Easter 4

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Hello, my name is Mark Wild and I am a reader in the Worcester West Rural Team.

Today’s reading about Jesus being the good shepherd is a very familiar one and is often quoted as purely a description of Jesus. There is therefore a danger that the full significance of the whole reading and the context is overlooked. We are now moving away from Easter, the time when Christians concentrate on the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus. A story, the truth of which can be relied on, not just because of what Jesus’ followers wrote, but also because of what Roman writers, who were looking at the events historically and who had no other agenda, wrote.

The passage today from John’s Gospel provides some background to those events.

Jesus tells the people of the time not only about himself as being the shepherd of His people, but also that he would lay down His life voluntarily for his flock of sheep. To me, this indicates that He knew what was coming and yet He still carried on with His ministry. His death was not forced upon Him by circumstance, it was part of the plan. God the Son, the ultimate sacrifice to end all sacrifices, would do this voluntarily for the sake of saving His people.

The first few verses of this reading, identify the difference between a committed shepherd and a hired hand who was only there for his pay packet. The fact that Jesus was prepared to die for His sheep shows the level of His commitment. This was in contrast to the ways of the world at that time.

Being a shepherd could be dangerous, we read in the bible about wild animals roaming around including wolves, but the expectation was always that the shepherd would survive any attack. What would His motivation have been to do this, to sacrifice himself for His sheep?

The bible translation that I read when preparing this talk, when referring to the hired hand who was paid to look after the sheep, says that “The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep”. Jesus not only cares, but he is part of the God who loves the sheep.

Earlier in his gospel John writes “For God so loved the world that He gave is one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The word love is used in this passage in the context of the relationship between Jesus and the Heavenly Father. But it is also underlying the whole act of His sacrifice.

God loves His people enough to sacrifice His Son for them and Jesus being part of the Godhead, has the some love and does it voluntarily.

I think that now is the time when we need to look at just how that relates to you and me.

I have made two references to a collective gathering of people. In John’s gospel chapter 3 he refers to God loving the world and that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, and in chapter 10 he refers to flocks of sheep.

A shepherd who is prepared to die for his sheep is going to know the flock intimately and each one as an individual.

We are His flock, I think that it is therefore right to say, bringing these two passages together, that He knows each one of us as an individual and that He would be prepared to die for each one of us, as an individual.  Which I believe is what He did.

It was hearing, as part of a sermon one Easter Sunday many years ago that Jesus died for me as an individual, that changed my life. Until then, Jesus had died as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, but to hear that He had died as the sacrifice for my sins because He loved me that much, was something new and it altered my life totally.

Today’s passage also refers to a second flock of sheep and when read with Chapter 3 in John’s gospel, which refers to the whole world, we can be sure that all people, not just the Jewish race is part of God’s plan.

Up until this point, as far as the people who had heard Him were concerned, Jesus had come to just save the Jewish nation and I believe that this was certainly part of His plan, but it was also to do so much more. His sacrifice was to save all sheep, all people everywhere, across the whole world. This is why we can all be assured that the promise of salvation because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is for each one of us as well.

If we go back into scripture further, God’s promise to Abraham was to make him the father of many nations. Our God is the God of the whole world and He is there for all who believe in and accept Jesus as the sacrifice for their sins.

Questions:

  • What difference does it, or would it make to you, knowing that your God loves you so much that He was prepared to die for you?
  • What is your response to Him today, knowing that Jesus died to save you?


Page last updated: 31st March 2021 11:40 AM
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