The Resurrection and the Shepherd

My sheep hear My voice. I know them, and they follow Me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.  No one will snatch them out of My hand.   What My Father has given Me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.  The Father and I are one.        John 10:27-30

Here we are rejoicing in this season about the Resurrection.  We have been spending weeks on the wonder in Jesus conquering death, taking the sting and victory out this power which we all face.  It is indeed a marvel at which to be astonished – after all death expresses the absolute weakest that any creature faces.  We are helpless.  We cannot even move an eyelash when we are dead.

That is why the Resurrection is so astonishing, especially when we realize how Jesus prophesied that He would raise Himself on the third day [John 2:18-22].  Now what is important is that often we sort of fudge on the Resurrection – we know that Jesus is both human and God and therefore since God cannot die, therefore it was the God-side of Jesus which raised the human side.

But that’s not Biblical.  To understand this, you have to turn to the first book of the Bible, Genesis, and witness when the Lord Jehovah [15:8] cut Covenant with Abraham.  Jehovah, as the smoking furnace and flaming torch, traveled through the animals which were cut in half, which everyone at that time knew that this was a vow where should He ever break Covenant, by oath He would die.  In Zechariah 11:10-13, the breaking of that Covenant was prophesied.

Remember this was not the human-God combination of Jesus making this vow, but rather this was simply the Creator vowing His own death.  God died then on the cross.  There was no splitting of the forever unity of God and Man in Jesus in death.  How that can be, our Lord has never explained it to us, and I suspect He never will.

This is what makes the Resurrection so profound.  It was God as His absolute weakest, at His most helpless, and yet Jesus simply, simply got up on His schedule, at the predicted time.

But we can still miss an essential point.  The Resurrection is not an event.  Jesus said to Martha [John 11:25]. “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”  The Resurrection is a Person, a Person Who stands here now in our midst.  By this fact, He has declared to us that the power to defeat Satan, sin and death is right here among us, wherever two or three are gathered together [Matthew 18:20].

What does all this have to do with today’s emphasis on Jesus as the Good Shepherd?

In so much of our lives, we are indeed sheep.  My dad used to say that being called a sheep is no compliment.  At first our minds are filled with the images of the cute little lamb being carried home by the Shepherd as the lamb snuggles in to the comfort and safety of the Shepherd.  But sheep grow up.  And they are very stupid.

One cowboy friend used to call them “range maggots” particularly because they would graze grass down to the roots and prevent a pasture from being reused for a period of time.  Sheep would follow one another, even when it meant harm, even death.  At anything which would frighten them they would run and huddle together, even to where it happened a few years back, the sheep on the inside of the huddle were smothered to death.

Sheep would stand bleating for food, even though it was merely a few yards away.  Sometimes by quiet waters, the shepherd would have to make them lie down.  Whereas, for example, a cat will nurse a wound, the sheep will have no idea what to do, and it is required of the Shepherd not just to dress the wound, but even to find it in the first place.

Upon hearing all that the Shepherd has to do for his sheep, someone remarked, “It seems they are more trouble than they are worth,” to which the comment was replied, “Yes, we are.”  Yes, we, the sheep of the Lord, it seems, are often more trouble than we are worth.

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A party of tourists from the British Isles was on its way to Palestine and its guide was describing some of the quaint customs of the East.  “Now,” said he, “you are accustomed to seeing the shepherd following his sheep through the English lanes and byways.  Out in the East, however, things are different, for the shepherd always leads the way, going on before the flock.  And the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”

When the group reached Palestine, to the amusement of the tourists, almost the first sight to meet their eyes was that of a flock of sheep being driven along by a man.  The guide was astonished and immediately made it his business to accost the shepherd.  “How is it that you are driving these sheep?” he asked.  “I have always been told that the Eastern shepherd leads his sheep.”

“You are quite right, sir,” replied the man.  “The shepherd does lead his sheep.  But you see, I’m not the shepherd, I’m the butcher.”

As sheep we are stupid, foolish, and especially how often we also are driven by death and sin!  How often we find ourselves in the words of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes, “striving after wind”?  Here was one who had amassed great fortune, erected great buildings, had great possessions, gathering the treasure of kings, and delighted in all sorts of music.  Yet when he stopped to look around, it was just emptiness.

When death will come to drive him to the grave, all that he had was nothing.  His labor was nothing; his hard earned affluence would be given to someone else who could as easily waste it all away; his wisdom gave him no advantage over the fool when death came; and his nights spent sleepless in his plans ultimately were a waste of time.  Yet how often one does not stop to think about these things, because he is being driven to keep going, no matter what the cost, no matter how empty the result, no matter how useless the goal – it is the butcher driving the sheep.

In contrast is what the Lord said in Isaiah [55:1-3]:

Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?  Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance.  Incline your ear, and come to Me.  Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting Covenant with you – the sure mercies of David.

Or the voice of the Good Shepherd Himself in Mathew [11:28-30]:

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

Remember that the Resurrection is not an event, He is a Person.  He has proven that He has the ability, the power, and the love to back up His invitation to come to Him.  How important it is that we do not have go seek Him out, but rather He is right here among us.  As the Good Shepherd, He has come searching for us and He has found us.  He comes because that is His love.  He stands with us because that is the depth and power of His forgiveness – something which comes because He did not stagger at going to a Cross for us.  But more, it is because He declared that He has come that we might have life, life abundantly [John 10:10].

The Resurrection has broken the power of death to drive us any more.  The Resurrection has gutted death’s ability to hold us down, to make emptiness and loneliness the only thing which faces us.  Instead, we have the freedom and joy to see a life rich in His presence and blessing.  It is in the little experiments of taking His promises at His face value and realizing that there is goodness and hope which await us.

As we consider this, remember also how important Easter is.  Every argument for Christ in the book of Acts hinges on the Resurrection.  Every letter in the New Testament revolves around the Resurrection.  The book of Revelation centers on the Good Shepherd Who sits on the throne of heaven for our sake.  This is no two-bit hope, but rather something that is so essential if we are indeed to come to the Good Shepherd, to listen to His voice, and to follow Him.

And again, we don’t have to go far.  Jesus is already here.  He has found us, and He stands in our midst.  He stands with His Body and Blood to confirm that this is not merely nice words or high ideals or some sort of fantasy.  He wants us to know for sure that He would give His life – that He has given His life – for you His sheep, but also that He was not stopped by death.  He will bring life to you and me here in this place.  He will give you everything down to His very core to you and me.

In a cemetery in Hanover, Germany, is a grave on which were placed huge slabs of granite and marble cemented together and fastened with heavy steel clasps.  It belongs to a woman who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.  Yet strangely, she directed in her will that her grave be made so secure that if there were a resurrection, it could not reach her.  On the marker were inscribed these words: “This burial place must never be opened.”  But a seed, covered over by the stones, began to grow.  Slowly it pushed its way through the soil and out from beneath them.  As the trunk enlarged, the great slabs were gradually shifted so that the steel clasps were wrenched from their sockets.  A tiny seed had become a tree which opened a grave sealed tight.

Jesus is NOT Dead.  The Good Shepherd has come and speaks His words of life, encouragement, hope, forgiveness, power, comfort and strength.  He does not direct us to go somewhere, He says to us, “I will go, and you come along with Me; follow Me.”    It is the Resurrection Himself Who speaks this, the Resurrection Who has done all because of His great love for you and me, the Resurrection Who has sought us and here stands with us.  He indeed leads us into the abundance of His life.

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