Let’s talk about essential jobs. What is essential? Who is essential? There is a whole lot of debate about this going on all over our country. For those of you that haven’t cut any hours over the past couple of months now, maybe there is a little bit of pride in that. To know that I am an essential member of society. That my community relies on me, even if that means I am wiping down carts at smiths with some sanitizer all day. People need you. On the other hand there are some who have been furloughed or laid off. There might be some that are contemplating the work that they have done up to this point in their life and they think now, is this really what I was put on this earth to do. Some people have had a long time to think about this, take a step back and re-evaluate, and I wonder if there is going to be a migration away from certain jobs that people were doing to get by into jobs that people feel are essential. Our community is built upon people that are considered non-essential, with the hotel and gaming industry here. They are pretty essential for building this huge town in this valley. So this morning no matter what anyone has labeled the job that you do. I want to remind you of an essential worker that considers you to be essential. Today we are going to look at our Gospel lesson as found in John 10 and look at the job of being a shepherd.
Most of us are familiar with the symbol of Jesus as our Shepherd. From the time that we are young many grow up singing songs like I am Jesus little lamb. Even those who have never cracked a Bible have usually heard Psalm 23, the Lord is my shepherd I shall not be in want. The idea that the God of the Bible is well known now just like it should have been to the people hearing our gospel lesson for the first time.
This lesson that we have today is right on the heels of the account of Jesus healing a man who was blind from birth. After this man is healed the church does an investigation to find out how it all happened, and when the man who was healed testified that he thought that Jesus was a prophet, the kicked him out of the church and excommunicated him. How could that guy not believe after getting back his sight from Jesus and then meeting his Savior. But the church rather than welcoming Jesus in, they threatened and intimidated those who believed that Jesus really was God. Here are the first few verses again.
“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
But notice those Pharasies, those teachers, those people in the church that thought that they had the power to be the gatekeepers and keep people in or out of heaven, in verse six of our lesson, we learn that they did not fully understand what Jesus was talking about.
I want you to fully understand what Jesus is talking about. I don’t want you to miss this great way that our God wants us to think about him. Now I don’t think many have you have done much shepherding so lets just get the visual for what is going on here. Often times you would have many shepherds who would watch sheep. There is only a certain amount of sheep that you can watch, and at some point you have to sleep. So sometimes there would be a gathering place for the sheep of multiple shepherds to come together. It was a stone wall, in a big circle that had a gate and you could have shepherds all staying together keeping watches over their flocks at night while the sheep were together in this area. Then when morning came the shepherds would come forward. Open the gate and call their sheep. There might be lots of other sheep in the pen, but the sheep when they heard their shepherd call they went out after him because they knew that shepherd was going to lead them to good pasture and water. The shepherd calls them by name. He knows which ones are his. He isn’t going to forget any. They are his sheep. Every day they will go out. And the shepherd was going to watch over them all day, while they just enjoyed life in the open air.
To those that man who had just been healed and now was going to follow Jesus. He heard the voice of his master and he followed him out of the fold and toward his Lord. The Lord was his good shepherd. Those Pharasies and those leaders were proving that the one true God was not really the one that they were following. They were supposed to be shepherds of God’s people. They were people who were supposed to be part of the flock of Israel that God was leading, but instead by these actions they were proving that they were just thieves and robbers. They weren’t working with Jesus, they were trying to rob God. They were trying to take people away from Jesus.
You have to watch out for those people. There are people out that that are not on God’s side but claim to be his shepherds. There are voices out there that will try to lead you away from the love of your God because it is going to profit them in some way. There are people like that in the church and there have been for a very long time, we can’t pretend that doesn’t exist. Which is why you and I need to listen. We need to listen for the voice of Jesus calling to us.
Jesus calls to us all the time. He talks to us through his word and we follow him. We trust that he is going to take care of us. We trust that he is going to lead us to places of peace and security. We trust that he is going to make us get the true rest that only his word can give to us. But the only way that this happens is when we listen to the voice of our shepherd who has purchased us with his own blood, and we follow him.
There are different techniques for shepherding. You can drive sheep. Picture the shepherd being at the back of the heard with his hands out pushing the sheep to where he wants them to go. But notice that’s not how our shepherd works. He just keeps calling us. We just keep following him. Sometimes he is going to walk through some dark places, Many times we might not be able to see over the steep incline and the tough road as he leads us to a better place. But be assured, our shepherd knows where he is going. Keep following him.
He wants you to, because you are essential to him. He knows your name. He doesn’t look at you as just some useful animal, he looks at you as someone worth dying for. He looks at you as someone worth calling. Someone worth protecting. Someone worth feeding. Someone worth long and tough journeys that he is going to go on with you that are going to lead you to places of great peace. You are essential to him not because of your job. You are essential to him, not because of what you can do. You are essential to him because he decided, he wants you to be and remain in his flock forever.
And he is essential to you. Without him where would we be. Without him we would just be wandering around listening to any voice that is calling to us. We would be trying to get peace from world leaders, or statisticians and their projections. We would be looking for peace from financial advisors. We would be looking for peace with distractions from the world around us. We would be looking for peace within ourselves and our own strength. We would be looking for peace from gurus who have nothing to offer except fleeting perspectives. And the honest and sad truth is, there are times that we start to wander following those voices. We listen to people promising you peace, letting you know that they know the way and it isn’t with Christ. We get stolen away. We get tricked. We wander. We follow the wrong one.
But he keeps calling you. He keeps calling you to give you life to the full. This is what he wants to give you. He wants to give you everlasting life and peace. He wants to give you peace here in this world. He wants to give you an identity in him. He wants to let you know that he is leading your through this crazy world to your heavenly home. He wants to let you know that he is your good shepherd and he will protect you. He will help you.
I know there are a lot of voices out there calling many people in different directions right now, and many people seem to be debating which way is the way that we are supposed to go. Do yourself a favor, and tune out all the voices for a while every day, and just listen for the voice of your Savior who is speaking to you. He has an essential message to let you know one day, you will be with the Lord forever. To God be the glory. Amen.