The Good Shepherd
March 21st, 1971 @ 7:30 PM
THE GOOD SHEPHERD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-21-71 7:30 p.m.
On the radio of the city of Dallas you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church. The title of the message is The Good Shepherd. In our preaching through the Gospel of John, we are in the tenth chapter. And in the pew rack in front of you, you will find a Bible if you have not brought your own, share your Bible and let us read out loud together the first nine verses. The Fourth Gospel, Gospel of John, chapter 10, the first nine verses. And on the radio, if you have a Bible in your home, get your Bible, read it out loud with us, the Gospel of John chapter 10, the first nine verses. Now all of us reading together:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which He spake unto them.
Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
The ideal of Israel was a shepherd. Their king, their ideal king, David, the sweet psalm singer of Israel, was a shepherd; Moses, the lawgiver, the greatest of the Jews, was a shepherd; and our blessed Lord likened His ministry in the days of His flesh to that of a shepherd. And all of you who have visited that land know how the whole earth, fading into the desert, the whole vast Fertile Crescent, from Mesopotamia around down to Egypt, is a land that is covered with those who give themselves to the flocks and the herds. So the Master taking up that parable speaks of the fold, the sheepfold and the shepherd and the door into the fold. How many? I could not imagine how many of those sheepfolds you will find. They’re made out of unhewn rocks, rocks stacked up a little enclosure, and always one door. And the Lord, following the symbolism, said, “I am the door of the sheep. I am the door,” repeated it, “by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” [John 10:9]. The door: there is one door, and always just one. As in the ark, there was one door, just one [Genesis 6:16]. And in that one door, the great elephant lumbered in and the little snail crawled in. In that one door, the great eagle swooped out of the blue of the sky and the little wren hopped in. Through that one door Noah and his wife, Shem, Ham, and Japheth and their wives all entered in. There is one door into the ark [Genesis 6:17-18, 7:1, 7, 13]. There is one door into the kingdom of God, just one. And our Lord said, “I am the door!” [John 10:9]. Oh, how many times did He emphasize that? Ego eime he hodos kai he aletheia kai he zoe, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” [John 14:6]. There is one way for a man to be saved, and that is through Jesus Christ our Lord. “I am the door into the fold: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved” [John 10:9].
Then He avows, “I am the good shepherd” [John 10:11]; and again, “I am the good shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine. I know My sheep” [John 10:14]. Now that sounds astonishing to us here in Texas. Out there in the West, and particularly and especially around San Angelo are those vast sheep ranches. My mother’s father had one of those great sheep ranches out there on the Concho River; and my cousins still operate those big ranches. They have sheep by the thousands and the thousands, and to them they’re commodities; just great flocks of thousands of sheep. But no thing approached that in Palestine and in the Orient, in the Middle East. “I am the good shepherd, and I know My sheep” [John 10:14]. The shepherd lived with them; out under the hot Syrian sun, or in the face of a mountain torrent, or protecting from the wolves and the lions and the bears, or taking care of them, thirsting with them for water, daily seeking to find pasture, always the shepherd was with his flocks. And out there usually where no human being was ever in sight, such as Moses on the back side of the desert at the base of Mount Sinai with the flocks of Midian [Exodus 3:1]; “I know My sheep, and knowing them I lay down My life for them” [John 10:15]. O Master, for sheep, for us? Yes, for us. “And they are sensitive to Me; My sheep follow Me, and they know My voice” [John 10:27]. That’s what on the inside of us. When a man knows Jesus and is saved, there’s something on the inside of him that just responds like a harp that’s plucked. When the name of Jesus is named, or when the gospel is preached, or when the songs of Zion are sung, or when time comes to go to the house of the Lord, he’s a sheep and he knows the voice of the Shepherd, “And they follow Me” [John 10:27].
Let me tell you one of the most amazing things I ever looked at. I was in Galilee at a water hole in a dry part of the country. And there at that watering place were several flocks; here was a shepherd with his flock, and a shepherd with his flock, and a shepherd with his flock. And I just wondered as I looked at them, they were all mixed together, the sheep were, all mixed together, you couldn’t tell who was who and what was what and which was which. And I thought, “When the time comes and the flocks are watered, how are these men going to separate them? Going to run them down, each one?” They were scattered all around. Well, did you know, the time came for one of those shepherds to leave, and he called, that one shepherd called and he turned to go away and every one of his sheep started following after him; that one call, that one shepherd. “They know My voice, and they follow Me, and a stranger will they not follow” [John 10:4-5].
Now I had a man last week, one of these major-domos, one of these high factotums, and he took me out to lunch. You know, in this ecclesiastical world he took me out to lunch. And he wanted to know what was the matter with me because in my spirit and in my attitude I feel certain things about certain folks, especially in certain areas of our denomination. He was just talking to me about it. And so I said to him, “I will not try to mislead you, nor will I try to hide how I feel in my heart. But,” I said, “I cannot help it. When I see you men stand up and you deny the Word of God and you put question marks about that sacred Book, there is something in me that dies, and I cannot help it, I cannot help it! It isn’t because I choose to be that way, I just am that way. And I think you mislead and misdirect our people! And I think the ultimate is: if our people follow you, we will come to that day and we’ll come to that time when our own denomination and our own churches and our own pastors will be exactly like those that I have seen die in Europe, that I have seen die in England, in Scotland, in Scandinavia, in continental Europe, in the North! And I think it’ll come down here in the South.”
There is something on the inside of the sheep that when a hireling stands up [John 10:11-13], when a man stands up and denies the Word of God, there’s something in him that he [the sheep] can’t help but feel; you can’t help it, you can’t help it. Why, when a man stands up to preach it isn’t any time at all until I can feel him, just feel him. Either he is a man of God and he encourages me and he blesses me and I want to say, “Praise the Lord, bless God,” or as I listen to him I say, “Oh dear me, there’s another one of those half-infidels trying to parade, trying to be ostentatious, but underneath he doesn’t know what it is to give himself completely to the Word of God.”
“My sheep, My sheep hear My voice, they know Me, and I know them” [John 10:2-4], and He says and repeats it three times, “The good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep” [John 10:11]; then He says it again, “I lay down My life for the sheep” [John 10:15]; then He repeats it yet again, “I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up. This is the promise I have received of the Father” [John 10:17-18]. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep, “I lay it down of Myself.” Oh, the curse is so bitter, and the tragedy is so solemn, and the need is so everlastingly pervasive, “I lay down My life for the sheep” [John 10:15], instead of the sheep, that we might be saved.
What does that mean, “I lay it down of Myself”? [John 10:18]. Why, they took His life, they crucified Him, in bitterness and in anger and in burning wrath, they nailed Him to a tree! [John 19:16-34]. What does He mean, “I lay down My life”? [John 10:15]. Why, when you read the life of our Lord it looks as though, if that’s true, He just committed suicide; He gave Himself into the hand of the smiter and turned Himself over to those He knew would crucify Him, which however you dress it is just another way of suicide. Well, what does He mean, “I lay down My life”? [John 19:15, 17]. Well, it means simply this: at any time He could have withdrawn, He could have saved Himself [John 19:18]. He volunteered in heaven, “Lo, in the roll of the book it is written of Me—to do Thy will O God, I come! [Hebrews 10:7; Psalm 40:6-8]” And He was made incarnate in flesh that He might die, He volunteered in heaven [Hebrews 10:4-14], He volunteered in history.
“Weep not, because the Lion of the tribe of Israel has prevailed, and He is worthy to open the book and to loose the seals thereof” [Revelation 5:5]. And “they sang a song, Worthy art Thou … for Thou was slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood” [Revelation 5:9]. He volunteered in history, He volunteered in the earth. And when Simon Peter unsheathed his sword and struck at the band that came to destroy our Lord, the Lord said, “Simon, resheath it, put it up. Why, are there not twelve legions of angels that I could call to deliver Me?” [Matthew 26:51-53]. Do you ever think about that? Twelve legions. Well, that’s about seventy-two thousands of angels. One angel … I spoke about Sennacherib this morning, one angel, just one, passed that night over the army of Sennacherib as he besieged Jerusalem, and the next day there were a hundred eighty-five thousand Assyrian soldiers that were corpses! one angel [Isaiah 37:36]. “Why, Simon Peter, they are waiting now to be unleashed, twelve legions of angels. But then, how would it be if I do not die for the sheep?” [Matthew 26:54].
He lay down his life [John 10:15]. And when they nailed Him to the tree, as they marched up and down, paraded up and down in front of Him, “Come down from the cross and we will believe You. Come down You who say that You can raise up the temple in three days, You who say that you are the Son of God, prove it, come down from the cross” [Matthew 27:39-43]. You know, when you listen to that you just can’t help but feel on the inside of you those human repercussions, “Lord Jesus do it, come down and strike terrifying fear in these souls and hearts that are blaspheming You, come down, Lord!” No, it’ll not be a superhuman man tearing himself from the wood, but it’ll be a dead man, a dead man, limp and lifeless [John 3:14-15], like that serpent raised in the wilderness [Numbers 21:8-9], the fangs of sin extracted, the penalty of death paid, a brazen serpent, typical of them all, limp and lifeless, brought down from the cross and laid, with tears, in the tomb; dying for us [John 3:16-42]. “I lay down My life for the sheep” [John 10:15]; this Jesus did for us, gave Himself for us [1 Corinthians 15:3].
I lived, as some of you did, through those bitter days of the war against Nazi Germany. I buried those boys who were brought back in caskets and in coffins draped with the American flag. And I’d do what I could to comfort, pray for, the sweet mothers and fathers who wept over those fallen boys, dying for us. And out of all of the things that I ever heard of in those tragic cruel days of that merciless war, there wasn’t anything that ever moved me as much as this little story.
There was a mother who went down to the port to meet her soldier boy who was coming home. She had not been prepared for the extent of his wounds. So as the boys came down the gangplank, as they were brought down in wheelchairs, she looked for her lad, and spied him. As soon as she could she made her way to the boy and said, “Son, son, look, look up, look on your old mother! Son, look!” And the boy replied, “Mother, I can’t see you, my eyes are gone, my eyes are gone.” Well, the mother, coming to the lad, said, “Well then my lad, just stand up and greet your old mother.” And the boy replied, “I can’t mother, my feet are gone.” The mother said, “Oh, this war.” She knelt down by the side of the lad and said, “Then, son, just put your arms around your old mother.” And the boy replied, “Mother, I can’t, my arms are gone.” And the mother sobbed aloud and cried, “Oh, my boy, this terrible and cruel war, you’ve lost your eyes, and you’ve lost your feet, and you’ve lost your arms.” The boy raised himself up in his wheelchair and said, “No, Mother, lost them? No, I gave them away.”
Sometimes I wonder about America; if our land and nation is worthy the sacrifice of those noble boys who willingly laid down their lives for us: “No, Mother, I gave them away.” That is what Christ did for us. He laid down His life. He gave Himself for the sheep [John 10:15]. Why, my soul, I feel it; I love the Lord in return. I bless His name every day of my life. When I was a boy like that lad, I gave my heart and soul to Jesus. It’s been a sweet, precious pilgrimage ever since. Will you?
This has the Lord done for you: He died in your place [Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21], He paid the penalty for your sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], you belong to Him; you don’t belong to the world, and you don’t belong to Satan, and you don’t belong to darkness and God’s trying to steal you away, no, you belong to God [Ephesians 4:30]. Look to Him in faith and trust and acceptance [Ephesians 2:8-9]. “Here I come, Master, tonight.”
Somebody you: “Pastor, tonight I take the Lord Jesus as my Savior, and here I am, I’m coming.” A family you, a couple you, or just you, in a moment when we stand up to sing our song—if you’re in that topmost balcony, there is time and to spare—walk down that stairway: “Pastor, I give you my hand, I give my heart to God, and here I come.” Into the fellowship of the church, into the arms of our Lord, as God shall press the appeal upon your heart, as the Spirit of Jesus shall woo and give invitation, shall press the appeal to your soul, answer with your life. Make the decision now where you are seated. In the balcony round, on this lower floor, make the decision now, and in a moment when we stand up, stand up coming. “Here I am, pastor, tonight, I make the decision for Christ tonight, and here I’m coming.” The whole family of you, two of you, just one somebody you, come now, do it now. As the Spirit calls, make the decision now—“I’m coming, pastor, here I am”—while we stand and while we sing.
I. The door (John
10:1, 2, 7, 9)
A. All over Palestine
are little rock enclosures for a sheepfold
B. The one, only
1. Like the ark
2. One door to
the kingdom (John 14:6)
I. The door (John
10:1, 2, 7, 9)
A. All over Palestine
are little rock enclosures for a sheepfold
B. The one, only
1. Like the ark
2. One door to
the kingdom (John 14:6)
III. The shepherd (John 10:3-5, 11, 14-15)
A. Intimacy between the
shepherd and his flock
1. Difference of
the sheep ranch in the West and shepherd in East
2. He knows us by
name and we know His voice (John 10:5, 15, 27)
IV. The true Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 15, 17-18)
A. Lays down His life
for the sheep
B. He willingly
volunteered to lay His life down
could have resisted; rather He volunteered (Psalm
40:6-8, Revelation 5:5, 9, Matthew 26:52-54, Isaiah 37:36)
paraded in front of Him on the cross (Matthew