The Good Shepherd
November 1st, 1987 @ 10:50 AM
THE GOOD SHEPHERD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-1-87 10:50 a.m.
And once again, welcome the throngs of you who are listening to this service on radio. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering the message. It is an exposition of the first eighteen verses of the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John [John 10:1-18]. And if you would like to open your Bible to John chapter 10, you can easily follow the exposition. John, chapter 10: the message is entitled The Good Shepherd.
It begins, “Verily, verily, I say unto you” [John 10:1]. There is no exception to this. Any time our Lord speaks, “Verily, verily,” He is not introducing a new theme or a new discussion. Rather, it is a continuation of what He has said before.
Chapter 10 is an allegory of what had happened in chapter 9. In parabolic form, our Lord is speaking of what happened in the previous chapter. In chapter 9, which was the exposition last Sunday morning, our Lord healed a man congenitally blind [John 9:6-7]. He was born blind [John 9:1]. Because of his praising the Lord for having opened his eyes [John 9:25, 30-33], he was cast out; he was thrown out of the synagogue [John 9:34]. These are the thieves and the robbers, the Pharisees and the scribes, who do not countenance the word and the message of our Lord.
But Jesus found him. He searched for him and found him, this man cast out [John 9:35]. That is a picture, a parable, an allegory, of the good shepherd who seeks His lost sheep [Luke 15:3-7]. And the man, being found, worships the Lord, believes in Him, accepts Him for all that God sent Him to be: the Savior of the world [John 9:35-38; 1 John 4:14]. And that is a picture of the intimacy, the relationship between our Lord and His sheep. So it begins, “Verily, verily” [John 10:1]. Then is repeated in verse 7:
Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep—
I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
I am the door.
[John 10:7, 9]
Wandering around over Palestine, as I have done several times, one of the topographical features of the landscape will be that sheepfold, a rock enclosure, and many times, inside a little rock house and always, that entrance, that door. Such a plain and simple thing is a door to enter in, to go out, a door, an entrance. And our Lord says, “I am the door: and if any man will enter in, he will be saved, I am hē thura, the door” [John 10:9].
So many times in this chapter, and in the Gospel of John, you will find that formula of expression, “Ego eimi, I am.” For example, in the fourteenth chapter, “Ego eimi, I am, hē hodos, kai hē alētheia, kai hē zōē, I am hē, the way, I am hē, the truth, I am hē, the life” [John 14:6]. Like this, “Ego eimi hē thura, I am the door” [John 10:9].
There are not a half a dozen ways to be saved. There are not a dozen ways by which we approach God, Jehovah Father. There is one door [John 10:9]. There is one way [John 14:6]. There is one Savior and that is our Lord Jesus the Christ, one door [John 10:7,9]. I wonder if I could do—this came into my mind—I wonder if I could repeat a little song. When I was the pastor of my little village churches, I was also the song leader. And I’d always have a junior choir, and I would teach that junior choir little songs to sing. And this is one:
One door, and only one,
And yet the sides are two.
I’m on the inside;
On which side are you?
[“One Door and Only One,” author not found]
I’d have our children point, “I’m on the inside; on which side are you?” That’s theologically true: there is one way to be saved. There is one approach to God and that is through Jesus our Lord [John 14:6; Acts 4:12]. There was one door into the ark in the days of Noah and the Flood [Genesis 6:16]; there was one way to be saved. In the worship of God in the tabernacle there was one door into the presence of the great Jehovah God [Exodus 26:33].
Truth is always narrow. Two plus two are never four and a quarter or three and seven-eighths. It is always two plus two is four. All truth is narrow, and theological truth is no different. We are saved through Jesus Christ our Lord, the one door [John 10:7, 9], the one entrance into heaven.
He has another ego eimi, “I am,” in verse 11, “I am the good shepherd” [John 10:11], and in verse 14, “I am the good shepherd” [John 10:14]. When I read that as John wrote it, I’m very surprised at the word that He uses for “good.” The word for “good” is agathos. When you have a feminine form of it, agatha, many times a daughter, a child, will be named, a girl will be named Agatha, Agatha. That’s the Greek word for “good, good.” When the rich young ruler bowed down before the Lord over there in Perea on the other side of the Jordan, he addressed Him: “Didaskalē agathē,” Good Master, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” [Luke 18:18].
Now I would suppose that would be the word here, agathos, “good.” It isn’t. Ego eimi, “I am,” ho poimēn. Poimēn is the word for “shepherd” [John 10:11, 14]. It’s also the word for “pastor,” poimēn, “shepherd, pastor.” I am hō poimēn, “the pastor of the,” and the word is kalos—not agathos—kalos. Well, kalos is the Greek word for “beautiful,” noble, stately, heavenly. Our Lord is the heavenly shepherd. He is the princely shepherd. He is the noble shepherd. He is the beautiful shepherd, the pastor of our souls, the Lord Jesus.
And oh, how precious He is, described here in verse 3, “He leadeth them out” [John 10:3]. And in verse 4, “He goeth before them” [John 10:4]. There are no experiences, there are no providences, there are no paths that we experience or tread or walk through in our lives, that He has not preceded us. Is it infancy? He was the Babe of Bethlehem [Luke 2:4-7, 10-16]. Is it youth? He grew up in a home in Nazareth, in a carpenter’s shop [Matthew 13:55]. When He was twelve, He was in the temple speaking with the doctors of the law [Luke 2:42-47]. Is it the weariness of the work of manhood? “He sat thus weary by the well” [John 4:6]. Is it trial and toil and temptation? Was anyone ever more tried than our Lord? [Hebrews 4:15]. Was it to be sorrowful in the experiences of life? He was “a Man of sorrows, and full of grief” [Isaiah 53:3]. Was it to be betrayed? He was into the hands of His enemies [Matthew 26:14-16, 45-50]. Was it to be spit upon or rejected or reviled? [Matthew 27:30-50]. Was not He above any who ever appeared in human literature? And was it that we die? He also was wrapped in the cerements of the tomb and buried in the heart of the earth [Matthew 27:57-61].
He goeth before us [Hebrews 10:19-20]: there is no trial or sorrow or trouble or temptation or hurt that you will ever experience that our Lord did not also go before you. That’s why, when we come to Him, He understands and knows all about us. You can talk to Him as a friend to a precious, close, endearing friend, the Good Shepherd [John 10:11; Hebrews 4:14-16].
Not only that, but there is an intimacy between Him and His flock, beautifully portrayed, “He calleth his own sheep by name, and they follow him, for they know his voice” [John 10:3-4]. What a beautiful description of the Lord’s relationship with His flock, with His people. That’s so different from what we know and experience and see here in our Western world, in our Western culture. My family, my mother’s family had large sheep ranches out in West Texas. As a little boy, I would visit there. When you go into New Mexico and Arizona and beyond, you see those large ranches. And the vast herds are investments; they are multitudinous. And you don’t lead the flock, you drive it; those vast herds are driven. That’s in our Western world and our Western culture.
But in the East and in Palestine, it is so different. There, the shepherd will live with his flock, and he knows each sheep by its name. One time, I took a picture of of a lad in the Negev, south of Hebron. He had a flute made out of a reed, and he was playing on his flute, and the little flock of sheep were following him, leading them to pasture, leading them to the water; an intimate relationship.
And our Lord says He is the Good Shepherd in that relationship, fellowship, kinship, with us. He knows us by name [John 10:3]. We are not a digit in the family of heaven, nor are we one of a vast and multitudinous herd. We are somebody in His sight, and we are precious in His loving care. He calls us by name, and He knows all about us. O God, what an endearing thought: our Lord and His people, you. And there is an attraction to our Savior that is undeniable and everlasting. There is something that draws us to Him. Just as a plant in a darkened basement is drawn to the light, so the flock is drawn to our Lord [John 10:4].
There’s not a providence in your life, especially if it has overtones of care or of sorrow and hurt, there’s not ever a providence in your life but that you will find yourself speaking of it, talking about it, taking it to the Lord Jesus. It’s just that way; you are drawn to or Savior. And what a preciousness, just to bow in His presence and to lay all of the hurts or sorrows or problems of life before Him; just speaking to Him as a friend to a friend.
Then He adds in this sixteenth verse, “And there are other sheep, there are other sheep whom I must bring, other sheep” [John 10:16]. Besides the flock here, there are other sheep for whom the heart of our Lord pours out, other sheep. I cannot but remark that when I read the Scriptures, such as preparing the message for this hour, there are things that happen in the days of the week that just come to my heart with such poignant meaning, as I read the Word of God. And this is one, “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold,” they’re out there, “them also I must bring” [John 10:16].
As some of you know, for years and years and years, I have hoped and prayed that God would give us a televised service for those other sheep out there, thousands and thousands and thousands of homes. Households into which the message of our Lord in His grace and goodness could be invited—where the people could listen, and especially and particularly a live broadcast—where they listen just as we do here in the flock in this sanctuary, in this sheepfold.
Well sweet people, last week, this immediate—the last few days there have been two television stations here in the city of Dallas, two tremendous stations, who have come to us and are offering us to televise live our service from 11:00 to 12:00 o’clock. This hour, this service! O Lord, what an incomparable blessing that would be if, when the decision is made, we say to one of those stations, “With gladness and gratitude and thanksgiving to God, we accept the invitation. And beginning immediately, we shall broadcast, televise our service every Lord’s Day from 11:00 to 12:00 o’clock each Sunday morning.”
For us to do that it would take one other thing beyond our tithe, just a small bit of a gift. For one or two or three of us to do it in the expense of a televised program, it would be almost astronomical; it would be too much. But for thousands of us to share it, thousands of us—beyond our tithe, just a gift—we could do it.
And I am humbly praying, “O Lord, in Thy goodness, move in the hearts of our men and of our people and of our flock. And dear Lord, within these next few days, may it be that we’ll begin broadcasting, televising live, our service here every Sunday morning from 11:00 to 12:00 o’clock; the choir to sing gloriously, the orchestra to accompany magnificently, our people to pray for the hour, the pastor to prepare the message for hundreds of thousands of households, an appeal to be made that we love, and worship, and adore, accept, believe in, and serve our wonderful Savior; O God grant it. “Other sheep I have, who are not of this fold; them also I must bring” [John 10:16].
And alas, in verse 11 of chapter 10, “The good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep” [John 10:11], repeated again in verse 15, “And I lay down My life for the sheep” [John 10:15]. And verse 17, “I lay down My life, that I may take it again” [John 10:17]. And verse 18, “No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself” [John 10:18], the life our Lord lays down for His sheep. He introduced it with the words, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy; I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” [John 10:10].
Let me entrust my life to the philosopher or to the pseudoscientist or to the demagogue, and when that evil day comes as inevitably it will, and I face the darkness of death and the deep, bottomless, impenetrable abyss that lies beyond, who will stand by me then? What could that philosopher do to help me, see me through, save my poor soul? What can that pseudoscientist say that would, that would be my friend and counselor in the great judgment day of Almighty God? What could that demagogue do to bear me through that swift and torrid tide of the Jordan River?
Who can stand by me? He will. Who can bear me across that flood? He will. Who can hold my hand and strengthen me and comfort me? He can. Who can be my advocate and counselor before the judgment bar of Almighty God? Jesus will [1 John 2:1]. Jesus will. He is my friend and my advocate [Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25], and He lays down His life for us [1 Corinthians 15:3; Hebrews 10:5-14]. What an unbelievable mercy, interposition on the part of God Himself: He lays down His life for us! [Matthew 26:26-28]. The peril is so great and the curse is so bitter and the tragedy so solemn. Lord God, in the day of my death and the judgment that follows, O God, who can see me through? Jesus [John 10:7, 9; Romans 14:8].
The shepherd boy, David, said, “I protected my flock from the lion, and the bear” [1 Samuel 17:34-36], saying, “I will not be afraid of this Goliath” [1 Samuel 1:37]. So Jesus, He interposes His blood and His life and His sacrifice between us and the judgment upon our sins and our iniquity [Matthew 26:26-28; Hebrews 10:5-14]. And death, in His gracious hands, is but the opening of the door into heaven [Luke 23:43].
And He says, “No man taketh My life from Me; I lay it down of Myself willingly” [John 10:18]. Now when I first read that, I think, now, how could that be? “I lay it down of Myself; no man taketh it from Me” [John 10:18]. They did take His life. They crucified Him [John 19:16-34]. They did it: they took His life. Yet, He says, “No one taketh it from Me” [John 10:18]. Then I remember, our Lord willingly gave Himself to the smiters, and He willingly and voluntarily gave Himself to these who drove nails in His hands and His feet and who pierced His side with an iron spear. He did it willingly, for no one could have taken Him, or touched Him, or hurt Him, or beat Him, or crucified Him, had it not been He gave Himself willingly to such suffering and loss and death [Philippians 2:7].
When the people in Nazareth were infuriated with what He said, they took Him to the brow of the hill to cast Him down [Luke 4:29]. And the Scriptures say, “He walked through the midst of them” [Luke 4:30]. They couldn’t touch Him. There was a holiness, and a sanctity, and a dignity, and a heavenliness about Jesus; they couldn’t touch Him. Or, take, again, when the Roman soldiers and the throng from the temple came in the garden of Gethsemane to arrest Him, they said, “We are looking for Jesus of Nazareth.” And He replied, “I am He.” And when He said, “I am He,” they fell backward to the ground [John 18:4-6]. Or take once again, when Simon Peter drew out his sword and sought to cut off the head of Malchus, the leading servant of the house of Caiaphas, our Lord said to him, “Peter, put back that sword. If I would, I could ask My Father, and He would send me twelve legions of angels,” seventy-two thousand angels, “to protect Me” [Matthew 26:53; John 18:10-11].
Would you think of that a moment? In the thirty-seventh chapter of this Book of Isaiah out of which we read: Sennacherib, the Assyrian general from Nineveh, with hundreds of thousands of soldiers encompassing Jerusalem like a vise and demanding of Hezekiah the surrender, and the tragedy beyond of his people [Isaiah 36:4-20]. Hezekiah took the letter of threat and laid it before God in the house of the Lord [Isaiah 37:14]. And while He was praying, God said to Isaiah, the son of Amoz, “You go to Hezekiah and tell the king I have heard his prayer; I have delivered the people” [2 Kings 19:20-34] And that night, one angel, one angel—one angel passed over the vast Assyrian army. And when the sun rose, they counted 185,000 dead corpses [Isaiah 37:35]; one angel, one.
And the Lord said, “If I would, I could ask My Father, and He would send Me 72,000 angels, twelve legions” [Matthew 26:53]. He died voluntarily; He gave Himself for us willingly, no man took it from Him. He acquiesced in the great atoning sacrifice for our sins, that we might be saved; He gave Himself for us [1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 2:20; Hebrews 10:5-14].
In this last World War, there was a mother who went down to the dock to greet her wounded son. She had no idea how tragic was his hurt, “in the battle, he was just wounded.” And she went down to the dock to welcome her boy home. Standing there, she watched those soldiers pour off of the troop ship, and then finally, those in wheelchairs being taken down the ramp. And in that group, she saw her boy. When he came, wheeled down to the dock covered in a blanket, she ran up to her boy and said, “Son, look on your old mother.”
And the boy replied, “Mother, I can’t. My eyes are gone.”
She said, “Then son, just stand up and greet your old mother.”
And the boy replied, “Mother, I can’t. My feet are gone.”
She knelt down by the chair, and said, “Then son, just put your arms around your dear, old mother.”
And the lad replied, “Mother, I can’t. My arms are gone.”
The mother pitifully cried, “Oh, my boy, this terrible war! You’ve lost your eyes, and you’ve lost your hands, and you’ve lost your feet.”
And the boy replied, “Mother, no. No, I gave them away.”
The reason we are here today, free to preach and to worship and to call upon the name of the Lord, that boy and those like him gave themselves up. This is our Savior; the love of God abounding, beautiful, tender, caring, everlasting. Oh, how could we but respond in a like adoration and love of our wonderful Savior, the Lord Jesus? Now, may we pray?
Beautiful Shepherd, heavenly Emissary, laying down Your life for us [1 John 3:16], O God in heaven, how we praise Thy name for the gift of our Lord Jesus [John 3:16], loving us, caring for us, seeking us, dying for us [1 Corinthians 15:3], raised for us [Romans 4:25], interceding for us [Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25], with arms extended waiting for us. And our Lord, loving Thee today, we offer Thee the adoration and worship of our deepest souls. O God, make this an hour of true love, of true worship and adoration for all Thou hast done for us.
And with our heads bowed, somebody you, this day to open your heart to the Lord Jesus, “Pastor, He has spoken to me, and I’m answering with my life.” On the first note of the first stanza of this invitation hymn, come, confessing the Lord as your Savior, opening your heart to Him [Romans 10:8-13]. Maybe a family you, coming into the fellowship of our dear church [Hebrews 10:24-25], a couple you, building your home upon the Lord, as God shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now. Say “Yes” now. Stand with us now. Worship our Lord now. Serve God with us in this dear family.
And our Savior, we love Thee, praise Thee, O God. May our hearts of loving gratitude and thanksgiving rise in Thy service forever, in Thy precious name, amen.
In the balcony round, down one of these stairways, in the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and here I stand.” The angels attend and a thousand times welcome, as we stand and as we sing our hymn of appeal. God bless you as you come.