I AM the Good Shepherd

  I.      Introduction

Sheep aren’t the smartest animals.  Have you ever seen a sheep act at a circus?

Now, they aren’t completely dumb.  I read about one study that shows they can recognize faces and voices.  They have excellent hearing but very poor eyesight, so they tend to mindlessly follow wherever the sheep in front of them goes.

Sometimes they’re stubborn and won’t budge.  Usually they’re peaceful, but sometimes they try to bump into you with their head when they’re mad.  But usually they’re afraid and timid, so they prefer groups of sheep for protection. 

They’re defenseless.  They can’t outrun predators.  They have no fangs or claws, so they’re only defense is their pitiful head-ramming. 

And they get lost if not penned, they can’t find they’re way home.  While they’re lost, they tend to fall into rivers and bogs.  Even when rescued, they might fall back into the same river.

And God says we are like His sheep.  That’s not exactly a compliment.  Sometimes we’re stubborn, won’t budge, bump into each other when we get road rage.  We don’t have any teeth or claws to defend ourselves, so we usually have to resort to name-calling.  And even when the Lord rescues us from our stupidity, sometimes we fall right back into the same stupidity.

I know you can relate.  I certainly can.

II.      Ezekiel

We’ve been going through the 7 “I am” discourses of Jesus.

  1. I AM the Bread of Life
  2. I AM the Light of the World
  3. I AM the Door
  4. I AM the Good Shepherd
  5. I AM the Resurrection and the Life
  6. I AM the Way and the Truth and the Life
  7. I AM the True Vine

Each discourse from Jesus is meant to bring us a deeper understanding, both of Jesus’ relationship with the Father and our relationship with Jesus, and each statement echoes the “I AM WHO I AM” statement God said to Moses.  This week, we’re going to examine Jesus’ statement from John 10:11a that begins with His statement, “I AM the good shepherd.”

The imagery of sheep goes back a long, long way.  Probably the most famous of those is Psalm 23, and I’m going to read the whole psalm because it’s so amazingly applicable to our study today in John 10 –

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

We may be sheep, but we have a shepherd that loves us, protects us, comforts us, gives us joy and eternal life.  Our cup should overflow every day because of this amazing promise.  We’ll come back to Psalm 23, but first, let’s back up to the beginning of John 10, when Jesus begins,

“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.”

To appreciate the message of Jesus, it’s important to understand who Jesus is speaking to.  He’s not talking to Israelites or His followers.  He’s speaking to the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the people.

And I know already this is going to be a stern message.  Jesus is full of lovingkindness and mercy, but He often had a stern word for the Pharisees.  The Pharisees enriched themselves at the expense of the people.  The Pharisees imposed rules on others that they themselves did not follow.  And the Pharisees misrepresented God to the children of God.  I don’t recall ever where Jesus rebuked Jews, His followers, or even the gentiles.  But He had hard words against the religious leaders.

God’s words against bad religious leaders goes back a long, long way.  Here’s Ezekiel 34:1-4 –

The word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?  You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock.  You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.

What happened in the days of Ezekiel continued through the days of Jesus, and indeed, still happens today.  God’s people can be led astray by false shepherds who are not about preaching the justice and mercy of God, of preaching the gospel, of preaching the only way to salvation.  These false shepherds enrich themselves.  They only care to the extent that they’re able to take more.  And 2 Peter 2:1-3 puts in this way –

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.  Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.  In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

Jesus says these aren’t even pastors, they’re just hired hands.  And God promises in the same book of Ezekiel that He would send a solution, v 11-16 –

“‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.  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.  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.  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.  I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord.  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.”

One of the many ways you can identify a false pastor is listen to how many times he says “me me me me” or even “you you you you.”  In this verse from Ezekiel, God says it’s not you, it’s me.  God says I will look after, I will tend, I will rescue, I will gather, I will search and I will bind and I will shepherd.  If the pastor’s message doesn’t continually point back to the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, he’s not a pastor.  He’s not a shepherd.  He may be a wolf.

Then God says in Ezekiel that He will send and place one Shepherd over all, verses 23-24,

I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd.  I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.

In contrast to the many false shepherds, this will be the one true good shepherd.  In Israel’s history, David was a good shepherd, a man after God’s own heart.  But David lived around 1000BC, and Ezekiel writes this nearly 400 years later around 590BC.  So Ezekiel is not speaking of David himself, but the root and offspring of David.  This is the coming messiah that the Jews were expecting.

III.      John

Ok, I know what you’re thinking.  We’re supposed to be studying the book of John.  So let’s get back to John 10:11a,

I am the good shepherd.

This is the English, but it wasn’t really written this way in the Greek.  A more literal translation would be “I am THE shepherd, the good one.”  Jesus is saying, “I am THE Shepherd you have been waiting for.”

And not even the word “good” here is a thorough translation of the Greek.  The word in Greek is “kalos” and it means beautiful, excellent, surpassing, precious, magnificent, praiseworthy, noble, preeminent, morally good and honorable.  I’m guessing that putting all of that in front of the word “shepherd” doesn’t roll off the tongue nearly as well as “the good shepherd.”

So John 10:11a, Jesus says “I am the good shepherd,” but the Pharisees heard, “I am THE shepherd, the coming Messiah, the preeminent beautiful magnificent and honorable shepherd that has come to rescue His flock… from the likes of you.”

And that is why, later in this passage in John 10:20, the Pharisees responded,

Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”

Jesus continues by telling the Pharisees how the Messiah differs from all those who came before Him and how He differs from the Pharisees, John 10:11-13,

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.  The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”

The religious leaders that misled the people are like hired hands.  They’re paid by the hour.  When times get tough, they abandon the sheep.  It’s because they do not own the sheep, the sheep do not belong to them.

Jesus is different.  He has purchased the sheep.  He owns the sheep.  He has invested in the care and well-being of the sheep.  If one sheep is lost, Jesus will leave the 99 to seek the one that is lost.  He is the good shepherd, the preeminent beautiful magnificent and honorable shepherd that has come to rescue His flock.

IV.      Not Just Israel, But Gentiles

When we looked at Ezekiel, the prophecy of the coming messiah was for Israel.  The same prophecy, by the way, is in Jeremiah 23:1-3,5,

“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord.  Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord.  “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number… The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.”

This promise is for Israel, God’s chosen people.  But many Old Testament prophecies, such as Isaiah 6, foresaw that Israel would reject the coming Messiah due to spiritual blindness.  For thousands of years, Israel had been the one nation that looked to God while the Gentile nations generally rejected the light and chose to live in spiritual darkness.  Israel and the inspired prophets revealed the one true God who was personally interested in mankind’s destiny of heaven or hell, the path to salvation, the written Word with the Ten Commandments.  Yet Israel would reject the prophesied Messiah, and the promises of the kingdom of heaven were postponed.  Paul tells us in great detail from Romans 9 through 11 about this hardening on the part of Israel led to the blessing of the Gentiles who would believe in Jesus and accept Him as Lord and Savior.

Jesus makes one of the first references in His ministry that this is occurring, that the promised Messiah would not be limited to Israel in John 10:14-16,

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep.  I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

We are those sheep that are not of this sheep pen.  We are the gentiles that are not part of the nation of Israel.  And the preeminent beautiful magnificent and honorable shepherd laid down His life to rescue us.  He rescued us while we were but sinners.

The Pharisees responded by saying Jesus was demon possessed.

Some time passes; Jesus has been speaking during the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, and John 10:22 says now is the time of the Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah, so about 2 months have passed.  These Pharisees and other Jews have probably had time to ponder the words of Jesus that He is THE shepherd, the good shepherd, and now they ask in verse 24,

The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Jesus responded in v 25-26,

Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.”

Amazing.  Jesus has been doing miracle after miracle, healing the lame and the sick and bringing the dead back to life, all the while saying, “believe in the miracles that you may know that I am in the Father and the Father is in me,” quoting the Old Testament prophecies and demonstrating the fulfillment of those prophecies, and then saying directly to their faces, “I am THE shepherd, the preeminent beautiful magnificent and honorable shepherd that has come to rescue His flock,” and the Pharisees response is…

Um… what are you trying to say?  I don’t get it.

It reminds me a few years ago when I was teaching apologetics, and it seems to me that untruths spread rapidly and non-Christians believe the lies, and the truth spreads far more slowly.  One year it’s “there is no such thing as truth.”  Of course, the proper response to that is, “is *that* true?” 

Another year, the untruth spreading was “Well, Jesus never said He was God.”  I’ve heard this repeated by non-Christians, that Jesus never made that claim.  It’s baloney.  Jesus made it perfectly clear that He and the Father were one, that he was the only begotten son of God, and that He is God.  Jesus said, “I did tell you, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.”

If you seek Him, you will find Him.  Is it any wonder that if you don’t seek Him, you won’t find Him?

  V.      The Sheep

Jesus continues with His response in verses 27-30,

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”

One thing I’m really starting to appreciate after these bible studies over the years is the shear amount of information that Jesus can impart in just a few words.  Let’s start with this first statement –

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

Who is a Christian?  Here’s a complete theological explanation.  Christians listen to Jesus.  Jesus knows a Christian intimately.  Christians follow the instructions of Jesus.

There are many people today that claim to be Christian but are not.  I would also hazard to guess that many of them don’t even know they aren’t Christian. 

So who is a Christian?  Do they follow Jesus?  Do they know what Jesus says?  Do they read the bible?  I don’t know any other way to hear the voice of Jesus.  Do they have a personal relationship with Jesus so that Jesus knows them intimately?  Do they follow Christian, biblical principles?

Now, I don’t want to swerve into a political swamp, but often I read a news article about Christianity that I know is false.  These people will paraphrase one word Jesus said out of context and use it to leverage an entire heathen livestyle.  True Christianity follows Christ, we’re good citizens until the state infringes on the church, we love our neighbors in service and words but not to the point were we’re enabling them to jump off a cliff of non-believers.  Far left is definitely not Christianity.

But neither is far right, judgmental Christians, setting rules and laws for other people.  We may know the law and we may know what Jesus says, but instead of telling people who Jesus is, we tell them what to do.  We become judgmental hypocrites because we are all sinners, too.  We become the Pharisees.  We become just like the hired hand who cares nothing for the sheep, and we only care about the pen they’re kept in.

No, a Christian listens to the voice of his savior and develops a relationship with Jesus, and does their best to live a way pleasing to God but not man.  That’s what I believe this verse means.

Verse 28,

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

Eternal life is a gift.  Every religion in the world is the story of man trying to earn his way to God.  But Christianity is God working His way to man.  No one is worthy of God, no one can earn his place in heaven.  We have all sinned, each and every one of us, and fallen short of God’s glory.

This rescue is freely available, but we have to admit we need it.  I was thinking this week it was like walking down to Galveston Beach and saying, “You know, I think I’ll swim to Australia.”  And then I walk into the waves and start swimming, having no idea how far away it is.  The Coast Guard will send a boat to rescue me, but I just keep swimming.  I keep telling myself, I can do this, I don’t need any help.  I’m only rescued if I recognize I can’t make it on my own and then get in the boat.

And then I imagined the Coast Guard asking me, “Where were you going?” And I answer, “Swimming to God.”  And they say, why are you swimming to Australia?  You should swim toward the sun.

Jesus says if you’re seeking the Son, you will find the Son, and He will give you eternal life and you will never perish.  And your eternity is secure, never to be lost.  No one will be able to snatch you out of the hand of Jesus.  Not the devil, not the riots, not road rage, not even yourself.  We can’t be partially saved.  Either we get in the boat, or we drown.  And once we’re rescued, we are rescued forever.

Does that mean there won’t be challenges?  Of course not.  Even Psalm 23, which we read earlier, recognizes we walk through a valley of death and we are surrounded by evil and enemies.  But our eternal salvation is the one thing we don’t have to earn, we receive it as a gift, and we never have to fear losing.

Verse 29,

My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

Jesus has been given all authority, and He has always had all authority.  In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  And our eternal security in Jesus is secure in the Father as well.  There is no higher power, no higher authority.  God is the Alpha and the Omega, and He holds our eternal life in His hands securely.  If God is for us, who can be against us?

And verse 30,

I and the Father are one.

If someone ever tries to claim that Jesus never said they were God, then then haven’t studied the words of Jesus.  The Pharisees say, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

A Christian who listens to the voice of Jesus and has an intimate relation with Jesus and follow Jesus, knows that He is the great I AM.  He is the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Door, the Good Shepherd, the Resurrection and the Life, the Way and the Truth and the Life, the True Vine.  He is THE shepherd, the coming Messiah, the preeminent beautiful magnificent and honorable shepherd that has come to rescue His flock.

VI.      Conclusion

Psalm 95:6-7a –

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.

To God be the glory.

My Yoke is Easy

  I.      Introduction

We’re only going to study 5 verses today.  How long can that possibly take?  Let’s start by turning to Matthew 11.

When I just sit down and read the bible, I often just read quickly without slowing to ponder the meaning.  But once I stop to examine a passage, often I find a deeper meaning, a revelation, a message to ponder.  When I find one of these passages, I highlight it in my bible.  And now, today, every passage is highlighted.

So I guess what I’m saying is that getting through 5 verses that hold an exceptional amount of meaning that can take all day.  I hope you brought your lunch.

Slide2

Let’s put the Matthew 11 in context.  Jesus has been speaking and teaching to Jews in the towns of Galilee.  Galilee is a province in the northern part of Israel, the other provinces being Judea and Samaria.  Jesus spent much of His ministry living and teaching here and his life and miracles are captured in the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  Interesting, the book of John primarily focuses on Jesus’ life in Judea, not Galilee.

Beginning in verse 20, Jesus warns those that do not repent of their day of destruction, and the very presence of Jesus performing miracles in the towns of Galilee is to give evidence that Jesus is who He says He is, the very Son of God, and the miracles are given to give weight to Jesus words of repentance.  But a great many people see the miracles, and even want the miracles for themselves, but do not want to believe.  And we come to our first verse to study today, Matthew 11:25.

II.      Matthew 11:25, Truth Revealed to Little Children

Matthew 11:25,

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.

Jesus praises God the Father for who He is, and rightly proclaims God the father to be Lord of heaven and earth.  In John 10:30, Jesus says, “I and the Father are One.”  During the life of Jesus, though He was also God, He lived His life as man, and it was proper for Jesus to show us how to live, including giving all honor and glory to God.  Jesus, Son of God, God the Son, gives praise to God the Father.

Jesus is One with the Father, He is Emmanuel, God with us.  But to demonstrate to us what it means to live a life free of sin, Jesus talks to the Father, not as an equal, but as a faithful servant.  He speaks to God the Father as a man.

I looked up the Greek word for Father used here, and you might have heard plenty of sermons where Jesus uses the phrase “Abba” to call to His Father, a phrase a toddler might use when he just wants to be held.  But that’s not the word Jesus uses here, he uses “pater,” and uses the same word to begin the Lord’s prayer, “Our ‘pater’, who art in heaven.”  When applied to God the Father, Strong’s Dictionary defines it this way,

God is called the Father

  1. of the stars, the heavenly luminaries, because he is their creator, upholder, ruler

  2. of all rational and intelligent beings, whether angels or men, because he is their creator, preserver, guardian and protector

  3. of Christians, as those who through Christ have been exalted to a specially close and intimate relationship with God, and who no longer dread him as a stern judge of sinners, but revere him as their reconciled and loving Father

  4. the Father of Jesus Christ, as one whom God has united to himself in the closest bond of love and intimacy, made acquainted with his purposes, appointed to explain and carry out among men the plan of salvation, and made to share also in his own divine nature

 

Could there be a better description of our heavenly father?

Then Jesus says, “because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”

The “wise” that Jesus mentions here likely refer to the self-righteous Pharisees who obeyed the letter of the law but understood not the intent of the law.  From a human perspective, they were wise and learned.  They knew the Old Testament scripture, and were not afraid to apply to others and be judgmental about how other people lived their lives.

How can we best understand that being wise is foolish?  The first step toward wisdom is recognizing our own ignorance.  We do not, and cannot, know everything.  We will never be omniscient, knowing everything that ever was and is and is to come.  Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 2:4-8.  Paul says,

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.  We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.  No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.  None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

There are clearly two kinds of wisdom.  There is worldly wisdom and there is Godly wisdom.

The source of worldly wisdom is man’s own human intellect.  It is human ideas and human reasoning and human philosophy.  There is nothing wrong with human intellect as long as it is based on spiritual truth.  Building intellect on spiritual truth is like building or foundation upon rock.  The book of James talks about this at length.  You might be familiar with James 1:5 that says,

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

James tells us that if lack Godly wisdom, all we have to do is ask God.  Less well known is what James says about worldly wisdom in James 3:15,

Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.

Worldly wisdom misrepresents truth and leads many Christians into gross errors.  It looks good.  It sounds noble.  It seems to make sense.  But worldly wisdom can lead us astray, from seeking God’s will.  It fosters doubt, makes us question God’s goodness, teaches us to put faith in ourselves and our own smarts.  The “wisdom of this world” appeals to the flesh and to our carnal nature.  We listen to worldly wisdom because we can do what we want instead of what God wants.

What does God want?  Well, knowing that comes from godly wisdom.  We just have to ask God.  He gives graciously.  But first we have to acknowledge that, compared to God’s incredible knowledge and wisdom, our own meager worldly wisdom pales in comparison.  We are like children.

And that’s not just a metaphor.   Jesus wants us to be innocent in worldly wisdom and abundant in godly wisdom.  That’s why he says in our verse today that God reveals his truth to little children.  Jesus reinforces this is verses like Matthew 18:1-5,

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.  And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Why does God hide his wisdom from the wise and learned?  Well, that’s the next line of scripture in our study today.

III.      Matthew 11:26, Because It Pleases Him

Matthew 11:26,

Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

I think that many times God works through weakness, and that belief is reinforced in scripture.  Paul had a thorn in his flesh, and when he asked for it to be removed, God said His strength is made perfect in our weakness. But then I want to ask, “Why?  Why can’t God’s strength me magnified in our strength instead of our weakness?”

This verse says this is God is pleased to do this.  I don’t really know why.  Well, part of me knows that when we depend on our own strength, we just give credit to ourselves for our good works.  We pat ourselves on the back and say, “good job.”  But when we can’t do it ourselves, we have to acknowledge we are not in control, and that our Creator has a plan bigger than us.

Job asked some of these same questions.  Job had a really bad day and lost his family, his property, and grew boils all over his body.  Job’s friends said it was because Job had some sort of hidden sin that he needed to confess, but Job said that that view wasn’t scriptural, and besides, Job was a righteous man.  But then Job got to wondering, “so why, then, am I being punished?”  And Job demands an audience of God.  Job believes that, since he is righteous, God owes him a good answer for these boils.

God finally does answer, but not in the way Job expects.  God asks Job some questions.  Where were you when I created the universe?  When I marked off the dimensions of the earth, where were you?  When I give the command to the morning where the dawn’s light should shine, where were you?  The Lord commands the constellations, counts the number of clouds, directs the lightning bolts, Job, where were you?

And Job realizes that his righteousness is insignificant compared to the majesty of the Lord.  God doesn’t provide any answers to Job.  God wants Job to be obedient because of God’s superiority.  There is no one like God. In essence, God’s answer to His children is, “Because I said so.”

This morning, while you and I were setting our alarm so that we would show up to church on time, and trying to decide what we wanted to wear, God was orchestrating the universe and telling the galaxies what to wear.  Isaiah 55:8-9 says,

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways my ways,”

declares the Lord.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Because He said so.

So who can know the will of the Lord?

IV.      Matthew 11:27, To Know the Father, Know the Son

Matthew 11:27, Jesus says,

“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Just two verses earlier, Jesus was praising God the Father and calling Him the Lord of heaven and earth, but Jesus has been given this authority.  All of these things have been given to the Son by the Father.    Jesus, as God’s only begotten son, has a special and intimate relationship with God the Father.  And because Jesus alone has intimate knowledge of the Father, it is only through Jesus that the Father can be known.  No one knows God the Father except through Jesus the son.

And here’s an interesting phrase at the end.  The scripture says that Jesus knows the Father, and those Jesus chooses can know the Father.

Who does Jesus choose?  Does He choose those who are already righteous and do good works?  Does He choose tall people, or people who are good in math?  No, Jesus chooses sinners like you and me.  Only those God calls can hear the message, and Jesus repeatedly invited those who had ears to hear.  Why?  Because God said so.

Again, I think it’s so God can demonstrate His power and glory through our weakness.  He didn’t choose me because I was some great whoop-de-do (although I am tall and good at math).  No, he chose me while I was still a sinner, and I am forever grateful.  Literally, forever grateful.

And to those Jesus chooses, He reveals the Father.  In Matthew 11.27, the word “reveal” comes from the Greek word apokalupto, to take off the cover; to disclose or reveal.

In Old Testament times, the Shekinah glory of God dwelled within the innermost part of the Tabernacle behind a veil. No one could enter behind that veil except the High Priest, and even then under the strictest set of rules.

Exodus 40:34

Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

 

When Moses received the Law, God’s Glory shone upon him so much that he “glowed” with the heavenly radiance.

Exodus 34:35

And whenever the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone, then Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with God.

 

God’s plan is to reveal Himself in the Son.  God sent His Son so that we may “see” the Father.

John 14:8-9,

Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”  Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”

 

When Christ died for us, the veil that separated us from God was torn in two from top to bottom.

Matthew 27:50-51,

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.  And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.

Whereas in Old Testament times only the priest could see the shekinah glory of God, now Jesus is our high priest forever and ever.

Hebrews 4:14-15,

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

When we want to see the Shekinah glory of God, we only need to look to Jesus.  Or, under the burden of the law, all we have to do is follow the 613 old testament laws to be saved.  Did you know the Old Testament specified 613 commandments?  There are 365 Negative Mitzvots (to remind us not to do bad things every day of the year) plus 248 Positive Mitzvots (the number of bones in the human body, so we can obey the laws with our whole body.)  Here’s a list:

Here’s a list of all 613 mitzvots.

Obey all 613 Mitzvots, and you will be saved.

  V.      Matthew 11:28-30

Goodness.  613 commandments.  If I thought following the Ten Commandments was difficult enough, how am I supposed to remember all 613 commandments, let alone follow them all?  That sounds like a lot of work, and I’m weary just thinking about it.  Fortunately, I know where to find rest for the weary.  It’s in our scripture verses for today.

Matthew 11:28-30,

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

 

The yoke of the law was not light.  613 Mitzvots is a lot of mitzvots.  What exactly is yoke, anyway?

Slide21

In a literal sense, the word ‘Yoke’ means a bar of wood, harnessed around the necks of two animals (usually oxen), enabling them to work in the fields, drawing loads, pulling farming equipment.  In the Bible, it is figuratively used as a symbol of bondage and oppression, such as in Isaiah 9:4,

For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders,

especially bondage to sin, as in Lam 1:14:

My sins have been bound into a yoke, by his hands, they were woven together

The farmer would bind the yoke upon the neck of the oxen so that it would not fall off or be shaken off.

Why did the Pharisees rebel against Jesus? Because the Pharisees were intellectually and spiritually proud and would not become little babes in humility and honesty.  The Father reveals Himself to the Son, and the Son reveals Himself and the Father to those who are willing to come to the Son in faith.  These verses indicate both the sovereignty of the Father and the responsibility of the sinner. Three commands summarize this invitation.

“Come.” The Pharisees all said “Do!” and tried to make the people follow Moses and the traditions.  But true salvation is not found in works, it is found only in a person, Jesus Christ.  To come to Him means to trust Him. This invitation is open to those who are exhausted and burdened down. That is exactly how the people felt under the yoke of legalism.

“Take.” This is a deeper experience. When we come to Christ by faith, He gives us rest. When we take His yoke and learn, we find rest, that deeper rest of surrender and obedience. The first is “peace with God” as shown in Romans 5:1 –

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

And then “Learn.” The first two commands represent a crisis as we come and yield to Christ; but this step is into a process.  As we learn more about Him, we find a deeper peace, because we trust Him more.  Life is simplified and unified around the person of Christ.

As we learn, we find the “the peace of God” in Philippians 4:6-8.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

 

Farmers, when binding their oxen, often bound an experienced ox to a younger, untrained ox.  They did this so the new oxen would learn in the experienced oxen’s ways.  When we submit to Christ, we yoke ourselves to Him so that we may learn.  The word “easy” means “well-fitting”; He has just the yoke that is tailor-made for our lives and needs.  The burden of doing His will is not a heavy one.  On the contrary, when we are in the will of Christ Jesus, we find abundant joy.

Jesus was saying that any kind of law-keeping is a burden and amounts to a “heavy yoke” of oppression because no amount of law-keeping can bridge the gap between our sinfulness and God’s holiness.  God says through Isaiah that all of our righteous deeds are like a “polluted garment.”  Paul said in Romans 3:20 that “no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law.”

Jesus brought good news.  To all who come to Him, He will give us rest from the heavy burden of trying to earn our way into heaven and rest from the oppressive yoke of self-righteousness and legalism.  Jesus encourages those who are “heavy laden” to take His yoke upon them, and in so doing they will find rest for their souls. The yoke of Jesus is light and easy to carry because it is the yoke of repentance and faith followed by a commitment to follow Him.

This is what Jesus says in Matthew 11:20.  His yoke is easy and His burden light.   Is there is really a difference between the commandments of Jesus and the Jewish Law?  Isn’t the same God responsible for both?  If anything, one might argue that the commands of Jesus are even more burdensome because His Sermon on the Mount actually goes above and beyond outward conformity to the Law and deals instead with the inner person.

What makes Jesus’ yoke easy and His burden light is that Jesus fulfilled the Law of God.  He has already carried the burden that we were meant to carry.  His perfect obedience is imputed to us through faith, just as His righteousness was exchanged for our sin at the cross.  Our obedience to Jesus then becomes our “spiritual worship”.

And we have the Holy Spirit who works in our lives to mold us into the image of Christ, thereby making the yoke of Jesus easy and His burden light. The life lived by faith is a much lighter yoke and a much easier burden to carry than the heavy and burdensome yoke of self-righteousness under which some continually strive to make themselves acceptable to God through works.

 

VI.      Conclusion

So are you striving hard to be a good Christian?  Are you trying to follow some man-made law that tells you who you are?  You are more than a set of rules.  You are more than a secretary or an engineer.  You are more than a mom or dad.  Your struggle for the approval of others can be set at the foot of the cross, it’s not a burden you were meant to carry.  You are an adopted child of God, righteous in His sight.  Worship our Lord with your obedience, but don’t make your obedience a definition for who you are.  Christ sacrificed Himself so that we are free from the burden of works.  His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.

To God be the glory.

Christian Carnival CCXLIV

Christian Bible, rosary, and crucifix.
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It’s National Bailout Day, seeing as how our illustrious US Congress has allocated $700 billion for Wall Street bankers. As Christians, I think we probably could put $700 billion to better use, don’t you?

But I got to thinking that our lives are not ours, we have been purchased at a cost. How much did it cost for Jesus to bail us out? In that view, $700 is mere paper. The Son of God sacrificed Himself.

Chasing the Wind is please tonight to host the 244th Christian Carnival, this week’s collection of the best Christian writing found on the planet. (Hey, if you find better, at least you’re looking. Halleluiah. 🙂 )

In order they were received, here they are –

And that” wrap up this week’s edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of christian carnival ii using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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