Good Friday 2019

 

John 10:11

“I am the Good Shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” 

 

Jesus had just healed a man who was born blind.  He spit on the ground, made mud with His saliva, rubbed it on the man’s eyes and the man could see.  The Pharisees weren’t buying it.  When it came to Jesus, they never bought it.  When the man pointed to Jesus as the One who healed him, as the One who performed this miracle on him, the Pharisees castigated the man and threw him out of the synagogue.  The man had been healed of his blindness and yet all the while, it was the Pharisees who were blind.  Their blindness was a spiritual blindness.  They could not see Jesus for who He really was.  Then, Jesus said these words;

 

I am the good shepherd.” 

 

This was no ordinary shepherd.  This was not some guy tending sheep on the hills surrounding Bethlehem.  This shepherd was in a class all by Himself.  We’ve been seeing that when Jesus said, “I am the bread of life,” or “I am the light of the world,” or “I am the door of the sheep pen,” whenever He said, “I am” He was claiming divinity.  Here, He is saying that He is God, that this Good Shepherd is God.  Oh, it would take God to complete the task that was before Jesus.  It would take God to die for the sins of the world.  If Jesus was just a human being, if He was just a sinner like the rest of us, His death on the cross would only be a sacrifice for His own sins, not for anyone else’s sins.  It would take far more than just another Joe Schmoe to die for the sins of the world.  It would take God to die for the world’s sins.  The writer of the book of Hebrews said it this way:

 

“Such a high priest (as Jesus) truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.”  Hebrews 7:26-28

 

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”  1 Peter 1:18-19

 

Jesus did not have to die for His own sins.  He was that lamb without blemish or defect.  He is God who was to die for the sins of the world.  One drop of His blood would have been enough to pay for all of the sins of everyone who ever lived and who ever will live.  But, Jesus gave it all.  He gave all of His blood for your sins and mine.  So, this Good Shepherd, this sinless Son of God, said,

 

“I am the Good Shepherd. 

 

He went on to say;

 

“The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” 

 

This is not a passive thing.  The Good Shepherd doesn’t just let the wolf kill him.  No, the Good Shepherd actively lays down His life.  It was His intention.  It was His will.  It was what He was meant to do from the beginning of time. 

 

So many times, Jesus could have backed away from His God-ordained task.  Peter tried to sidetrack Him.  When Jesus told His disciples that He would have to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things and that He must be killed, Peter rebuked Jesus.  He tried to dissuade Jesus from going the way of the cross.  Jesus would have none of that.  “Get behind me, Satan!” was Jesus retort to Peter.  “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Jesus could have backed away from His God ordained task, but He would not do it.

 

The Pharisees were almost endless in their attacks on Jesus.  It would have been pretty easy for Jesus to not create waves with these powerful religious leaders.  It would have been easier for Jesus to meld into the woodwork and be a doormat.  Jesus could have backed away from His God ordained task, but He would not do it. 

 

When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter drew his sword and cut off a servant’s ear.  Jesus told Peter to put his sword back in its place.  He said;

 

“Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”  Matthew 26:53

 

Jesus could have backed away from His God ordained task, but He would not do it. 

 

Caiaphas, the high priest, grilled Jesus.  Jesus could have probably walked away with a huge slap on the wrist if He would have just admitted to Caiaphas’ claims against Him and repented.  Jesus could not do that for to do that would be to lie.  Instead, He remained silent.  Then, Caiaphas said;

 

“I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”  Matthew 26:63

 

Jesus could have kept silent.  He could have pled the 5th.  But, Jesus said, “Yes, it is as you say.”  And, with that, Caiaphas and the Jewish leaders thought they had enough to condemn Him.  Jesus could have backed away from His God ordained task, but He would not do it. 

 

Pontius Pilate tried to give Jesus a way out.  First, he asked Jesus if He was the King of the Jews.  Jesus could have kept silent but He replied, “Yes, it is as you say.”  Pilate tried to get Jesus to defend Himself.  “Don’t you hear the charges they are bringing against you?”  Jesus could have answered.  He could have defended Himself, shade the story to appear in His favor.  Jesus could have backed away from His God ordained task, but He would not do it. 

 

No, it was for this very reason that Jesus came on this earth.  The cross was what Jesus was destined to do from before the creation of the world.  In speaking about this divine but awful task, Jesus said;

 

“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.”  John 12:27 

 

Jesus, this Good Shepherd, was resolute in what was before Him.  He was to lay down His life for sinners. 

 

“I am the Good Shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” 

 

This is not just “on behalf of” but, instead of.  He lays down His life in the place of the lives of the sheep.  It was the Shepherd for the sheep.  He lays down His life vicariously. 

 

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  2 Corinthians 5:21

 

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:45

 

It was February 1941, Auschwitz, Poland. Maximilian Kolbe was a Franciscan priest put in the infamous death camp for helping Jews escape Nazi terrorism.  Months went by and in desperation an escape took place. The camp rule was enforced. Ten people would be rounded up randomly and herded into a cell where they would die of starvation and exposure as a lesson against future escape attempts.  Names were called.  A Polish Jew Frandishek Gasovnachek was called. He cried, "Wait, I have a wife and children!" Kolbe stepped forward and said, "I will take his place."  Kolbe was marched into the cell with nine others where he managed to live until August 14.  Years later, Gasovnachek, by this time 82, had erected a marble monument which read IN MEMORY OF MAXIMILIAN KOLBE.  HE DIED IN MY PLACE.  Gasovnachek said, "I live because someone died for me." Every year on August 14 he travels to Auschwitz in memory of Kolbe.  [1]

 

“The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” in the place of the sheep, the vicarious atonement.    

 

“I am the Good Shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

 

Look, they are sheep!  For a shepherd in those days, sheep were just money in the bank.  They were a means to an end, the end being providing a livelihood for their family.  They are sheep!  Oh, those shepherds may have named the sheep Floppy or Spot but in the end the shepherds would have no trouble selling those sheep, allowing them to be food on someone else’s table, or food on their own.  Again, they are sheep.

 

And, yet the Good Shepherd was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for sheep.  He was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for me and for you, sheep that we are. 

 

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”  Isaiah 53:6

 

“I am the Good Shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” 

 

That Good Shepherd was willing to die a miserable death for the sins of the world, for the sins of His sheep.  He was willing to go through that terrible lot, the scourge so terrible that it broke bones, knocked out teeth--some died from the lashes alone—the crown of thorns jammed unceremoniously onto His head--the nails pounded into His hands.  Then, the utter forsakenness of the Father, turning His back on His only begotten Son. 

 

This went well beyond some shepherd of Bethlehem shooing wolves away from his pen.  It even went beyond the shepherd tracking down the sheep, fighting off the wolves.  It even went way beyond the shepherd giving up his life for the sheep.  This Good Shepherd took on all of the sins of the world on His shoulders.  He endured the wrath of the Father.  He became sin so that we didn’t have to pay the penalty for our sins.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd did it all.  And, to think that the Father’s love for a lost world was so great that He gave up His only begotten Son to do that. 

 

In March of 1997, Scott Mathews wanted the young people of Carthage, Missouri to understand the love of God… . So they built a 500 lb, 8 by 14 foot redwood cross. It took ten students to move it. Crosses are heavy, you know.

 

Scott, the youth pastor, wanted to help the teens understand the weight of the cross.  He called on Kyle to stand, take off his shirt and come forward to lie on the cross that was propped at an angle on the front of the stage. There were 170 people at youth group that night. Kyle was embarrassed.  Scott told all the students that each of them deserved to experience the cross. But because of God’s love for the world, he sent His Son to lay down for us.  The words were too familiar and seemed inadequate. They weren’t enough. Crosses are heavy, you know.

 

How could he demonstrate the crosses’ weight?  Immediately the name of Minette Allmoslecher came to mind.  Minette was a youth counselor.  She loved Jesus.  The teens looked up to her as one who worked to align her life with Jesus’ desires.  Would she come and lay on the cross? Would that communicate the cost, the love of God?  Crosses are heavy, you know.

 

Minette was in the back row busy watching her kids. Scott asked her to come up to the stage. Finally, there was someone who could represent Jesus on the cross.  On her way up to the stage, she began to give her newborn baby, Hudson, to a friend.  Scott interrupted, “No, Minette. We want Hudson.” They took the body of this little boy and placed him on the centerpiece of the cross.  He fit easily.  Hudson began to cry loudly. Crosses are not very comfortable…and they’re very heavy…you know.

 

Together the group recited John 3:16: “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.” Every young person that night understood the love of God. It weighed 9 pounds, 6 ounces.[2]  The Good Shepherd, the only-begotten Son of God, lamb, perfect without blemish, laid down His life for the sheep.

 

Let me just ask you this;  On this Good Friday, do you understand the love of God for you?  Do you know, do you understand that Jesus gave His life-blood for you?  Do you know that the Good Shepherd laid down His life for you?  He did that for you!  Take that in.  Listen to Jesus’ words once again;

 

“I am the Good Shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

 

Do you know that this Good Shepherd laid down His life for you?

 

In Jesus’ name.

Amen

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1]  Source: Victor Knowles, Peace on Earth Ministries. Adapted from Crossroads Family Circle.

 

[2] Source: SermonCentral staff. Citation: Scott Mathews, Adventure Christian Church, Rocklin, CA.