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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Skip Heitzig » Skip Heitzig - John 10:1-24

Skip Heitzig - John 10:1-24

Skip Heitzig - John 10:1-24
Skip Heitzig - John 10:1-24
TOPICS: Expound, Gospel of John, Bible Study

Father, we want to pray as we have announced Sunday. We want to pray for this nation where you said, in your Word, that if those who are your people who are called by your name would humble themselves, and pray, and seek your face, and turn from their wicked ways that you would hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and would heal their land.

Father, we pray for your move during this election. We pray, Lord, that you would move upon us your people to be responsible, to be engaged, to be informed. To think of values and issues and platforms. To then consider what your word says about those positions and to vote accordingly. And we just, Lord, commit the leaders of our nation at the local level, at the state level, and at the federal level, give them wisdom. Help them, Lord, to make decisions that honor and glorify you. In Jesus' name, Amen.

John Chapter 10. I got this great stories from some friends of ours who live in Jerusalem. Seems that there's this guy who's having a bar mitzvah. But he's not just any guy. He's the world's oldest living man. He's 113 years old. And he's having his bar mitzvah in Jerusalem. Now what's odd about that is he's 100 years late. Because he should have been bar mitzvahed at age 13. He's 113, he's the world's oldest living dude, and he's having a bar mitzvah. A coming of age celebration. I think he's old enough, don't you?

So he was born in Poland in 1903. But what happened was his mother died, and his father was out fighting in World War I for the Russian army. So they were gone. She was dead, his mother. And his father was absent for the first time he would have his bar mitzvah. World War I ended. World War II later on happened. He was in Auschwitz concentration camp. He survived the Holocaust, survived Auschwitz. And now at 113 years of age, he's celebrating that he's becoming a son of the commandment. Bar mitzvah, a son of the law. Coming of age.

I love that, but I'm praying for him. I'm praying that as a Jewish man at 113, that somebody over there, perhaps my friends or others who are my friends who are believers, will help him to the place of full maturity, fully growing up. For you see, the Bible tells us in Galatians that the law was a schoolmaster, a tutor that was put in place by God to lead us to Christ. That we grow up, we become mature, we come of age spiritually.

And we no longer need the parameters of the old religious system because we enter into a true, right relationship with the living God. So I'm praying that he will come to that place, that coming of age of full maturity. It's a great story, but I'm just praying that his heart would be open to the Messiah. Now Israel and Judaism provided a system whereby God's people could be kept in a fence or in a hedge. In fact, the ancient sages used to call the law of the Old Testament, the laws of God, the fence. It kept them safe, it kept intruders out, it kept the good people, the good stuff in. And so Judaism kept the people of God for a long time.

But a new era has arrived. The Messiah has come to the earth. The Old Testament, the old sheepfold is over. The Good Shepherd has come. And all of that introduces Chapter 10 of John which, at the beginning, speaks about the Good Shepherd. Jesus says, I am the Good Shepherd. Now what you need to know about Chapter 10, this is really profound, is that it's connected to Chapter 9. Can I get an Amen? No, I'm just kidding. Just kidding, just kidding. That's not all that profound.

But I say that because you need to know that what happened in Chapter 9 continues now in Chapter 10. It's not like a different day has arrived. It's just a different chapter has arrived. But it's the same era, the same day that Jesus is in the temple in Jerusalem the day after the Feast of Tabernacles he has healed a man born blind from birth. He's interrogated by the Jewish elite, the religious leaders. And eventually, he is cast out, as we told you last week. He is desynagogued, unsynagogued, cast out of Judaism, which had severe repercussions socially as well as spiritually in those days.

He is abandoned by them. And so right after that, the text says in the previous chapter, Jesus found him. He is cast out of the fold of Judaism. The Good Shepherd finds him. And this is important because the Lord is going to be showing the people, the crowd who's listening, the leaders who are giving him the evil eye, and the man who was born blind. What is happening spiritually to this man? He has been found by the Good Shepherd. He is being brought into his fold. This man has heard his voice. He is a true sheep of the Messiah.

Now just a little bit of background about shepherding. And I know not much about shepherding at all. Some of you might, and I've been corrected by many people over the years in this flock who are actual shepherds. But from their teaching me and from what I have read, this is what I know about shepherding 2000 years ago. In the Middle East, especially in Israel, there were two types of sheep folds or sheep enclosures. There was one in the village, and one in the country.

Why do I say that? Because some commentators, and as you've heard me, some taters are more common than others. Those who comment on the scripture will say that verses 1 through 5 of John Chapter 10 is about the first kind of sheep enclosure. Verse 7 through 10 is about the second type of enclosure. One is the village, and one is the countryside. In the village, not one but several shepherds would place their flocks, plural, into a communal pen, a sheep enclosure. Every night, they would bring them in. The gate would be closed.

A watchman or a Porter, who was an under-shepherd of some kind. He knew sheep. He was stationed there to guard them. But it was a tall, fenced in area or walled in area with a gate. All the flocks were put in there. Before the flocks would retire into the sheep pen at night, the shepherds would stand there with the rod and the sheep would pass underneath the rod for inspection. So you'd hold one up and then inspect it. Let it go, and he'd pass under the rod. Passing under the rod became a metaphor of a shepherd inspecting the sheep. Making sure he's not diseased or infected because he's going in with a whole lot of other sheep. So that could get really nasty.

Then the shepherd would go home, get a good night's sleep. The Porter or the watchman would watch during the night to make sure there's no thieves who would break in and steal. Then in the morning, the shepherds would come and one by one, because the Porter or the watchman recognized, that's a legitimate shepherd. The shepherd would come. The gate would be open. The shepherd would make that very distinct call that his flocks understood, and the sheep would follow them out to the countryside, where they might be there for the day and come back, or be there for a few days for pasture and then come back later on. That's how it worked in those days.

Now whenever you're dealing with these types of scriptures, these types of analogies, people try to suppose what it is a metaphor for. What could the sheepfold mean? And so some who are commentators will say, well, the sheepfold is a picture of heaven. Or the sheepfold is a picture of salvation. I don't believe it's a picture of heaven because Jesus, in the analogy, said that thieves and robbers come in and steal. That's not a very comforting picture of heaven to me. Nor is it a picture of salvation because they go in and out. And these sheep are already part of the shepherd's fold before he leads them into any of these sheep pens, these enclosures.

So it seems to me, since it's tied to Chapter 9 and what happened, is that the sheepfold is Judaism, or at least one of the sheep pens is Judaism. And Jesus is offering an explanation, what happened to this Jewish sheep who was kicked out of the fold but brought under the care of the Good Shepherd. That seems to be the better context to look at it. Chapter 10 verse 1, Jesus speaking. I know that because it's in red letters in my Bible. Most assuredly I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in 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 door keeper opens and the sheep hear his voice. And he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

Now I have a theory. I believe that I know exactly where Jesus spoke this in the temple area. This is just my theory. I told you that Jesus was speaking at a very particular place in the temple area known as what? We have a coffee shop named after it. Solomon's porch. He was not getting a cappuccino. He was teaching in a covered portico area that ran the entire eastern breadth of the Temple Mount. From south to north on the eastern side of the Temple Mount was Solomon's porch. Jesus exits the temple by one of the gates.

Because he's already on the eastern side, I believe Jesus goes out the northeastern gate known as the Sheep Gate. Now if you go to Jerusalem today and you go through that gate, it's also called St. Stephen's Gate or the Lion's Gate. But it used to be called, and I remember when it was called this, it still is by many of the locals, the sheep gate. And that is because, and unfortunately, it's not there anymore. But it used to be 20, 30 years ago a sheep market every Friday right by that gate. It was acres of sheep. You could tell you were close by the smell. And sheep were bought and sold there by many of the Arab Palestinian shepherds.

So from antiquity, it was known as the sheep gate. And up till recently, it was used as the sheep gate. So I believe that Jesus was basically using what was around him to provide an illustration for him. In a very common place, in trying to answer the man who has been excommunicated from the sheepfold of Judaism to answer those Pharisees who are attacking Jesus. To give them an explanation, he uses this analogy.

Now I mention to you that in that village sheep pen, that all of the sheep were placed together. OK, so you have, let's say, my flocks, and you have Carrie's flocks, and you have Peter's flocks, and you have Antonio and Tamara, they have their sheep over there. We all have our flocks in this sheep pen. There were no brandings. There's no numbers on them. It didn't say, Carrie number one, number two, number three, skip, number four, number five, number, there was no branding at all on these sheep. So how do you tell your sheep from my sheep? By the call of the shepherd.

The call of the shepherd was very distinct because all of us have a distinct vocal pattern. If you have a pet, your dog knows, or your, I don't know if your cat knows much of anything, but, I'm sorry. I couldn't resist. Some of you are going, preach. it. Others saying, heretic.

I know my dogs know my voice. And so the shepherd would go and he would make the call that only he could make. Some kind of a shrilly, special tone of the voice. We do that to our pets. We don't talk normally to our pets, do we? You don't say, hey there, Mac. You say, here's the puppy... That your dog wags the tail and does that.

Sheep were like that. They recognize the master's voice. Some of you may remember RCA and the logo that RCA used. Do you remember it had that parlophone, that big megaphone that was connected to the record player and the little dog? It was listening to whatever sound, and it said, his master's voice, RCA. Sheep knew the master's voice. The particular tone, the intonation that was used, the pitch that was used.

Interesting story I read about some years back. In Australia, where a lot of people do keep sheep, a man was arrested for stealing sheep. He claimed he didn't steal any sheep. They were his sheep. So it went to court. On the stand, the judge and the jury cross-examined the plaintiff as well as the defendant. Judge didn't know what to do. So as a last resort, the judge called the final witness, the sheep. They were brought into the court room. Then the judge asked the plaintiff, the one who made the accusation of thievery, to go out into the hallway, keep the doors of the chambers open, and call the sheep.

He made his call and the little sheep just cowered down and looked very afraid. The accused went out and called, and the sheep came to him. He said, case closed. The sheep knows the shepherd's voice. That's what the judge said. The sheep knows the shepherd's voice. So that's how it was done then. The sheep were taken out and led out, directed out to the green pastures.

So we've told you before about sheep, right? And the Bible uses the metaphor of sheep throughout the Bible. And we who are not shepherds, or we don't come from an agrarian culture, but from a very modern, techno-urban city kind of a culture. We don't understand all the ramifications. It's a beautiful picture, right? The Lord, we are the sheep of his hand, the Bible says. Psalm 23, the Shepherd Psalm. But sheep, as I've told you, are not the smartest thing going. They're prone to wander. All of us, like sheep, have gone astray. But though they're not the smartest, they know their master's voice.

You know, it's funny. Whenever I teach on sheep and I do mention that sheep are kind of dumb, I just see some people just like, I don't like this part of the sermon. I don't like being told I'm not smart. The fact that the Bible calls you a sheep, you're going to hear it one of two ways. You're going to either hear it as a chop, a put down, are you going to hear it as a compliment. I see it as a compliment. David, I think, was bragging when he said, the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He does this. He does that. In other words, I'm a sheep, that I recognize. But I have it good, because I have a good shepherd. And he was bragging.

And how many of you are pet owners? OK. Hands down. I'm not going to ask you to raise your hands on the next one. But I'm going to tell you this. There are good pet owners, and there some bad pet owners. And I mean bad in the true sense of not cool, but not good. Not good. Bad pet owners. Some own pets, they never walk them. They never exercise them. They never spend much time. They keep them in a little enclosure in the back yard and they run around barking all day long. All day. I have a neighbor like this. All day long, all day long, all day long. Not a next door neighbor. So I don't want you to try to Zillow that and find out who is it? Somewhere else in the neighborhoods. I'm thinking, goodness. That dog is out there all the time, barking all the time. Needs an owner who will take care of it.

Then there are those who are good, normal pet owners. Probably you. Since you're Christians, you're good pet owners. You might even quote text of scripture to your pets. I don't know. But then there are those other pet owners on the other side of the spectrum who are like, they carry their pets wherever they go. They have little sweaters with monograms for their pets. They go to dog psychiatrists if something's wrong. Their dog house is air conditioned in the summer. This exists, by the way. We hear that and we go, that's stupid. That's overboard. But let me ask you a question. If you were a dog and you could choose which house to go to, you can take a, b, or c. I'm going with c. I want the AC if I'm a dog in the summertime, right?

So when David said, the Lord is my Shepherd, he's going, I'm c. Yeah, I got the great shepherd who takes such great care of me. It was a boast. So back to our story. Notice something about the Good Shepherd, the true shepherd. False shepherds don't come through the door. They try to climb in some other way. So in the morning, the shepherds come to the door. The door keeper, the porter says, I know you. You're the right shepherd. Call your sheep, and they go with him.

A false shepherd is going to try to climb in, probably at night, to steal the sheep. Jesus came through the front door of Judaism. He came in the right way. Jesus was predicted by the prophets, inspired by God the Father throughout the Old Testament. 300, 330 predictions made that Jesus fulfilled. He came in through the front door of Judaism.

That was Paul's point. Galatians Chapter 4, Verse 4, "that in the fullness of the time, God sent forth His son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law." He came in the right way. Came in through the front door. Verse 4, "And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them and the sheep follow him for they know his voice."

This I have found out from people who keep sheep over in these United States is that Western shepherds drive their sheep, but eastern shepherds would lead their sheep. And you see it today when you go over to the Middle East. You see a shepherd walking in front of the flock, not driving them, leading them. And why would he lead them? Because sheep don't know where they're going. Yeah, you can drive them using sheep dogs, but it's better if you lead them because the sheep will come to trust you. Actually, shepherds have said, my sheep are very at ease when I'm around because it's like they have this instinct that says, I know that he knows where he's going. He knows where the spots are. Right? He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters, as David said. So he goes in front of them. He leads them. They follow him. They know his voice.

Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will run away from him. Flee from him, for they do not know the voice of a stranger. Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which he spoke to them. Then Jesus said to them, before we get into that, we're going in now to the second sheep enclosure. There's is an underlying truth in all. And we've given you, and unfolded, and unpacked the meaning of these words. But here's an underlying truth. Sheep need to be led. Sheep need shepherds. We need his guidance. We need him to lead us. We need to depend on him. Sheep who have no shepherd are called lost or dead.

And there are people in this world who I would classify as lost and dead. Dead in trespasses and sins, wandering, meandering, not knowing where they're going because there's not a shepherd over them. Jesus saw the multitudes in Galilee like sheep having no shepherd wandering aimless. Sheep need to be led. This has happened to me a couple times when I've been in the Middle East. And one time, interestingly enough in Bethlehem itself, where there was a flock of sheep, there was a shepherd.

My buddy and I decided, let's go get some milk fresh out of the utter of these sheep. The rest of our tour group thought, these guys are nuts. And so we approached the shepherd. But all the sheep, when they heard us coming, they all huddled together with their heads in the center and their little sheep heinies poking out. So they were getting their heads together, but there's nothing really in their heads to get together.

So it's just not a good strategy. They're not facing the other direction like some animals do. They're facing inward like, get the bad men away. And they're exposed. They're vulnerable. So the shepherd had to break them up and scatter them around, keeping them close to him but not in that formation, because it's not a good thing for them to do. It makes them open to predatory animals.

So Jesus, Verse 7, said to them, he said to them again, so this is the second time now he's speaking. And he's using a little bit different analogy. The morning is over. It's now the shepherd out with the sheep during the midday, mid afternoon, leading them out to the hillside, the green pastures, et cetera. Most assuredly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. Now it changes a little bit. Before he was the Good Shepherd. He's the shepherd calling the sheep out. Now he's the door. And I'll explain that. All whoever came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.

In the village, that sheep enclosure where all of those communal flocks were kept, the walls were high. But out in the pasture lands, out in the countrysides, the walls were usually much lower, just stones piled up with a little bit of bramble. A little, simple enclosure was made. Sheep were put in, but there was no door. The shepherd would lie down at night, if he kept them out a few days. Lie down at night at the entrance of the sheep enclosure.

There's an Old Testament author named, or an author of Old Testament books named George Adam Smith, talked about manners and customs. He was visiting the Middle East. He was out in the countryside with shepherds. And the shepherd was showing him and directing him how he was leading his sheep, and led him into one of these simple little enclosures out in the countryside. And George Adam Smith said to the shepherd, well what are you going to do now? Where's the door? And the shepherd said, I am the door. And he showed that he would lay down in front of the door at night and he said, this sheep can't leave but over me. And a wolf cannot come in but over me.

You've heard that old expression, over my dead body. I like that. I like that in this sense. I'm the shepherd. You're not going to get to my sheep unless you come through me. That speaks of protection. That speaks of safety. And safety and protection are due to proximity. The shepherd is with his sheep, protecting his sheep at the door of the sheepfold. I am the door.

All whoever came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. Verse 9. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. How many doors were there to the sheep enclosure, 10? There was one. Jesus said I am the door. In another place, he said, I am the way, the truth, the life. No one comes to the Father but by me. Jesus, the famous I am statements of the Gospel of John. Here's one. I am the door. Speaks of safety, security, all due, again, to proximity. Listen, the key to being a happy sheep is get as close as you can to the shepherd. Hang out with the shepherd, man.

Abide, Jesus said, in him. Abide means have a constant, close, intimate living communion with him. The closer you are in proximity to the shepherd, your security goes up, your safety goes up, your satisfaction goes up. Verse 10, famous verse. You know this one. The thief does not come except to steal, to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life. And they might have it to the max. That's the NSV, that's the New Skip version. More abundantly is the New King James version. To the hilt. Turned up to 10. That you might have life and have it more abundantly.

Notice the contrast, the thief, shepherd or the door. The contrast is he wants to kill. He wants to steal. He wants to destroy. But I have come that they may have life, and have it to the max, to the full, to the brim, to the hilt. What a contrast from Satan's plan for your life and God's plan for your life. You've heard people say, God loves you. Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. True. But you need to hear the other side of the coin. Satan hates you and has a miserable plan for your life.

So if you want to be a happy sheep, learn to say no to the one who's trying to kill you, steal, and destroy you. Say no to that. Oh, but it's hard. It is hard. But it's painful to say no to the world. Yeah, it's difficult. But your choice is this. You can have temporary pleasure now and long term pain later, or you can have temporary pain now and long term satisfaction that lasts into eternity. That's the choice. Because Jesus just frames it so nicely. The thief has come to steal from you. Rip you off. Are you being ripped off, or are you being right on with the shepherd? I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.

You know, I have never met a person, in all my years of doing this, doing ministry. I've never yet met a person who at the end of his life or her life said, I wish I would have sinned more. I regret that I didn't take more drugs or fornicate more, or get into illicit stuff. I really regret that. I've never met a person who said that. I've met plenty of people who regret that they did do all that stuff and they wish they would have walked with a Lord longer. So yeah, it's not easy. It's hard to say no. But the end thereof, and that is all of Satan's lies, is the way of death.

So say not just no, but say yes. No to Satan's ploys, to the thief's ploys, but yes to Jesus who is doing everything he can to give you abundant life. And I just want to ask you. I want you just to think through this yourself, maybe in your devotions tomorrow. Does that describe you, your life? Abundant life. That doesn't mean that everything's perfect, or that you have tons of disposable income or everything in life you want materially, but is it abundant? Is it abundant?

Jesus said, he's come to give you abundant life, not, I've come to give you a bummer life. And bummer more abundantly. I want you to have abundant bummer. That's my plan for your life. Now I know plenty of people in the world who don't understand my Christian walk who think that that's what Jesus will do. I remember when I first told my friends that I have given my life to Christ and my family that I have given my life to Christ, and they said, why? What a waste.

I remember telling my friend Tony from England that I met in Israel that I would say no to some of the things he was involved with and yes to Jesus. And he said, I don't understand. Why would you do that? I'm having all the fun. I said, Tony, you don't even know what fun is, man. You've been eating Hamburger Helper all your life. You've been eating TV dinners. I'm over here with steak and lobster. And you think that you've got it good? Jesus has abundant life, you just haven't tasted it yet. You're over there with the TV dinners going, man, life is good. Life is good. Uh uh. Try some abundance.

So as a believer, as one of God's sheep, are you a complaining sheep? Well that's my spiritual gift. It's my talent to point things out that are wrong. Well I don't think the Lord would mind if you buried that talent. Is there abundance? Jesus spoke about he who thirsts and comes to me and drinks out of his innermost being. Will gush torrents, rivers of living water.

I am the Good Shepherd, Verse 11. The Good Shepherd gives his life for the sheep. He's going to say that four times. He gives or lays down his life four times in this passage. But a hireling who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees. And the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling. A hired hand does not care about the sheep. I am the Good Shepherd and I know my sheep, and I am known by my own as the Father knows me. Even so, I know the Father and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Again, I said four times he says, I give or I lay down my life. He's speaking of his sacrificial death, because the shepherd, as I told you in that sheep enclosure out in the wilderness, would lay down his life every night. Lay it down and become the door, which would mean if a pack of wolves came, he could die if he didn't protect himself. Jesus is saying, I am laying down my life for the sheep. The word for, listen carefully, is the Greek word. And means on behalf of or instead of, in the place of. I am going to lay my life down in death in the place of, on behalf of the sheep. People. So they don't have to die for their sins, I'll take it upon myself.

That's the idea of... That is what we call substitutionary or vicarious atonement. It's the doctrine of vicarious atonement. Substitutionary death. And four times, Jesus makes reference to it here. I lay down my life for the sheep. You see, shepherding, it sounds like a fun life, right? Say, oh, what a peaceful life. It's risky. It's risky. You remember David? King David, when he, before he was King. And he was just a little shepherd boy. Remember when he was being interviewed by King Saul, and David said, you know, King Saul. I'm a shepherd and I'm really good at the stone and the sling. And by the way, whenever a bear or a lion came in and took a sheep, I would chase that puppy down and I would get it from its mouth and deliver it. That's dangerous work.

I did an interesting little digging online and discovered that in a year's time, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, yes, there is one, that actually provides these numbers, in one year in the United States of America, almost a quarter million sheep died by predatory animals. Cougars, mountain lions, wolves, coyotes. That's a lot. So it's risky business. Of course, Jesus paid the ultimate price. He laid down his life.

But I keep that, I want to put that in your mind because he's going to complete the sentence. Verse 16, and other sheep I have which are not of this fold, them I must bring also. And they will hear my voice and there will be one flock and one shepherd. Therefore my father loves me because I lay down my life, here's the rest of it, that I might take it again. I'm laying it down in death, I'm taking it again in resurrection. Jesus laying down his life was not the end of the story. The end of the story was he laid it down that he might take it again.

We need to learn to finish the sentence. How you doing? Oh man, it's been hard lately. My life, I'm laying my life down. Finish the sentence. You're going to take it up again. God has plans for you. Unless he wants you in heaven, you're just going to lay down and die right there. But probably you're not. So what I want you to see in terms of Jesus about the cross is that when he laid down his life, when he went to the cross and died, that wasn't a disaster. That was a design. The cross wasn't a tragedy, it was a strategy. He announced it in advance. I'm laying down my life that I might take it again. And later, he will say, I have the power to lay it down. I have the power to take it again. Amazing who he is claiming to be.

Now Verse 16. I wanted to draw your attention back to it. Other sheep I have which are not of this fold, them I must also bring, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock and one shepherd. He is speaking of those outside of the flock, the fold of Judaism. The Gentiles, he's speaking of. Non-Jewish people. That's me. That's probably most of you. 99.9% of you are Gentiles, non-Jewish people. The gospel was to go from Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria, and then to the outermost parts of the earth. We're about as uttermost parts of the earth as you can get if you start at Jerusalem. So we're out there. We're other sheep, man.

And Paul in Ephesians called this the mystery, that was kept back from people knowing it in the Old Testament. But now, it's revealed in the New Testament. The mystery is not that the Gentiles would be saved or the Jews would be saved, but that Jew and Gentile would be placed in the same body, the same group, the same fold. Other sheep I have. There will be one flock, one shepherd, because we're all related by Jesus. We're brothers and sisters because of Jesus.

So why is this important? Because in those days, at that time, in that place, the Jews believed there were two people in the earth, Jews and everybody else. Jews were going to heaven because of the covenant made with Abraham. And the covenant of the law that they maintained given by Moses. They're going to heaven by bloodline and by the law of Moses. And then there's everybody else, the Gentiles. You know what happens to the Gentiles 2000 years ago, at that time, at that place? You know what they thought about us? We're going to hell. There's no hope for us. A Jewish man who is devout would wake up in the morning 2000 years ago in Jerusalem and say this prayer. Listen to this prayer. Oh God, I thank you that I am not a slave, a Gentile, or a woman. That was a Jewish male that would pray that by the way, as you can tell.

Second, there was a saying that was widely believed that the reason God created Gentiles, you and I, was to make hell hotter. To kindle the fires of hell. That was believed and taught. And it was sort of practiced in the temple because there were courts. And the outer court of the temple was called to court of the Gentiles. Gentiles could hang out in the outer courts, listen to rabbis. But they couldn't get close. You couldn't go into the court of the women, men, priests, etc. And there was a balustrade or a wall. And the wall had a sign. And the sign, by the way, has been found and discovered, and it's in the museum in Israel.

And it says, foreigners, Gentiles, are not permitted beyond this point and will be responsible for their own death if they try to cross it. So there was a separation. Jesus comes and removes, Ephesians Chapter 2 and 3. He removes the boundary, and brings those who were afar off and brings them near. Other sheep I have which are not of this fold, them I must also bring that there may be one flock and one shepherd. No one takes it from me, verse 18, I lay it down of myself. I have the power to lay it down. I have the power to take it again. This command I have received from my father.

I just can't resist this. There's a principle that I see. I want to see if you resonate with this. He's explaining that he's the shepherd. And he's just not the shepherd, he's the Good Shepherd. What makes him a good shepherd? Well, he lays his life down for the sheep. What else makes him a good shepherd? He didn't stay down, he gets back up, right? Resurrection.

And you might hear that and go, why would that make him a good shepherd? Because Jesus said I'll never leave you or forsake you. If he's dead permanently, he can't fulfill that promise. If he gets up from the dead, he could do that. He could now fulfill that promise. If he lives forever and he says, guess what? I'm always going to hang out with you. I'm always going to be there. Just abide in me. I'll come to you. All give you my strength. I'll be with you to the end of the age. Now that promise makes sense, right? So that's a great aspect of this great shepherd.

Now some of you who are Bible students and thinking ahead are going, but wait a minute. That sounds good, but he rose from the dead, then he ascended into heaven. He said, bye. Left. So how is this good news? Well, why did he ascend into heaven? To help you and to send the Holy Spirit. If I'm here, I can send the Holy Spirit. But if I go, I will send him. He'll be with you, he will be in you.

So Jesus now in heaven. Do you know what he's doing? He's seated at the right hand of the Father, but he's working. His work didn't end at the cross. His redemptive work ended at the cross, but do you know that he is still working today, right now? Do you know what he's doing? He's advocating, he's interceding for you. He is, Hebrews 7, I think 25. I may be mistaken, but I know it's in Hebrew 7. He ever lives, listen, he ever lives to make intercession for us.

You know what? I prayed for you this morning. I prayed for you throughout the day. Those of you who are here tonight, I prayed for you. Now that will probably make you feel good. Oh, the pastor prayed for us. Better news, Jesus prays for you to the Father. His work of intercession goes on. That's a great shepherd. I lay it down that I might take it again. This command I have given from my Father.

Therefore there was a division, again, among the Jews because of these things. And many of them said, he has a demon. They keep coming up with this, don't they? And he's nuts. He's mad. Why do you listen to him? Others said, these are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind? OK, stop there. You see the period in Verse 21 and you see the first letter in Verse 22 of "now and?" There's two to three months between that period and that first letter. We have been at the Feast of Tabernacles.

When we open up to Verse 22, it's not the fall any longer. It's not September, October. It is now December. It is the Jewish month of Kislev in the winter time, to three months later in verse 22. It says, now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. So a few months have elapsed. It is now the Feast of Dedication, it says, in Verse 22. And then Verse 23, Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch.

The Feast of Dedication I find interesting that Jesus is in Jerusalem attending the celebration of the Feast of Hanukkah. That's what it is, the Feast of Hanukkah. I say I find it interesting because it's not a biblical feast. It's not at all in the Old Testament. Israel was never commanded to keep it ever. It is something that happened between the Old and the New Testament, around 164 BC.

But I just find it interesting because some people get all hung up and mad if we keep Christmas. If you're a true Christian, why would you celebrate a holiday that's not a biblical holiday. Well, I just find it interesting that Jesus is celebrating a holiday that's not a biblical holiday. It's the Feast of Dedication, Jesus is going to celebrate. He didn't say, no, I'm going to abstain from that. It's not in the Bible. He's there. It's a celebration. What were they celebrating? What was Hanukkah celebrating? It's called the Feast of Lights.

So I'll try to make a long story short. Alexander the Great, how many have heard of his name? That's because he was great. OK, so Alexander the Great wanted to conquer the world. Got pretty close. He died at a young age in Babylon. When he died, on his death bed, they asked him, to whom will the kingdom go? He said this sentence, give it to the strong. They didn't know what he meant because he said that and died. Give it to the strong armies? The strong people? The strong, your family? Who? But that's all.

So what they did is the kingdom was divided between his four generals. You want to know their name? Thank you for asking. Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy. Those four generals, those four men took over the whole Grecian empire. So Seleucus was given the area of Greece and Macedonia, Lysimachus was given the area of Asia Minor, modern day Turkey, and Thrace, T-H-R-A-C-E. The Thracian empire, which is southeast Europe today. Seleucus was given the area of Syria and Babylonia. And Ptolemy, spelled with a P-T-O-L-E-M-Y, Ptolemy was given Egypt, North Africa, and Arabia.

So the kingdom of Alexander the Great, the known world pretty much he controlled was given to these four men. All was well. They wanted to further the design of Alexander, spreading Greek culture around the world. In the middle, between the Seleucid or Seleucus and his empire, Seleucid empire of Syria, and Ptolemy, Egypt, right between those two empires was a very interesting little nation known as Israel. So you have all of these nations capitulating, saying, sure, man. We'll become like Greeks. We'll speak Greek, language, culture we'll do whatever you want, except the Jews. The Jews were very independent. They didn't want to capitulate. They didn't want to give in. They wanted to retain their Judaism. They're not going to worship any of the pagan gods, et cetera, et cetera.

So there was this fighting between the north and southern kingdoms. It's detailed in the book of Daniel. I'll spare you. But as the years wore on, eventually there came the eighth in the line of the Seleucid kings in the north known Antiochus IV. Antiochus IV was nicknamed the beast by the Jews. He was so intent in making these Jews bow that he attacked Jerusalem and killed 80,000 Jews, took 40,000 of them captive. Desecrated the temple by erecting an altar to Zeus and getting a pig and sacrificing the flesh of a swine so all the blood would run down on the altar. And you know anything about Judaism, pigs ain't cool, right? He defiled the temple.

The Jews called that the Abomination of Desolation. It was the ultimate sacrilege. People were forced to convert from Judaism to this belief system. Worship Zeus. I have a lot of stories about what happened in Jerusalem. Don't have the time. So a revolt started by a group called the Maccabeans. Some of you've heard of the Maccabean revolt. The Maccabeans were a group of priests in a village south of Jerusalem known as Modine. This Hasmonean dynasty was headed by a guy named Mathias and his sons, Judas Maccabees and the other boys. They started a revolt. They were successful in cleansing the temple and driving the Syrian forces back.

In 164 BC, they rededicated the temple to Yahweh, to God, and they wanted to light the candlestick, the Menorah inside the holy place. Well they only had enough oil, the story, the legend goes, they only had enough oil that would last them one day. One day. It takes, according to Judaism, eight days to make olive oil to be purified to the right extent and extract to provide oil for the temple. So they only have one cruse of oil that would last one day in the temple. They won't be able to make oil for another eight days.

So they light the Menorah. And miraculously, this is all according to legend, but miraculously, it stayed lit not just one day, but two days, three days, four days, five days, six days, seven days, eight days. Eight days. While they were making a fresh batch of oil, the oil that should have lasted one day's worth lasted eight days. So it's called the Festival of Light. So you see every year in winter time, Jewish people have a lamp stand called a hanukiah. A hanukiah has nine branches on it. A Menorah has seven. Nine because one is the lead candle that you light the other eight candles with celebrating the Festival of Lights. Not a biblical holiday, comes from legend.

Jesus is in the temple celebrating it. It is winter. I'm giving you all of that because at Hanukkah, there arose these intense feelings among the Jews for the Messiah to come. But the Messiah they want is like Judas Maccabees and Mathias Maccabees. They want a strong army man general guy overturning the Romans. We want a guy who's going to overthrow the government like those guys. Jesus is there, and that helps you understand Verse 24. The Jews surrounded him and said to him, how long do you keep us in doubt? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.

OK, I hear this stuff about the Messiah. If you're him, tell us, because they're celebrating Judas Maccabees and Mathias, and overturning Antiochus Epiphanies and all that stuff that we just told you about. And so Jesus gives his answer. And we'll look at that next time. Let's pray together.

Lord, we love the picture of a shepherd lifting a lamb, untangling its little legs and feet from bramble. Carrying it, bearing it on his shoulders. The shepherd leaving the 99, looking out for the one. We love that strong picture of protection, of laying down in front of the sheep pen, protecting the lives of the little lambs with the shepherd's own body. And eventually, to give his life for the sheep so that he might take it up again, and with resurrected power, give them a life, a satisfying life that can only be described as life more abundantly. More abundant life.

Lord, some of us are not living that way. Some of us are believers, and we committed our lives to you. But we get distracted. The cares of this world choke up the seed. It becomes unfruitful. A lot of things happen to us. But Lord, we return to the Great Shepherd of the sheep. And we say, Lord, care for us. Lead us. Direct us. Sometimes the path we're on seems so spooky, so dark, so full of rocks. But Lord, you're the shepherd. You know where the best pasture is. You know where the refreshing springs lie.

And so Lord, we can't see. But you being the shepherd, being much taller, seeing at a great vantage point, you know where you're leading us. And so rather than needing to see, we live by faith, not by sight. We trust the shepherd. It's relational, not locational. And we just want to say we trust you. Lord also, there are those who are here tonight who have never allowed the shepherd to lead them. Up to this point, they have made their own decisions. They have followed their own path. And they could be the ones that Jesus described as weary, scattered, just like sheep having no shepherd.

Lord, how you long to be their shepherd, to bring them into the flock. That there would be one fold, one flock, one shepherd. Lord, some have come at the bequest of a relative, or a friend, or their curiosity. Others have come many times before. But they have never said yes to the shepherd. They've never allowed their lives to be governed. Some have gone astray. We, like sheep, have gone astray. But the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all. You lay down your life for us in our place, in our stead. The punishment we should have had, you took so that we wouldn't have to spend an eternity separated from God being punished for our wrongdoing.

We could have abundant life. An eternal life, everlasting life into the future. That's what you want, Lord. The question is, how many of us want that. So Lord, would you probe, would you, like the good shepherd, to search through this fold and grab another sheep, and another one, and another one, and another one, and make them your own.

Our heads are bowed. Our eyes are closed. And I want to give you an opportunity. If you've never given your life to Jesus or if you've wandered away from him, you're not obeying him now, you need to come back home to him. Or you've trusted in religion, or you've trusted in yourself, or you've trusted in doing good, and you need to just trust in Jesus, who died, but is alive forever more and is coming again. Would you say yes to him? Would you be his child? If so, if you want that, if you want your sins forgiven, if you want to know that when you die, you will be in heaven with Him, immediately in His presence, I want you to raise your hand.

Right now, where you're seated, just raise it up. Keep it up for just a moment. God bless you, and you, and you. Right here on my right side. Right there toward the middle, on the edge in the middle. Anyone else? Raise that hand up. Raise it up high so I can acknowledge you. You're saying yes to Jesus. You're surrendering your life to him. In the balcony, Lord bless you. Anybody else? The Lord's been working on you maybe for a while. For a long time. Release, surrender your life right now to him. Maybe for the first time, or maybe you're coming back to Him. But you just say yes. God bless you.

Lord, thank you for each one. Bring them, Lord, to the shepherd's side. Let them know by the blood of the lamb as you became not only the shepherd, not only the door, but the very lamb that would take away sin so that these sheep might live. I pray, Lord, that you would surround them with your love and your comfort in Jesus' name. Amen.

Would you stand your feet please? As we sing this final song, those of you who raised your hands, whether you're in the balcony or in the edge or in the middle of a row, I'm going to ask you to get up from where you're standing. Find the nearest aisle and stand right up here. A couple of counselors are going to join you just to encourage you to stand right up here.

I'm going to lead you in a prayer of saying yes to Jesus Christ, right here, right now. God bless you, girls. Come right up here. God bless you. Beautiful. Come on up. Come right up in the front. We want to celebrate with you. If you're in the balcony and you just take the steps down, we'll wait for you. If you're in the family room, if I didn't see you, your eyes aren't what they used to be when you get older. So I might not have even acknowledged you. But the Lord sees you, knows you, loves you. Maybe you didn't even raise your hand at all. But inside right now, you're thinking, I need this. I've needed this for a long time. Say yes to him. Let go of your life. Let go of the grip.

Come on up. I love it. Come on up and I'll bless you. Beautiful. Beautiful, beautiful. I love it. That's never truer than right now. It says, I once was lost, but now I'm found. That's right. That's right. Every one of you has come forward, I'm going to lead you in a word of prayer. I'm going to ask you to pray this prayer out loud after me. From your heart, say these words to Jesus. He will come in. He will forgive you. He will give you new life. It's not based on what you've done, it's based on what he's done. So I'm going to pray. I'm going to ask you to pray out loud after me. But we'll wait. Come on down. Good going, good thinking. Let's pray. You pray after me:

Lord, I give you my life. I know that I am a sinner. Please forgive me. I believe in Jesus. That he came from heaven to earth. That he died on a cross. That he shed his blood for me. And that he rose again from the dead. I repent of my sin, I turn from it. I turn to Jesus as Savior. I want to live for him as my Lord. Help me to do that. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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