The Good Shepherd
November 1st, 1987 @ 8:15 AM
THE GOOD SHEPHERD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-1-87 8:15 a.m.
With joy unspeakable we welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. You are now a part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Good Shepherd. It is an exposition of the first eighteen verses of the tenth chapter of John. And if you will turn to the Gospel of John, the Fourth Gospel, chapter 10, you can easily follow the exposition.
John chapter 10; it begins with a “Verily, verily.” “Verily, verily, I say unto you” [John 10:1]. There is no exception to this; a “Verily, verily,” never in the Bible introduces a new topic. It is always a continuation of one that is already presented. So this “verily, verily” is a continuation of chapter 9. Now, chapter 9 is what happened, and chapter 10 is a parabolic presentation, interpretation, of what had happened.
Last Sunday, remember, the exposition was on the ninth chapter. This blind man, congenitally born blind [John 9:1], this blind man was marvelously healed [John 9:6-7]. And they threw him out; they cast him out [John 9:34]. These are the thieves and the robbers, the Pharisees and the Sadducees who refused to accept his witness from heaven [John 9:24-34]. Then our Lord found him. He sought him out, searched for him and found him [John 9:35]. That is the Good Shepherd, seeking His lost sheep [Luke 15:4; John 10:11].
Then last, this man, who had been blind, worshiped the Lord, accepted Him, believed in Him [John 9:35-38]. And that is the Lord’s sheep who hear His voice and follow close after [John 10:27]. Now that is the tenth chapter of this Gospel. So it begins with a “Verily, verily” [John 10:1].
Now, verse 7: “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep” [John 10:7], and repeated in verse 9: “I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” [John 10:9].
I have meandered several times through Palestine and the Near East, and one of the impressive topographical features of the land will be those sheepfolds. There’ll be a rock enclosure, and many times, inside, a little rock house, and one door. That door, our Lord says, is He. “I am the door” into the sheepfold of God’s family and the Lord’s people [John 10:9].
A door is such a simple thing, such a plain thing, and Jesus is that door: ego eimi hē thura, the door. Our Lord so often will emphasize that. Ego eimi, I am, hē hodos, kai hē alētheia, kai hē zōē. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” [John 14:6]. There are not half a dozen ways to God. There are not a dozen ways to be saved. There is one way [John 14:6; Acts 4:12]. There is one revelation. There is one incarnation [John 1:1, 14; Philippians 2:5-7]. There is one Lord God Jehovah, our Savior [Isaiah 45:22]. There is one door, hē thura, the door [John 10:7, 9].
Such as is in the ark of Noah: there were not half a dozen doors into the ark. There was one [Genesis 6:16], and if one were saved in that awful day of judgment, he entered in through that one door [Genesis 7:1, 13-16]. There was one door into the tabernacle [Exodus 33:10]. There is one entrance into the presence of God, and that is through Jesus Christ our Lord. Ego eimi hē thura; “I am the door” [John 10:7, 9].
Now look again, another ego eimi. “I am the good shepherd” [John 10:14]: ego eimi, “I am,” ho poimēn, ho kalos, “I am the shepherd, the good.” I could not help but be sensitive to the fact that poimēn, “shepherd,” is the word for “pastor,” the same word for “pastor.” Same word for “shepherd.” Ego eimi, “the shepherd,” the—and I’m amazed at the word that is used—kalos.
The usual word for “good” is agathos. For example, when that rich young ruler bowed before the Lord Jesus, he addressed Him “Didaskalē agathē”: “Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” [Luke 18:18]. Good, agathos, agathē.
But that’s not the word He uses here, saying in the fourteenth verse, “I am the good shepherd” [John 10:14]. And the word translated “good” is kalos, and kalos is the word for “beautiful”; it’s the word for “noble.” “I am the beautiful, the good, the heavenly shepherd” [John 10:14]. And he says that the good shepherd goeth before them. Let’s take verse 3: “He leadeth them out” [John 10:3]. Then in verse 4, “He goeth before them” [John 10:4]. And in verse 14, “I am the good shepherd … and am known of Mine” [John 10:14]. That is a beautiful description of our Lord. He Himself leads us. He goes before us.
There are no experiences that we ever have in our lives that He has not already experienced. A child, an infant, He was the Babe of Bethlehem [Matthew 1:23-2:1]. A youth, He grew up in a home in Nazareth, in a carpenter’s shop [Mark 6:3]; twelve years of age, was in the temple [Luke 2:42-47]. “Weary with the work, He sat thus by the well” [John 4:6]. Tried and tempted? There’s been no temptation or trial He has not experienced [Hebrews 4:14-15]. Betrayed? He was delivered into the hands of His enemies [Matthew 26:14-16, 47-50]. Crucified? [Matthew 27:32-50] Suffering? There is no suffering we ever experience that He has not suffered [Hebrews 4:15]. And dying? The cerements of the tomb were wrapped around Him [Matthew 27:57-59]. “He goeth before us” [Matthew 28:7]. There are no things, no providences, no hurts or sorrows, no experiences in life that we ever face that He has not faced. “He goeth before us; He leadeth us” [Psalm 23:3].
And again, the intimacy between Him and His sheep: verse 3: “He calleth His own sheep by name” [John 10:3]. Verse 4: “The sheep follow Him: for they know His voice” [John 10:4]. Verse 14: “I am known by My sheep” [John 10:14]. There is a closeness between our Lord and His sheep that is enduring and endearing; precious, unbreakable, continuous [Luke 15:4; John 10:11].
That is strange to us in our Western world, because if you have ever visited those great sheep ranches in West Texas or in New Mexico or Arizona, anywhere in the West, it’s an investment to them. The sheep are there by the multitudes. There are thousands of them, and they drive them; no exception to that. They are great vast herds who are driven.
It’s just the opposite of that in the East. As I said, I meandered around over Palestine several times. And one of the distinguishing features of a pastoral landscape will be a little intimate flock of sheep, and the shepherd close by. One time I took a picture and brought it back here and showed it to our congregation. In the Negev, south of Hebron, I stopped and took a picture of a little boy, a young teenager. He had a flute made out of a reed, and he was playing his flute, and the sheep, the little flock, were following close by.
He knows them by name. They’re not herds; they’re not investments. They are intimately known and they’re close to each other. They live together. They seek pasture together. They seek the water of life together. And that is our Lord. He knows us by name [John 10:3]. We’re not a digit to Him. We’re not one out of a vast multitude to Him, faceless and nameless. He knows us, all about us, and He calls us by our names.
There is an instinctive attraction between the sheep and the shepherd. We feel that. As a plant in a basement dark leans towards the light, any child of God is like that. You will find yourself instinctively drawing nearer to the Lord, laying before Him all of the providences of life.
Do you know, as He says in verse 16, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” [John 10:16]. Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold.
You know, it is strange how in a providence of life, reading the Scripture, preparing the message, a thing will come to your heart so poignantly. This happened this week. For years, for years, for so many years I can’t remember how many, for years I have prayed, “Lord, could it be possible, in the providences of God, that we could have a televised service of our worship of God and the preaching of the gospel?” Going from station to station to station over a period of years and years and years, nothing but a refusal; they have other things, they have other interests, they have other programs. And to carry live a worshipful hour, a preaching hour, is just not acceptable.
Sweet people, this week, this week, there have been two of the great television stations of Dallas that have come to us and said, “Could we televise live your services from the First Baptist Church?” Two of them. Television is extremely expensive, most so, most so. But when I think of the other sheep beyond this fold [John 10:16], thousands and thousands and hundreds of thousands of households, each one of those televised stations carries with it hundreds and hundreds of cables. When I think of the multiplied thousands of households into which we could enter, preaching the gospel of Christ, worshiping our dear Lord, making appeal in His name—O God, when the decision is made these next few days, what shall we do? I am crushed to think that we would refuse.
How infinitely better and how magnifying the name of Christ if we could sit down with the management and the leadership of one of those great television outlets and say to them, “As of this day, we’ll be ready.” It would be from eleven o’clock to twelve o’clock. The service would have to be beautifully and effectively arranged, our choir and our orchestra, with the pastor and all who share in the hour, working for, planning for a tremendous impact in the gospel of Christ in those thousands and thousands of homes.
What it would take would be, if a few of us sought to pay for it, it would be beyond us; but with the thousands and thousands of us in the church, beyond our tithe, just a small gift, that would do it. It would bring an incomparable victory to our Lord and to His message of salvation. “Other sheep I have out there beyond our own congregation” [John 10:16]. Lord, You help us and You direct us and You put it in the hearts of our people: “Pastor, let’s do it. Let’s do it. That’s why we’re here, worshiping God, calling upon His name, preaching the message of salvation, calling others to believe. Let’s do it.”
My time is gone. May I conclude with this beautiful and precious Word of our Lord? “The good shepherd giveth,” verse 11, “His life for the sheep” [John 10:11]. Verse 15: “I lay down My life for the sheep” [John 10:15]. Verse 17: “I lay down My life, that I might take it again” [John 10:17]. Verse 18: “No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself” [John 10:18]. He had just spoken of the thief and of the robber [John 10:1]. These who do not save, they do not guard; they just steal and kill and destroy. When we submit and turn over our lives to the philosopher or the pseudoscientist or the demagogue, when the dark hour comes and we face the bottomless abyss, where are they? In the hour of my final death, what is that philosopher to me, or that pseudoscientist to me, or that demagogue to me? When I ultimately face the great judgment day of Almighty God, I need the Lord, standing near and close by; “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” [Hebrews 13:5], my Friend and my Savior forever.
And for you, for us, “I lay down My life” [John 10:15], paying the penalty of our sin [1 Corinthians 15:3], saving us from the awesome judgment upon the wrong and the transgression of our life [2 Corinthians 5:21]. For you, for your sake, “I lay down My life” [John 10:15]. Ah, the peril is so great, and the curse is so bitter, and the tragedy is so solemn. As the shepherd boy David, facing, he said, in behalf of his flock, a lion and a bear [1 Samuel 17:34-35], so our Lord facing the judgment that comes to us in our sin and in our death [Isaiah 53:5], He interposes His precious life, blood of expiation and sacrifice pouring out from His riven side, that we might be saved, that we might stand before God justified [Romans 4:25].
And how beautiful when He avows, “No man taketh My life from Me, I lay it down of Myself” [John 10:18]. Now I cannot help, when reading that, be askance and skeptical, when I read the words; they did take His life! These agents of destruction crucified Him. They did kill Him. They did it! [John 19:16-30].
And then I bring to mind, “No, He willingly offered Himself” [Hebrews 7:27]. They could not have taken Him. They could not have slain and crucified Him, had He not voluntarily submitted and gave Himself in our behalf. “How do you know that, pastor?” When He was in Nazareth and the people there, in anger, took Him to the brow of the hill to cast Him down headlong, the Scriptures say, He just walked through the midst of them [Luke 4:28-30]. There was something about Jesus. He just walked through the midst. They couldn’t touch Him.
When the soldiers came with a mob to arrest Him in Gethsemane, “We seek Jesus of Nazareth,” they said, and He replied, “I am He,” and they fell backward to the ground [John 18:4-6]. How could you stand in His presence?
Or take once again, when Simon Peter drew out his sword to cut off the head of that leading antagonist, Jesus said to him, “Put up your sword. If I would, I could ask the Father twelve legions of angels—seventy-two thousand of them—and they would be here to deliver Me and to protect Me” [Matthew 26:51-53]. Would you consider that just a moment? Seventy-two thousand!
In the thirty-seventh chapter of the Book of Isaiah, when Hezekiah brought before the Lord that threatening ultimatum of Sennacherib, the king and the general of the Assyrian army that closed Jerusalem like a vise [Isaiah 36:1], God sent Isaiah to him, saying, “I have heard your prayer, and I have delivered your people” [Isaiah 37:21-35] And that night, that night, one angel, one angel, one angel passed over the Assyrian army, and one hundred eighty-five thousand dead corpses lay on the ground [Isaiah 37:36].
Think of having seventy-two thousand of them! [Matthew 26:51-53]. I’m just saying He voluntarily laid down His life for us. He did it out of the love of His soul, that we might be saved [John 15:13].
I think of that mother that went down to the dock to welcome her boy back home from the war, wounded, but not knowing how severely. The troops poured off of the great ship, returning home, and she stood there looking at everyone, waiting for her lad.
Finally, those in wheelchairs began to come off, and she saw her boy in one of those wheelchairs covered with a blanket. When he came down the ramp and was there on the dock, the mother went up to her boy and said, “Son, look. Look on your old mother.” And the boy replied, “Mother, I can’t. My eyes are gone.” Then she said, “Well, son, just stand up and greet your old mother.” And the boy replied, “Mother, I can’t. My feet are gone.” She knelt by his side 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 cried in an agony, “Oh, my boy! You have lost your feet. You’ve lost your eyes. You have lost your arms.” And the boy replied, “Mother, no. I gave them away.” The reason we’re here today, free, is because of the sacrificial gift of that boy. “I gave them away.”
This is our Lord. “I lay down My life of Myself” [John 10:18], willingly, voluntarily, gladly, sacrificially, lovingly, tenderly, endearingly, that we might be saved [John 15:13]. How could you but love, worship, adore, serve a glorious Lord God like that?
And that is our appeal this solemn hour. To give your heart to the Lord [Romans 10:9-10], to place your life with us in the family that worships Him, to serve Him, as God shall open the door, come, and welcome, while we stand and while we sing.