

Finally, at the end of John’s Gospel…

“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” – John 20:30-31

I don’t want to merely flood you with information
I don’t want to just wow you
I want you to BELIEVE
I want you to have a REAL RELATIONSHIP with Him… because that’s where we find the fullest life possible.

Today – I AM the Good Shepherd (John 10)

Rather than the images we have in our mind of the blonde-haired Jesus holding a sheep, to understand what Jesus is trying to communicate with this idea, we need to take a bit of a journey.

  1. Biblical backdrop
  2. Cultural backdrop

Biblical Backdrop

  • Jewish people in the 1st century – their journey
  • Being crushed under the Roman Reign
  • Crying out to God to come and rescue them
  • Holding on to a promise

The promise they are clinging to is that God would be their shepherd.
Creation Narrative

The Biblical narrative is God on a mission, in and through Jesus, (His life, death & resurrection) to restore all things to how His intended order.

Humanity thriving & flourishing in relationship with God.

In terms of God’s created order… what did His relationship with His people look like?

He was a shepherd to them.

The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. – Psalm 23:1-3

The Lord had always been a shepherd to His people but when the Jewish people turned their backs on God and eventually ended-up in Babylon. Now they’re back in Jerusalem but under the reign of the Romans. The way they’d often refer to their condition was, we are like sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus weeps over the Jewish people in the gospel saying, they are like sheep without a shepherd.

The language the prophet Isaiah uses to describe the human condition…

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way… – Isaiah 53:6

With the metaphor of God as Shepherd there is another metaphor that is presented almost interchangeably… God is going to be a Father to His people.

  • Garden of Eden – God is Father – Adam & Eve are the kids.
  • Exodus narrative… when Moses is like, “what am I supposed to say to Pharoah?”

Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” Exodus 4:22-23

What about de-creation?

  • We experience the sense of being orphaned
  • Disconnected from our Father

The Jewish people in the 1st Century are holding on to a promise.

  • “I’m going to come and Father you again
  • “I’m going to adopt you again as my children

Contextual journey through some Scripture:

In the 1st cent, Jewish people knew these inside-out.

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! – Ezekiel 34:1-2

  • These are the authority figures
  • These are the highly religious
  • The spiritual leaders of the people

Should not shepherds 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. – Ezekiel 34:3-5 

Push pause (sidenote) – The Jewish people believed that to be fully human, you needed to be in relationship with Yahweh. Anything less was considered sub-human.

  • Gentile dogs
  • Animals
  • Their mission was to bring the blessings of Yahweh to all people so that they could experience what it means to be fully human, in a relationship with God.

When it says they were scattered and became food for the wild animals… it’s saying the other nations devoured them. The Assyrians came in and invaded Jerusalem and the Babylonians came in and finished the job and deported them all off to Babylon.

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. – Ezekiel 34:6

“You mistreated the people that I gave you to care for”

Then God pronounces his judgement on the Shepherds…

  • Because my sheep have lacked a shepherd
  • Because these religious authorities were getting rich while they watched the people getting poorer and poorer.
  • I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable
  • I’ll remove them from tending the flock… and I will rescue my flock from their mouths
  • And to the flock he says… I’m going to come to you as your Shepherd

For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the settlements in the land.

 I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. – Ezekiel 34:11-16

The people in the 1st century are desperate for God to come and to fulfill this promise!

We’ve got to really understand this to really get what Jesus is saying.

These metaphors of “God as Shepherd” and “God as Father” are practically interchangeable.

See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labor; a great throng will return. They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son. “Hear the word of the Lord oh nations; proclaim it in distant coastlands: ‘He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.’ – Jeremiah 31:8-10

So, God’s going to liberate His people! He’s going to be their Shepherd and he’s going to be their Father… and He’s going to lead them to Life.

That’s the Biblical backdrop… the people are longing for God to fulfill these promises.

Cultural Backdrop

The Jewish people were desperate for a shepherd and for a father.

I believe the same is true of our generation. The greatest longing of our generation is for a shepherd and a dad.

Paul tells the church in the city of Corinth…

You have 10,000 guardians, but you don’t have many fathers. – 1 Corinthians 4:15

I think the same is true of Austin… with all of our millennials and so many young people. I think Paul would say to our city…

you’ve got so many guardians (authority figures)

  • Educators & Administrators
  • Law Enforcement
  • Bosses and Business Owners

…so many authority figures, but there’s so few fathers.

There’s something about a father or father-figure that makes a world of difference in the life of those they invest in. I don’t think that value can be overstated today.

There is a father absence crisis in America.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2020), 18.3 million children, 1 in 4, live without a biological, step, or adoptive father in the home.

Consequently, there is a father factor in nearly all social ills facing America today.

Research shows when a child is raised in a home that is father-absent, or whose life is void of a father-figure… he or she is aff­ected in the following ways:

  • 2x greater risk of infant mortality
  • 4x greater risk of poverty
  • Higher risk of experiencing abuse or neglect
  • Higher likelihood of behavioral problems
  • 2x more likely to suffer obesity
  • 2x more likely to drop out of H.S.
  • 7x greater risk of teen pregnancy
  • Likelihood of substance abuse and incarceration is greatly elevated

But we know all of this, don’t we? Some of us, all too well. We hear this so regularly that we become bored… inoculated to this reality… But sociologists refer to our generation as the “fatherless generation.” Millions of children growing up without the knowledge or experience of a father’s love.

I think it’s worth bringing this up… and dragging this out into the light today so that we’re not asleep or naïve… so that we’re not unaware culturally. We were created to crave for the love & security of a father. It’s how we were made.

So, I’ve given you some of the Biblical backdrop…

The Jewish people in the 1st century were longing for God to come and to

  • shepherd them
  • father them
  • lead them to life

…and the cultural backdrop…

There’s a longing in each of them (and each of us) to experience

  • a father’s love
  • a shepherd who would lead them to green pastures and peaceful waters where their lives are restored

“Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”

Augustine of Hippo, in Confessions

We see that restlessness all around us, don’t we?

With all of this in mind… now let’s hear Jesus’ words

“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. – John 10:11-13

  • The topic of “fathers” is so tough for so many, because that’s their experience of fatherhood. Someone who care more about themselves… but didn’t care for the sheep.
  • Many of us have experienced bosses in the workplace, political leaders, and religious leaders like this too. If they have to run people over and use/abuse them to meet their end-goal (money, status, power)… it’s just considered collateral damage.

Jesus is saying… That’s not what I’m like

  • I’m the good shepherd
  • I lay down my life for the sheep
  • I would rather die than trample on someone else to get ahead

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. – John 10:14-15

Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine.

  • Important – because this crowd is probably just pumped to see this Jesus do the “water into wine” thing again… empty red Solo cups in hand
  • But in the middle of the crowd is a hurting father.

And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.

 “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”

The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” – John 4:46-49

The Greek word for child here… from which we get “pediatrics” <paidion>

  • Specifies a little child
  • “Come down before my little boy dies”

Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. <-That’s what faith looks like.

While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “the fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.” Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So, he and all his household believed. – John 4:50-53

Feels like the story of two fathers

  • One is the royal official
  • The other is God… in the person of Jesus

He’s doing what the shepherds weren’t doing in Ezekiel 34

  • Binding up the brokenhearted
  • Searching for the lost
  • Healing the sick… being a really good shepherd

Can you see the heart of God? He’s a really good shepherd and an everlasting Father who never leaves.

In trying to describe the Love of God to the people of His day…

  • You want to know what God is like? He’s like shepherd… (parable of lost sheep)
  • You want to know what God is like? He’s like a father… (parable of the lost son) the story of a father who humiliates himself to welcome home his lost son… a story that prophetically points to the cross… that God’s about to humiliate Himself… stripped, beaten viciously and hung on a cross.

All so that OUR SIN would be forgiven and completely washed away.

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