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Evan Earwicker: The Good Shepherd, John 9 & 10

July 3, 2023

Audio Recording

In declaring Himself to be the Good Shepherd, Jesus stood out from false messiahs (thieves) and Pharisees (bad shepherds) alike. Jesus modeled the heart of the Father for people, one that willingly lays down religious rules to rescue those who are lost and broken. As found people, our allegiance is to our Good Shepherd alone.

Westside Church Podcast
Westside Church Podcast
Evan Earwicker: The Good Shepherd, John 9 & 10

Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us. We're gonna be in John chapter nine today, John chapter nine and 10 actually. And, I'm, I am happy today. We had such a great weekend last weekend as we, celebrated this transition that that West Side Church is in, with Steve Pastor Steve Mickel handing off the reigns fully to, to Ben and I, and, we just felt such support and warmth from you as our church. And so we're grateful for that. And it was a reminder to me that God has, been orchestrated and continues to orchestrate the path and the history of this church, but also each of our lives. You know, that, we will look back, I believe, on the years of our lives spent in faith and realize that God was at work in every season.

00:53 That doesn't mean every season was good. That doesn't mean every season went according to plan or that we were pleased with the outcome of every moment. But at, at the same time, we understand that a life lived in faith is a life that we are under the covering of God. I was so appreciated, Deb, what she shared this morning in worship, that we are held within the love of Jesus. And today we wanna talk about a moment where we get this very clear picture of the way that Jesus cares for humanity. and so I'm gonna pray, and then we're gonna get into this. By the way, I, I brought my old Bible out of, my bookshelf today. I got this Bible when I was 12 years old. And, I've kept it all these years. I've lost it a few times, refound it, how many love finding things that you've lost.

01:43 And, so I brought this out. anytime I, I preach from this Bible or, or read from this Bible, I'm reminded like God's got us over the course of our whole lives. God's got us. And so let's pray as we begin today. Lord Jesus, we welcome your hand and your grace to rest on us today. We pray that in the course of our history for our own lives, the life of this community and this church, it would be evident that you've walked alongside us. You've gone before us, you've come behind us with your grace and your strength. Speak your word through me today. Jesus, we pray, we want to hear from you in Jesus name, amen. Well, in John chapter nine, I'm gonna paraphrase it. there ha there's a story about Jesus healing a blind man. He comes across this blind man, and, in one of the, the more strange ways that he heals, he spits in the mud.

02:37 Maybe you've heard this story. He spits in the mud and he makes, this, this paste, and he puts it on the blind man's eyes. And he says, okay, now go and wash in the pool of Siloam, which was a good distance away. I don't know if Jesus was pranking him or what, but he said, go wash in the pool of Siloam. So this blind man goes, and he washes in the pool of Siloam, and miraculously, his eyes are open for the first time in his life. The miracle is amazing. But what happens after the miracle is pretty fascinating, because the Pharisees, who are the religious leaders in Jesus day, are watching all this happen. And what they notice, first of all, is not the miraculous opening of the eyes of the blind man. What they notice and they remark on is that Jesus completed this healing on the Sabbath, which was breaking the law, which is breaking the law.

03:31 And so the Pharisees always, interested in the rules, first begins to interrogate. They interrogate the man to find out, were you really blind? we suspect that this is, not actually all it seems. And then when the man, doesn't give 'em the answers they want, they go to his parents, they interrogate the parents, maybe parents, you know, you've done this before. You got two kids, right? The one doesn't give the answer you're looking for. You're like, okay, you go in that room and we're gonna talk to the other one and see what they see, say, right? And you compare the stories to find out where the lie is. This is what the Pharisees do. So they go to the parents, and the parents are like, oh, I don't know what to tell you guys. We know that he was blind from birth, and it sure seems like he's seen now.

04:16 So they go back to the man, and the man says this, and I love his response to the Pharisees. The man says, one thing I do know, I was blind. And now I see. He said, I, I dont know the backstory of this guy. Jesus, I don't know all the answers that you're asking for, but what I do know is this, that I was blind. But now I see, well, the Pharisees are still unconvinced, that this guy is on the up and up. And so they excommunicating from the synagogue, harsh, cruel, so intensely about the rules and the religious, restrictions and regulations that the Pharisees cannot see what is actually happening, that Jesus is expressing the heart of God for humanity in miraculous fashion. So all this happens, and then it's right in this context, in this moment, after this showdown with the Pharisees that we read this John chapter 10, verse 14, Jesus says, I am the good shepherd.

05:22 I know my own sheep, and they know me just as my father knows me, and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep too that are not in this sheep fold. And I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice. And there will be one flock with one shepherd. You know, it's interesting. More than 200 times the Bible uses this metaphor of God as shepherd and people as sheep. And if you are in this room and you're not God, that's not really a compliment. sheep are not known for their intelligence. they're not known for their cleverness. sheep by and large are stupid animals, right? Pastor Josh and I were talking about this message this week, and, and he said he was reminded of this time, and he saw, I think it was a neighbor of his, and the neighbor was leaving the house and turns to the dog out in the yard and says, okay, whatever the dog's name was, okay, make good decisions and then leaves .

06:22 I just wonder, did the dog go, okay? Yeah, actually I will, I will. Maybe, you know, border Collie are pretty smart. sheep not so much, you know, no one encourages, sheep to make good decisions. Do you remember the movie, babe? Do you remember that movie? Right? when the Pig is the Smart one among the group, you know, you're dealing with some lower intelligence animals. Well, this is the metaphor, unfortunately, for us, that is used over and over again in scripture. And I don't think scripture is actually trying to point out again and again how stupid humanity is. But what it is doing is it's setting up this idea of how God interacts with broken and stubborn humanity. And so, again and again, hundreds of times we see this metaphor that God is the shepherd. God is the shepherd, God is the shepherd.

07:12 And just as we probably could quote some, or most of Psalms 23, the Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want, he makes me lie down in green pastures. So too, would the crowd that was around Jesus have known those scriptures? They would've known this metaphor. Well, when you said, who is the shepherd to the crowd that was around Jesus in that synagogue, they would've said, well, God is the shepherd, of course. And so, like all of the I am declarations that Jesus makes in the Book of John Jesus by saying, I am the good shepherd is, is waiting into this really dangerous territory of putting himself on this level that is reserved for God, the shepherd alone. And so this, of course, would've made the Pharisees even more upset by saying, I am the good shepherd. I think Jesus is pushing back and contrasting himself with two different groups.

08:05 And I want to kind of unpack this a little bit today. So he says, I'm the good shepherd. Who is he setting himself apart from by saying this? The first, if you read through the entire chapter of John chapter 10, is thieves and robbers. He talks in the, in the preceding verses about how there are thieves and robbers who come into the sheep fold over the gate, and they come to steal away the sheep, the robbers who would come in and take away life and take away the safety and the security of the flock. Now, Jesus would've been referencing in this moment something that the crowd would've known well, which was all these would-be Messiahs that had come and gone in Israel. Those, you know, seemingly influential, powerful people that, that people would've looked at and said, this is the one, this is the person.

08:55 This is the guy that's gonna lead us. And, and, and, and, liberate us from the shackles of Rome. This is our guy. And again and again, Rome would be like, no, he's not. And they would put down these, insurrections, and these, these uprisings and rebellions from these would be messiahs. And surely the, the Pharisees would've looked at Jesus and said, here's another would be Messiah. And so by, by declaring himself to be the good shepherd, what he's also saying is, listen, I'm not one of these thieves and robbers. I'm not one of these would be Messiahs that comes in to steal away the sheep. I'm not. And then he goes on and says, I am the good shepherd. I am the good shepherd. He doesn't say, I am the shepherd. He says, I am the good shepherd. The reason you say I am the good shepherd in a crowd is because the crowd probably has experience with what?

09:53 Bad shepherds, bad shepherds. In fact, if all the experiences of the crowd are just with good shepherds, you don't need to say it at all. You can just say, I'm a shepherd. And then say, oh, that's great. You're a good guy. But if the experience that the people have had with the leaders around them has been one that has been bad, it is a big statement to say, I am a good shepherd. Who are the bad shepherds that these people around Jesus would've been familiar with? Well, it was the shepherds who just threw the formally blind, blind man who had been healed out of the synagogue, the Pharisees, who would rather hide behind religious rules than to experience firsthand the miraculous power of Jesus expressing the compassion of God. Eugene Peterson was writing on this passage and talking about, the Pharisees in Jesus and their interaction.

10:50 He said, clearly it seems that Jesus is saying it is better to be compassionate than to be right. I love that it's better to be compassionate than to be right in this moment. We see Jesus, setting this incredibly stark contrast between the way that he interacts with hurting people and the way that the religious leaders interact with hurting people. About a year ago, my family and I were on vacation and, we were up in the mountains and we had, it wasn't an Airbnb, but it was like, you know, one of these, condos that, that a private party owned and was renting out. And the pictures online looked really beautiful, not so much. Once we got into the room kind of dirty, kind of gross, kind of sketchy getting into the apartment complex. And, and so we had parked and we put the kids to bed.

11:42 And then I, I looked online and realized that with some points we had, we could actually transfer to a really nice hotel, for about the same price, and it was gonna be way better. So, we hatched this plan about nine 30 at night. our son, Jack, who's four at the time, he's asleep, I said, let's get outta here. Let's just get outta here. Let's pack up our things. this other hotel is just down the road, and we can, so we, we pack up all of our stuff, go out, it's this big condo complex, very dark inside, the, the hallways in the lobby. And, we get out in the parking lot, get in the rental car and head towards the exit and realize that we had parked in the wrong parking lot. We were in the resident parking lot, and there was one of these drop gates blocking the exit, like blocking the exit.

12:29 And so I got out, there's no like keypad, there's no place to call. We had an email address from the owner of the unit that we were in. but we didn't have a phone number. I went back into the building, didn't see a single soul. I'm like, looking around for some help. There's nobody this point, Alyssa's in the front seat holding our four year old who's still asleep. Our daughter's in the back seat crying, , it was a good time. So I get back in the car, I'm like, what do we do? We, we can't get out. And the last thing we wanted to do was drag the kids back up into sketchy gross room, right? So, what I decided to do was, we had a towel in the back of the car. You're like, what is he gonna do? I wrapped the gate, the drop gate in a towel, and then just drove under it and pushed the gate up over the car. Minor scratchy. Not too bad. All right?

13:24 And I'll tell you what, that gate bent and bent and it bent, but it didn't break. Thank God. we got out, we got out and, got the towel, put it in, the car took off, and it was great. Only took about 40 minutes. I was thinking about that story because listen, I'm, I'm a rule follower, especially when we travel. I don't want to be the, you know, the, a aggressive, belligerent tourist, right? I hate that look. And so I always want to, I wanna play by the, you tell me what the expectation is. I'm not, I'm not from around here, so I'll just go along with the flow. I'll follow the rules, right? But there are moments in our lives where for the sake of our kids, we do things that actually are against the rules. You hear what I'm saying?

14:12 At some point, the rules become less important than the fact that we've got our kids in the car, so to speak. What is fascinating and really challenging to my religious viewpoint, and surely for the Pharisees of their day, is that we see Jesus consistently willing not to throw out the rules, not to throw out the law, but when the law begins to create a barrier between p people and God. Cuz understand this, the law was given through Moses in order to give people access, give humanity access to the presence of a holy God. But by the time Jesus comes around, these Pharisees have, have built up the law to be this shield from which they can hide behind and hide from actually caring for people and actually doing their job, which is to shepherd people into the presence of a loving God. And so when Jesus comes into these moments and he sees the Pharisees, these, these gatekeepers of the law, of the religious order, and they begin to hold those things up, not as pathways to get to God for hurting people, but as barriers that keep people from God.

15:21 Jesus says, listen, when there's kids in the car, we're gonna push through some rules to get this person who is hurting into the presence of God to find hol wholeness and healing and restoration. Because why? Because the son of man came to save and seek that which was lost. I mean, this is tough though, right? How many rule followers have got in the house today? Come on, I know you you would've felt right at home with me. Like, what do I do? Do I wrap it twice in the towel? Do I just, do I just try to break it off? I don't like any of these options. Why? Because we wanna follow the rules. But there are moments where we get into the text and we, we see Jesus and he's just like, listen, I know we're not supposed to do this on the Sabbath. I know it says that, but there's a hurting person here and God actually wants to encounter. And so the, actually the priority becomes the way that Jesus wants to restore that human, that life, that that person over. Are we sticking with the laws of the Sabbath? And this is, this is tough for me, and it was tough for the Pharisees, and this is what got Jesus in so much trouble.

16:31 And I want to ask us, and this is our question today, what is our first move with hurting people? What is our first move? I'll tell you what it was for these Pharisees. It was to interrogate, critique and question. And maybe just, maybe if this man had answered all their questions the way they wanted, and I don't think he could have, but maybe if he had given them ammunition against Jesus, maybe if he had had jumped through their religious, who maybe then they would've said, okay, you know what? You can stay in the community. We're not gonna excommunicate you. Okay? You can access forgiveness through the sacrificial system, all these things cuz you, you dance through the right hoops. But what is Jesus first move with hurting people?

17:16 He heals without question. He approaches this man who is in need. He doesn't ask him for his history. He doesn't ask him if he's, if he's properly confessed or been forgiven. He doesn't ask him what he believes about the Torah. He doesn't ask him, if he has enough faith in God. He simply meets this man with miraculous power, healing, and restoration. And it challenges me as a rule follower to remember that first and foremost Jesus is about saving lost people and healing broken people. These Pharisees might have remembered a passage in Ezekiel that will also reference shepherds. And I wanna read this. And, and as I read this, I, I I want us to, maybe consider if we've experienced bad shepherding how this hits. It says in Ezekiel chapter 34, all you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves should not shepherds feed the sheep.

18:25 You eat the fat, you clothe yourself with wool, you slaughter the fat leans, but you do not feed the sheep. You have not strengthened the weak. You have not healed the sick. You have not bound up the injured, you have not sought the lost. And thus says the Lord God, I am against the shepherds. I myself will search for my sheep and I will seek them out and I will rescue them. The good shepherd stands in contrast to the bad shepherds. And I'll tell you what, we don't have to look far even today in Christianity to find examples of bad shepherding. Have you listened to the podcast? Have you seen the documentaries , fascinating, heartbreaking examples of Christian leadership that gone bad.

19:16 movements that, that bear the name of Christianity that have been hotbeds for abuse and misappropriation of scripture for personal gain. We don't have to go far to find examples of bad shepherding. And I think there is sometimes this, hope that maybe we can reconcile those examples. And, and sometimes I even wanna make excuses for bad shepherding because they wear the name of Christianity or they're, they're attached to our, our faith group. And as I was reading this, I just feel like Jesus would just say, listen, anything that doesn't look like me is the good shepherd. We can remove our, our our need to apologize and make that okay, that the highest and the only bar for what Christianity should be is Christ himself. And so we have this ability, in a time when the examples of bad Christianity and bad religion are everywhere to look to Jesus and say, Jesus, guide us in a better way.

20:27 Jesus. We want to throw off these examples of, of, of how leadership, abuses those sheep underneath them. We want to throw off these farcical approaches to how we read scripture. We want to embrace the Jesus way, which is to heal, restore, and redeem the world around us. And I've, I've had conversations with, many who have, have joined our community, who've come out of maybe other faith communities that have been marked by a lot of even trauma difficulty. And I wanna say to you, if that's you and you're looking, hoping that you can find something different here, that it takes a lot of courage to come back to church. It takes a lot of love for Jesus to keep pursuing him after you've experienced some of this, the worst really, that Christianity has to offer. And it's in these moments that I think Jesus meets us. It's in these moments that Jesus reminds us that he is not like those bad shepherds, but he is the good shepherd. And I'll tell you what, if there's one thing that, that Ben and I want in this next season for West Side Church, it's not to put our own brand on this church or put our own brand on West side. It's to follow the good shepherd into green pastures for this church.

22:02 And so for those who have been mistreated by bad shepherds in other places and other communities, we have this hope that Jesus comes both to drive out the thieves and the bad shepherds alike. You know, in ancient times, whether it be a well or a water hole, this is out in the desert, you know, in the Middle East there wasn't a lot of options for, for water watering your, your herds and your flocks. And so, what I've read is that many times at the end of the day, you would come to these water wells and it wouldn't just be one flock of sheep, but it would be maybe two or three flocks all fighting for space around this. Well, and in those ancient times, many times the the flocks would get intermingled at the watering hole. And so here you'd have, you know, maybe two or three shepherds with all their flocks centered around this water. And all these sheep are getting mixed together and they're not tagged and they're not branded. And so how would the sheep, follow the shepherd? Well, the shepherd would raise his voice when it was time to go. And those shepherds who would recognize the voice of their shepherd would follow him out.

23:19 And so when Jesus says that he's the good shepherd and the sheep know his voice, what he's saying is that for those who would follow after him, there's a safety that we will always stay with him. Cuz we know his voice. I think in the days ahead, there will be opportunities for many voices that want to pull on us, that want to convince you that they deserve maybe your allegiance or your loyalty. You know, an election's coming out here. Did you hear this ,

23:52 So many voices, so many, lesser shepherds that would promise the world and say, just come follow after me. And it's those lesser voices that sometimes can confuse us, and we begin to put our allegiance and our loyalty towards something else besides Jesus. In this day, we have to do everything we can to sit at the feet of Jesus long enough to where we know his voice, to when he calls us. We don't get mixed up with a different flock, that our loyalty and our allegiance is to Jesus. And Jesus alone. We must learn to hear his voice in Romans one, six. I'm gonna end with this and then we're gonna take communion together. We find Paul writing to the church in Rome. And Rome of course, is the center of the ancient world. It's the center of civilization, center of the empire. And so if there is any, group, any young church in those days that would've known what it felt like to be torn between allegiances and torn between other voices and trying to find their way in the world, it would be the church in Rome. And in Romans one chapter or chapter one, verse six and seven, Paul writes this to the Romans. He says, you are included among the Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus. I'm writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people.

25:27 We are called to belong to Jesus alone. And we find our place in this community. And, and you know, we can have hobby and we can have interests, and and you can have, positions and I ideologies. And, and that's, that's all part of being human. I'm not, I'm not expecting us to lose all opinions, right? And yet when we talk about what our allegiance is to first and foremost what we'll be all about, the answer for us has to be we're about Jesus in his way. Jesus in his way. And what I love about putting Jesus first and foremost, it means that, that we can be in a room and we can have different ideas and different opinions and different perceptions and even different politics. And we can all come together under the highest and first thing that matters the most, which is Jesus in his way. I mean, there, there are plenty of faith communities that, that they can form around specific ideologies or specific political parties or specific, approaches to social issues. And, and I actually think it's a strength that we could have in this place, people that disagree. And yet we still come under the lordship and the supremacy of Jesus Christ first and foremost, that in this place we belong to him, we belong to him.

26:55 And so, I'm gonna lead us into a moment of communion in just a moment. But I'm gonna pray this prayer over us that in the days ahead, as other voices get louder and louder, we would hear and hone in on and listen closely for the voice of our good shepherd. So Jesus our good shepherd. Today we set our hearts to follow after you. Wherever you lead in moments and seasons of uncertainty, we commit that we will listen to your voice above the noise of all these lesser voices that would ask for our allegiance and our loyalty. Jesus, today we hear you say again that you'll never leave us, abandon us or forsake us. Jesus. We trust that when we can't see, when we don't know when we're afraid, you are close. So today, Lord, in this place and those watching online, we pray that you would calm fears that you would go before us, that your grace would precede us, fall after us, all the days of our lives, that we would dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen. Amen.