“(7) Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. (8) All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. (9) I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. (10) The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
(11) I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. (12) But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. (13) The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.
(14) I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. (15) As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. (16) And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. (17) Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. (18) No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10:7-18)
Today is Palm Sunday, a day I only half sort of got and understood growing up as a child. I have been a Christian for about four years now and I really didn’t get the significance of it until this year. Today is the day Jesus road into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. This day was predicted hundreds of years before it happened. It was predicted that it would occur on the very day it did occur which is why the people were waiting for the Messiah to show up. And there Jesus of Nazareth was, on the back of a donkey. Which is the exact way it was predicted He would enter.
It was a big deal. The crowd was huge. People were laying down palm branches for Jesus’ donkey to walk upon—which is where you get Palm Sunday from—as well as their cloaks. And people only had one cloak. So they put down their one and only cloak to get trampled on, caked and embedded with dirt and urine and animal waste. This wasn’t a light gesture……but it would prove to be a heartless and thoughtless one in a few days. But today throngs of people were gathering and singing out to the Lord, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israle!” The people were pumped and excited. They had all just declared Jesus God, something He had been saying Himself for a while now.
Ne part of the story I had always heard, but hadn’t understood, until today was that the Pharisees were very upset. They told Jesus to tell the people to stop saying these things. Then Jesus told the Pharisees that even if the people were to stop the very rocks would declare it. So in my mind I never understood why Jesus didn’t tell the people to shut up so the rocks would declare it. How much more of a miracle would that be? That would be awesome! Creation itself would acknowledge God before man. So I just always thought that God didn’t want to perform on command for the Pharisees another miracle they wouldn’t believe. I didn’t get what Jesus was saying or showing. It went right over my head until today when Pastor Phil spoke about it.
The rocks are the lesser miracle. Creation, in all its glory, is always glorifying God and acknowledging Him as Lord and Christ. The bigger miracle is when a sinner, fallen, enemy of God can turn away from himself and from Satan….repent….and look toward the Good Shepherd….and say You are Christ! You are God! You are my Savior, my Hope, and my Salvation! My witness, my testimony, my voice crying out to Jesus as Savior is more of a miracle than a rock. Because it wasn’t a rock that was crying out “CRUCIFY HIM!” It was me. The rocks already know who Christ is. I am the one who stumbles and has troubles. I am the one who had to be sought, bought, and saved. I am the one in need of a Shepherd.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He did seek me out among the crags in the wilderness when I was lost, alone, hurt, and broken. He picked me up and He is still carrying me home. And He is carrying me with scarred hands, and walking on scarred feet. And so when I read this passage today with the Our Daily Bread meditation I was struck by another thought. Jesus knew He would die. He spoke of it more than once. He spoke of it here. He said He would lay down His life for the sheep in His flock. But He also said He was laying down His life for the sheep that weren’t yet in His flock…….but sheep that still belonged to Him. Sheep like me. Jesus said that no one would force Him to lay down His life, but that He would do it of His own accord. He would lay it down because He wanted to, and then He would take it back up. All because the Father commanded Him. Jesus had the power and authority granted to Him by the Father; by my Heavenly Father.
So that means as I road in on that donkey, listening to the crowd He knew that in about 5 days He would be struggling to walk that street. People who were throwing down palm branches and cloaks to cover the ground so the hooves of the donkey He road wouldn’t be dirty….soon would be spitting on His raw back as He left a trickled blood trail toward Calvary. I can’t imagine what that donkey ride was like for Him. I can’t imagine what it was like to witness the miracle of testimony of faith, knowing it was greater than rocks singing……..and knowing it was empty and meaningless. I don’t know how Jesus smiled that day. I don’t know how He hugged children, prayed for people. I wonder if He shuddered, even just once, when He crossed over the spot where He would fall face first in the dirt with the cross across His shoulders….at the place where Simon would then have to carry it.
I don’t know how He did it. On Palm Sunday Jesus was still the Good Shepherd looking for lost sheep. On the last few days between Palm Sunday and Good Friday Jesus was still out there, calling out for His sheep. We do know His voice. He didn’t lie about that. I have heard it; and trust me I wasn’t listening for it. But I did know it when I heard it. Jesus is still searching. I was still found. I am still being carried. I can still touch scarred hands and kissed scarred feet.
And on Good Friday Jesus wasn’t dragged to the cross, or forced into the wolf’s den. Jesus boldly walked up to the wolf. Jesus followed the wolf home without fear or hesitation. He approached the wolf without weapons, without defenses, and without armies. Jesus sought out the wolf on his home territory, stood right in his face, and essentially said……give me your best shot. Do your worst. I dare you. I can take it.
And the wolf was confused at first, put on a trial, waiting to see if Jesus would lash out. Would Jesus bring down Holy fire from the heavens to wipe him out? Would Christ fight back? So the attack began, slowly at first. But it built, and as it built it became more brutal. Jesus took it. He stood there. He didn’t lash out. He didn’t defend Himself. He didn’t call down a heavenly host of angels. He didn’t wipe the wolf from existence. He let the wolf do his very worst unto Jesus’ death. And the wolf danced away, believing he had won. That the Messiah hadn’t been prepared for that kind of ‘worst’.
Three days later the stone was rolled away. The tomb was empty. And Jesus was alive. And the wolf had to face the bitter truth that he wasn’t the one who took Jesus’ life…….Jesus was the one who gave it up. And Jesus is the one who gave it back. That the wolf’s most powerful tool…….that the wolf’s most destructive force…….death…..has no power what so ever over Christ. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost rule and reign over death as well. So in bitter defeat the wolf slunk away. Now he just lashes out more viciously……..trying to rip as many of us from God as he can.
You see Satan doesn’t care if you miss heaven by an inch….or by a mile. Just as long as you miss out on being shepherded into the flock of Christ. I had never thought of the wolf in that way before today. There are a lot of first thoughts for me today. But of all my thoughts I am very glad that the one to remain true and fast in my mind is that Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd. He knows my name, and I know His voice