I Am The Good Shepherd

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John 10:11-18

The Fourth Sunday of Easter, Cycle B

John 10:11-18

[Jn 10:11] “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. [12] “He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  [13] “He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. [14] “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, [15] even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. [16] “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. [17] “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. [18] “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” (NAS)


God Knowledge

“I know My own and My own know Me.” [John 10:14]

The life of Jesus Christ is an example of radical knowledge.  Not the knowledge of Nicodemus—a knowledge of the head and not the heart—but the knowledge of God; a knowledge that involves total sacrifice and results in perfect intimacy.  Sacrifice is the root of true God-Knowledge; modeled by our beloved Savior for Jesus left God’s side to be at our side so that we too could be at God’s side.

God-Knowledge is not equivalent to academic standing.  God-Knowledge comes through God and is a gift.  A gift that flows from two sources (according to scripture): Intimate Relationship (IR) and Radical Obedience (RO).  In this study, let’s define God Knowledge in an algebraic equation: K = IR * RO.  God Knowledge = Intimate Relationship times Radical Obedience.

To know God is to love and obey Jesus.

Scripturally, to “know” someone implies intimate physical relationship [Genesis 4:1]. Similarly, perfect obedience is defined by Jesus to the rich, young man as “If you want to be perfect; sell all you have and give it to the poor.  Then come follow me [Matthew 19:21].”

I continue to learn that God-Knowledge begins when Christ takes me to the edge of what I think I know and says; “Now jump…”

John 10:11 

[Jn 10:11] “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (NAS)

The good shepherd 

Good shepherding (good leadership) in biblical terms is never defined by how “getting ahead”; but whether or not the leader leaves anyone behind!

Our shepherd is good because he will not leave anyone behind.  Our Jesus is not “A” good shepherd; he is “THE” Good Shepherd.  He is not one among many good shepherds; he is far and above the measurements or the comparisons of this world.  He is not a good preacher, prophet or one of the world’s great leaders.  He is beyond the dimensions of this world’s comprehension.  He is God’s Beloved Son!

Our conception of “good” [GSN2570 kalos] is a gross understatement compared to the Hebrew sense of the term.  The term in Greek and Hebrew is also used to describe beautiful, excellent, honest and honorable.  It is used in context of “doing what is right” and even in the sense of discovering a treasure.

To find Jesus is to find the most excellent treasure.  To love Jesus is to love what is most beautiful and commendable.  He is the friend who is always honest, but always fair.  That is the nature, the character (the NAME) of the “good shepherd.”   He is the unconditional shepherd who seeks us even if we are the only one who is lost and no matter how lost we are.

The good shepherd lays down His life

The most consistent biblical description of the word “good” that I can formulate is: “His actions match his words and his words match the scriptures.”

This word for “Good” [GSN2570 kalos] is used in the New Testament in multiple instances, and specifically in regards to work, fruit, seed, pearls, good master, or good teacher.  It is also referred to as solid ground, solid thoughts, good salt, a good measure (pressed down, shaken together and running forth).

However, good is also used in a negative context as in; “it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs [Mt 15:26]” and “it would have been good for that man if he had not been born” [Mt 26:24].

In other words, being “good” is not just being attractive or appealing; the word implicitly points to functionality; it is utilitarian.  In the creation story [Gen 1:4-25], God’s works are pronounced good because they fulfill their purpose.  Something is good when it fulfills God’s purpose—something is not good when it doesn’t meet the will of God.

Jesus is good because he is the promise that is fulfilled.  He is not attractive just because of his words or his voice; he is “applicably good,”  What he promises to do—he does.  He is the Good Shepherd because he lays down his life for his sheep.  He IS good because he DOES good!

Four times in this reading Jesus repeats that he gives us the ultimate act of “goodness”; He lays down his life for us:

John 10:11-18

[Jn 10:11] “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. [12] “He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  [13] “He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. [14] “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, [15] even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. [16] “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. [17] “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. [18] “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” (NAS)

Jesus is Good because he does what he promises; he fulfills the will of God.  He gathers his lambs and carries them close to his heart:

Isaiah 40:11

[Isa 40:11] He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. (NAS)

He searches for his sheep and gathers the scattered flock.  He leads them to the best grazing land.  He brings back strays, binds the injured and strengthens the weak:

Ezekiel 34:11-16

[Eze 34:11] “For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. [12] As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. [13] I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. [14] I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. [15] I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. [16] I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.”

He equips us for every good work and to do his will, that we may also please God:

Hebrews 13:20-21

[Heb 13:20] May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, [21] equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

He bore our sins on his body and calls us from sin to return:

I Peter 2:24-25

[1Pe 2:24] He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. [25] For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

We learn what is good and what is love by his example—he did what he promised:

I John 3:16

[1Jn 3:16] This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

He is our sustenance and safety forever:

Revelation 7:16-17

[Rev 7:16] “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. [17] For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (NAS)

Jesus is good because he fulfills every promise of the Father.  In turn, we are good—not because of what we say or how photogenic we are (thank God for that in my case)—we are good when we fulfill the promises of the Father.

Matthew 13:8

[8] “And others fell on the good soil, and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” (NAS)

Matthew 19:21

[21] Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go {and} sell your possessions and give to {the} poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (NAS)

Mark 14:7-9

[7] “For the poor you always have with you, and whenever you wish, you can do them good; but you do not always have Me. [8] “She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. [9] “And truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, that also which this woman has done shall be spoken of in memory of her.” (NAS)

Luke 6:32-38

[32] “And if you love those who love you, what credit is {that} to you? For even sinners love those who love them. [33] “And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is {that} to you? For even sinners do the same. [34] “And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is {that} to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, in order to receive back the same {amount.} [35] “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil {men.} [36] “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. [37] “And do not judge and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. [38] “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” (NAS)

Epheshians 2:10

[10] For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (NAS)

It is good, according to God, when we:

·         Produce a crop (bring others to the understanding of God’s love and forgiveness);

·         When we sell all we have, give the money to the poor and follow Christ;

·         When we extravagantly love the poor as though they were Jesus;

·         When people see God’s workmanship in our lives.

We are “not good” when we do not fulfill God’s purpose:

Matthew 3:10

[10] “And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (NAS)

Matthew 5:13

[13] “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty {again}  It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” (NAS)

Matthew 7:17-20

[17] “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. [18] “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. [19] “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. [20] “So then, you will know them by their fruits.” (NAS)

3 John 1:11

[11] Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God. (NAS)

We are “not good” when we:

1.        Do not produce fruit (no one hears Christ’s message through us);

2.        When we have lost our flavor and purpose for the Lord (salt gave flavor, but also preserved meat from rotting—do our lives prevent others from rotting?);

3.        When our lives produce bad fruit (bad fruit is any fruit that is inedible or even a tree that is barren);

4.        When we imitate evil (evil is living for ourselves—not in service to God).

Once again I am attracted to the words of the Prophet Micah.  Micah tells us that we can measure our “goodness” by three acts:

Micah 6:8

[8] He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (NAS)

Let’s ask the Lord to help us go forward today:

1.        That we would not only “talk about justice” but see justice done;

2.        That we would fall extravagantly in love with God by offering mercy to the lost; an act that by its very nature implies loving those who do not deserve it;

3.        And, that we would recognize that our only hope and strength comes from the Lord himself, so let us walk humbly by His side.

John 10:12-13

[12] “He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  [13] “He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.

A hired hand

What is the difference between the hired hand and the good shepherd?  Ownership. 

The hired hand has no personal interest in keeping the sheep safe.  So, when danger comes; the hired man flees.  Scripture refers to “the hired hand” much earlier in the prophecy of Isaiah and consistently through the other prophets as they lead up to Jesus.  At first, “the hired hand” meant only the priests who had turned their back on God’s people.  However, over time, it began to mean the people of God as they turned their backs on their own wounded; on “the least of these.”

Isaiah 56:10-12

10 His watchmen are blind, all of them know nothing. All of them are dumb dogs unable to bark, dreamers lying down, who love to slumber; 11 And the dogs are greedy, they are not satisfied. And they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each one to his unjust gain, to the last one. 12 “Come,” {they say,} “let us get wine, and let us drink heavily of strong drink; and tomorrow will be like today, only more so.” (NAS)

Ezekiel 34:2-11

2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? 3 “You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat {sheep} without feeding the flock. 4 “Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them. 5 “And they were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered. 6 “My flock wandered through all the mountains and on every high hill, and My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth; and there was no one to search or seek {for them.}’”

7 Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 8 “As I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “surely because My flock has become a prey, My flock has even become food for all the beasts of the field for lack of a shepherd, and My shepherds did not search for My flock, but {rather} the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock; 9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 10 ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I shall demand My sheep from them and make them cease from feeding sheep. So the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore, but I shall deliver My flock from their mouth, that they may not be food for them.’”

11 For thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. (NAS)

Zechariah 11:16-17

16 “For behold, I am going to raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for the perishing, seek the scattered, heal the broken, or sustain the one standing, but will devour the flesh of the fat {sheep} and tear off their hoofs. 17 “Woe to the worthless shepherd Who leaves the flock! A sword will be on his arm And on his right eye! His arm will be totally withered, and his right eye will be blind.” (NAS)

The hired men chooses saving their own hide over losing someone else’s sheep.  There was obviously no contest.  However, the good shepherd is losing his own sheep; his heart’s love and (quite frankly) his community’s only source of income.  If he loses those sheep, he loses something that he loves and it could also cost him the lives of his family.  The Good Shepherd will even lay down his life for those sheep because the risk is worth everything!

Until we experience the sacrifice of love, we have no concept of what the Good Shepherd is doing.  It is only when love takes us beyond our own myopic view of life that we can taste what God had in mind for us.  Love that demands sacrifice gives us the only insight into how much the Good Shepherd was willing to risk for us.  I am convinced that so many people in our culture have no comprehension of the power of Jesus.  In our selfishness, in our concern only for our own rights, we do not know sacrifice.  All of us in this culture have horribly suffered from a lack of understanding about sacrificial love.

How can we understand Jesus if we do not understand sacrifice?

How—without experiencing sacrifice—can we ever understand a love that says, “forgive them,” even while Jesus is being put to death?  I first fell in love with Jesus when I looked up at the cross and saw his eyes looking back, not with condemnation but mouthing the words; “Father, forgive Jerry.  Jerry has no idea what he is doing.”

Imagine that sacrifice with me, if you will.  Only use your name instead of mine.

“Father forgive __________.  __________ does not know what s/he is doing.”

When I learned how much he loved me and how much joy I could bring to others for his sake; I lost it all.  It was worth giving everything.  And, each day that I remember his love; it continues to grow and I continue to want to foolishly and recklessly give.  When we know the gift of Christ’s sacrifice, we want to give until we quit taking.  We want to live “for-giving”; not “for-taking.”

In this story, there is a subtle direction to earthly pastors as well.  To turn sheep into shepherds we need to give them ownership. Owners bear the cost of ownership, not so the hired hand.  The hired hand does not see enough reward for the risk of staying with the sheep in danger.  In no way does this mean increased salary.  How much did Jesus’ ownership have to do with salary?  How much did our Lord’s friendships with Mary Magdalene and John have to do with income versus risk assessment?  Indeed, they risked everything—not for salary—but for love and purpose.

1 Peter 5:1-4

[1] Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as {your} fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, [2] shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to {the will of} God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; [3] nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. [4] And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (NAS)

For love and purpose a person will risk everything; raising shepherds that will love their sheep means to constantly provide those shepherds with love and purpose.  In non-profit classes that I have taught, I have always tried to make the point that volunteers do not give because of how many bricks they will walk away with at the end of the day (for no one can own the bricks and mortar of a non-profit entity).  They commit and dedicate themselves to volunteering because of the stories that they hear and impact that they feel.  Stories are the only bricks and mortar (ownership) that a person in a non-profit corporation can keep.  It is the stories of lives changed that make people want to give their time and hearts.

Sees the wolf coming

“THE wolf comes!”

Like Jesus stating I am THE Good Shepherd and not A good shepherd; Jesus tells us that THE [GSN3588 ho] wolf [GSN3074 lukos] comes [GSN2064 erchomai].

This is THE wolf that has but ONE purpose.  First, he scatters the sheep; then he picks them off one by one, torturing them with the bleating death of the others.  Freezing them in fear as one by one they are devoured.  This is The Wolf that divides and tears apart the people of God because he knows we are much easier prey when we are “on our own” than when we are in community.  This is THE wolf that we are warned about by Jesus and Paul as they prepare for their deaths.

Jesus speaks of false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing.  This is always a favorite trick of wild dogs; to roll in other animals scent so that they can sneak right into the middle of the flock.

Matthew 7:15-17

[15] “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. [16] “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn {bushes,} nor figs from thistles, are they? [17] “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit.” (NAS)

Jesus tells us how to detect false prophets.  Do not listen to what they say until you have seen what they do.  Seek Christian mentors who display the same thing Christ asks of you!  Do they:

1.        Habitually and humbly walk with God (prayer);

2.        Seek other’s who will hold them accountable to scripture (a community of accountability);

3.        Hunger for the Word of God daily;

4.        Serve the least of these?

That is how we will know the character of a believer.  Not by words; but by deeds.

Jesus then goes on to tell us what to do in the presence of wolves:

Matthew 10:16

[16] “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves.” (NAS)

Jesus is very clear here.  We are not to be as shrewd as the devil and backbite like him.  We are not too be as naïve as doves running towards anyone who scatters alfalfa in our direction.  We are to be aware of the shrewdness of this world—but respond to the world’s shrewdness with the overwhelming peace of the Holy Spirit.

Likewise, Paul also commissions the Shepherds of Ephesus to beware of The Wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Here is the warning and the strategy that Paul gives the Ephesians to deal with the wolves:

Acts 20:29-38

[29] “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; [30] and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. [31] “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. [32] “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build {you} up and to give {you} the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. [33] “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. [34] “You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my {own} needs and to the men who were with me. [35] “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

[36] And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. [37] And they {began} to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, [38] grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they should see his face no more. And they were accompanying him to the ship. (NAS)

When the wolves rush in, Paul commends his flock to do the following:

1.        Be on the alert at all times.  Test a person’s words against their actions—the test of character;

2.        Admonish each other with tears.  The depth of a community is revealed in its ability to love one another so deeply that they grieve over each other and will not let one another fall into sin.  The character of a person is often revealed in that the truth is more important to him/her than being liked.

3.        Paul commends them to “The Word of His grace.”  We know what God would have us do—it is in scripture.  Test your own character and each other’s character against scripture to see if the wolf lies within;

4.        Work hard and do not desire the things that other’s possess.  Test your temptations by how much you want what others have—a wolf never has enough but always gets his needs met by taking from others;

5.        Remember the weak and that it is more blessed to give than to receive.  A wolf scavenges the weak and always takes more than he leaves behind.

We know how to stand against the enemy.  We know how to see his falsehood.  The way of Christ is always a way of humility, glorifying God and deepening service to the least of these.  We only confuse these simple guidelines when we want life to be more comfortable, less challenging and not so humbling.  The wolf is only too willing to let us individually wander into greener and greener pastures until we are totally isolated and it’s too late to run.  Instead, flee his temptations for worldly comfort and pride.  If we draw near to God he will draw near to us!

James 4:6-8

[6] But He gives a greater grace. Therefore {it} says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” [7] Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. [8] Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (NAS)

John 10:14-15

[14] “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, [15] even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

I know My own and My own know Me

The Hebrew concept of knowing God is like an algebraic formula:

K = IR x RO

KnowledgeK is Intimate RelationshipIR x Radical ObedienceRO.

Remember, that in multiplication, if either multiple (IR or RO) is negative, then the result (Knowledge) will be negative as well.  To the extent that either multiple is positive—it adds power to the other multiple and increases our knowledge of God.

To those of us used to a Greek concept of knowledge (the more I study something—the more I know about something); this Hebrew concept of “knowing” seems alien.  “What does relationship and obedience have to do with knowledge?”  Yet, the disciple of Christ’s day received knowledge—not just through study—but by walking with their master and obeying him.

The Jewish understanding of knowledge is far deeper than knowing about someone.  In fact, in the Old Testament, to know someone [HSN3045 yada’] was to have intimate relations with that person, to become ONE with them.

Genesis 24:16

[16] And the girl was very beautiful, a virgin, and no man had had relations with her [HSN3045 yada’]; and she went down to the spring and filled her jar, and came up. (NAS)

We do not know Jesus just because we have studied him; we know Jesus because we have the most intimate relationship with him—we have become ONE with him!  Therefore, God knows Jesus because Jesus is ONE with the Father.  Jesus knows us and we become ONE with him.  In becoming ONE with Jesus—there can be no separation between the Father and us, for we can never be “partly” one with someone.

However, this concept of knowing has a further explanation in scripture, for while biblical knowledge implies an intimate relationship it also implies working towards the same purpose.  Indeed, to be One with another implies submission [GSN5293 hupotasso], a word which has been battered pretty badly in the last twenty to thirty years.

Many people do not like this word because it means to reflexively obey someone.  The true sense of the word is to place your mission under someone else’s mission (sub-mission).

James 4:7

[7] Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (NAS)

Yet, how can there be one-ness in a body if all the parts are not working together towards the same goal?  How can one-ness be found in a community of believers or a family if there are multiple missions in each of its members?

Christ himself came with one mission assigned him by the Father:

Luke 4:18-19

[18] “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, [19] To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” (NAS)

In turn, Christ gave us as his followers but one goal to unite us and drive us on:

Mark 16:15-20

[15] And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. [16] “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. [17] “And these signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; [18] they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly {poison,} it shall not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” [19] So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. [20] And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.] [{And they promptly reported all these instructions to Peter and his companions. And after that, Jesus Himself sent out through them from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.} (NAS)

Matthew 10:7-8

[7] “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ [8] “Heal {the} sick, raise {the} dead, cleanse {the} lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, freely give.” (NAS)

To be known (one) by the Father and known (one) with Jesus is to submit and do the will of the Father and Jesus:

Matthew 12:48-50

[48] But He answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” [49] And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold, My mother and My brothers! [50] “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” (NAS)

Finally, we learn that true knowledge comes from true love.  We fully know God when three things occur:

1.        We fall in love with Jesus:

1 Corinthians 13:12-13

[12] For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known. [13] But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (NAS)

2.        We fall in love with God’s people

John 15:15-17

[15] “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. [16] “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and {that} your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you. [17] “This I command you, that you love one another.” (NAS)

4.        All people know that we are Christ’s servants because of the way that we love one another:

John 13:35

[35] “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (NAS)

How do we know God?  He loved us.  How do we know Jesus?  We fall in love with him.  How do others come to know God?  We love one another.

To love is to know God:

I John 4:7-12

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son {to be} the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. (NAS)

John 10:16

[16] “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.” (NAS)

The other sheep

There is an incredible verse in Isaiah that is the hope of all mankind; the hope that God is not done gathering his flock and that his gathering is beyond our parameters or comprehension.  Indeed, one of the very names of God is: “He who gathers the exiles of Israel.”  Or, “He who assembles [HSN6908 qabats] those who are chased away [HSN1760 dachah].”

Isaiah 56:8

[8] The Sovereign LORD declares—He who gathers the exiles of Israel: “I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.” (NAS)

In an incredibly discordant prophecy, Caiaphas, the high priest of Israel who condemns our Lord, is led to proclaim that Jesus is the one who will die for both the Jewish nation and all the scattered children of God:

John 11:51-52

[51] He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, [52] and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. (NAS)

Paul tells us that it is the very blood of Jesus that washes away the boundaries that once separated the “people of God” from “the others.”  Now, through the sacrifice of Jesus, there is no stranger, no alien, no one undeserving of the offer of Jesus’ love.

Ephesians 2:11-22

[11] Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” {which is} performed in the flesh by human hands-[12] {remember} that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. [13] But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. [14] For He Himself is our peace, who made both {groups into} one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, [15] by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, {which is} the Law of commandments {contained} in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, {thus} establishing peace, [16] and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. [17] And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; [18] for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.

[19] So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, [20] having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner {stone} [21] in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; [22] in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (NAS)

If it was central to the mission of Jesus Christ that all nations be reached; that all aliens and strangers be “gathered” and offered salvation—so shouldn’t that be central to our mission too?  Shouldn’t our mission be a sub-mission of Christ’s?

To be Christian is to ask myself: “Whom do I think of when I think of strangers and aliens?  Who is “strange to me”; who would I not welcome to my table or who am I afraid to visit?”

To be Christian means that I must go and minister to the very people that I identified in the above questions!  Just by naming them as stranger or alien means that (in order to be obedient to God) I must go to those people! 

I find the way of God to be very hard.

We tiptoe all around this issue.  We find all sorts of ways to think that “just confessing Jesus as Lord” or going to church or receiving the sacraments is enough—but it is not.  The Gospel is knowing and obedience; obedience and knowing.  The Gospel is loving the hardest to love.  The Gospel is loving Christ in a form that is most alien and most frightening to me:

Matthew 25:41-46

[41] “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; [42] for I was hungry, and you gave Me {nothing} to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; [43] I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ [44] “Then they themselves also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ [45] “Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ [46] “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (NAS)

I find the way of God to be very hard—but there is no greater mission in this world!

John 10:17-18

[17] “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. [18] “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” (NAS)

The Father loves Me

The Gospel is the story of the most radical love that was ever give to anyone—radical even more because this love was given to everyone.  It is about the most radical relationship that we could ever enter into.  There has never been—nor will there ever be—a love so radical as the radical love of God.

This term for love [GSN25 agapao] is all about radical abandonment; it is an extravagant, self-forgetting, emptying and freeing love.  Yet, it is not “free love”; for indeed it is the most costly love that was ever given in history.  It is about love that gives everything valuable for the sake of “the Other.”

John 3:16

[16] “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (NAS)

To those who have tasted this love in even a scent of its fullness—the love of this world is like a Christmas gift with nothing more than paper inside; it is audacious in promise yet void in possession.  It is vacant, a mean trick in comparison to the gift of God’s self-abandoning love.

In like manner, the promise of God’s abandoning love is never fulfilled until acted upon.  We will never know the fullness of God’s powerful love until we depend on it.  Until we give it away—and in the very same manner that it was given to us: Freely, with abandon, in absolute absolutes. 

Matthew 10:7-8

[7] “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ [8] Heal {the} sick, raise {the} dead, cleanse {the} lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, freely give.” (NAS)

A love of total sacrifice does not deserve a response of lukewarm inaction.  It deserves our complete and unrestrained deliberation.  That is the only way that the promise can reach fruition; in giving just as we have received.

Matthew 22:37-39

[37] And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. [38] “This is the great and foremost commandment. [39] “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (NAS)

In a previous study of this verse I pointed out that Jesus did not say; “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Instead, he said; “You shall love your neighbor with total abandon.”  He says; “Agapao!”  Period! End of sentence.  We are not to love others “as our self”—but simply to, “radically love your neighbor” [GSN4139 plesion—those who are near you].

“Abandon yourself to God and abandon yourself to those near you.”  What could be clearer than that?

This is how the Father loves Jesus, this is how Jesus loves us, this is how we are to love others—for in so doing—that is how we return our love to the Father.

I lay it down on My own initiative

My own initiative [GSN1683 emautou] the word is a combination of two root words that mean “from myself” [GSN1700 emau] and “self-powered” [GSN846 autos].  Does this mean the Lord is a self-starter?  Yes!  Yet, even more, it means that he gives his life not at the request of the Father—but in response to the richness of God’s plan.  He didn’t have to wait for God’s request; Jesus knew “what is good” (remember Micah 6:8) and stepped in.

It is God’s will that we also respond with “emautou”.  It is obvious that God’s love is needed in our world.  It is obvious that God’s word has not been heard in many places and has remained unapplied in even more.  We don’t need an invitation to stand in the gap—for we have already been called.  Christianity is not an exclusive tea party with an expansive guest list; it is light in the darkness and streams in the desert.  We go to where life stinks and bring his fragrance.  We’ve been called and we’ve been sent; it is though the angel still stands among us saying; “Men of God, why do you stand looking in the sky?” [Acts 1:11]

In Matthew 10:38-42, Jesus tells us of three groups of people who will receive the prophet’s reward. 

1.        The prophet himself;

2.        The one who houses and feeds the prophet;

3.        The one who receives the little ones that are sent by the prophet.

Matthew 10:38-42

[38] “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. [39] “He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it. [40] “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. [41] “He who receives a prophet in {the} name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. [42] “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward.” (NAS)

We are commanded to respond to God’s love with “emautou”; to do one or all of these things.  Yet, even if we are sick, crippled or burdened with a huge emotional dryness, even if there is no way that we can be in the harvest, we are still called to beseech God (the term is to actually “fall before God and beg”) for harvesters:

Luke 10:2

[2] And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (NAS)

There is a place for each one of us to “ematou”; to self-start in the passion of Jesus Christ.  “Let”s go!”

I have authority

John uses the word “authority” [GSN1849 exousia] six times in his Gospel.  Each time it is used, it further defines the nature of power or authority from God’s perspective:

1.         God gives us the right (power and authority) to call Him, “Father,” when we act as though Jesus is our “Lord.”

John 1:12-13

[12] But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, {even} to those who believe in His name, [13] who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (NAS)

2.        God gives Jesus both life and the power over life.

John 5:26-27

[26] “For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; [27] and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is {the} Son of Man.” (NAS)

4.        Because Jesus has authority over life, he also has the authority to give eternal life to those who hear and obey his commands.

John 17:1-5

[1] These things Jesus spoke; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee, [2] even as Thou gavest Him authority over all mankind, that to all whom Thou hast given Him, He may give eternal life. [3] “And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. [4] “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do. [5] “And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.” (NAS)

In fact, Jesus tells us that to have eternal life is to “know God” [K=IR*RO].

5.        Pilate is “informed” that Rome is not the ultimate authority—but that the true authority he has to sentence Jesus was given him by God.  In essence, Jesus is telling Pilate the he is a mere puppet in a much larger drama.

John 19:10-11

[10] Pilate therefore said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” [11] Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me up to you has {the} greater sin.” (NAS)

God’s authority is not only the right to act—it is also the capacity to act.  It is the competency and indeed the mastery to act.  God gives no authority without competency.  He never gives power without capability.  It is important to understand that to not act is to doubt God.  We doubt God’s authority when we do not act on His authority even more than if we simply do not accept his authority.  For inevitably, God is not a concept—He is life itself.  God is not a noun—He is a verb.  God is not “I was,” “I will be;” or “I might;” God is always “I AM.”

God’s authority is not “something we have.”  It is “someone we are.”  For if we don’t act on God’s authority—we don’t have it!

This commandment I received from My Father

This commandment I have “seized” [GSN2983 lambano].  Some of you might recognize this word from Mark 14, when Jesus takes the bread and breaks it, saying (author’s translation); “Take this thing and be amazed—for it has become my body.” [Mark 14:21]

The word “take” means seize.  Grab a hold of it and never let go!  Sieze it like it is your last chance; “Carpe diem! Seize this day, seize this opportunity.”  It was a command—not a suggestion.  It was the last warning to Judas and to all the others who joined Jesus for that last supper—“DO NOT LET THIS OPPORTUNITY PASS YOU BY!”

This is the commandment that Jesus SIEZED from the Father.  “To give up his life for ours!”

Just as surely, my friends—this is our day!  SEIZE IT!  “Lambano!”  Seize the commandment from the Father to love God extravagantly and love our neighbor daringly.

This is the day; SEIZE GOD!

Copyright Notice

Copyright © 2005 Jerry Goebel. All Rights Reserved.  This study may be freely distributed, as long as it bears the following attribution: Source: Jerry Goebel: 2005 © http://onefamilyoutreach.com.

Scripture taken from God’s Word to the Nations Bible Society original work copyright © 1995. 

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