Sermon 1877. Our Own Dear Shepherd
A SERMON INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD'S-DAY, JANUARY 3, 1886,
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON THURSDAY EVENING, NOVEMBER 20, 1885.
"I am the good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine. As the Father knows Me, even so know I the Father: and Ilay down My life for the sheep." John 10:14,15.
As the passage stands in the Authorized Version, it reads like a number of short sentences with scarcely any apparent connection.Even in that form it is precious, for our Lord's pearls are priceless even when they are not threaded together. But when Itell you that in the Greek the word, "and," is repeated several times and that the translators have had to leave out one ofthese, "ands," to make sense of the passage on their line of translation, you will judge that they are none too accurate inthis case. To use many, "ands," is after the manner of John, but there is usually a true and natural connection between hissentences. The, "and," with him is usually a real golden link and not a mere sound-we need a translation which makes it so.Observe, also, that in our version the word, "sheep," is put in italics, to show that it is not in the original. There isno need for this alteration if the passage is more closely rendered.
Hear, then, the text in its natural form-"I am the good Shepherd and I know My own, and My own know Me, even as the Fatherknows Me, and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep." This reading I have given you is that of the RevisedVersion. For that Revised Version I have but little care, as a general rule, holding it to be by no means an improvement uponour common Authorized Version. It is a useful thing to have it for private reference, but I trust it will never be regardedas the standard English translation of the New Testament. The Revised Version of the Old Testament is so excellent that Iam half afraid it may carry the Revised New Testament upon its shoulders into general use. I sincerely hope that this maynot be the case, for the result would be a decided loss. However, that is not my point.
Returning to our subject, I believe that on this occasion, the Revised Version is true to the original. We will, therefore,follow it in this instance and we shall find that it makes most delightful and instructive sense. "I am the good Shepherdand I know My own, and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for thesheep." He who speaks to us in these words is the Lord Jesus Christ! To our mind every word of Holy Scripture is precious.When God speaks to us by priest or Prophet, or in any way, we are glad to hear. Though when, in the Old Testament, we meetwith a passage which begins with, "Thus says the Lord," we feel specially charmed to have the message directly from God'sown mouth, yet we make no distinction between this Scripture and that. We accept it all as Inspired and we are not given todispute about different degrees and varying modes of Inspiration and all that. The matter is plain enough if learned unbelieversdid not mystify it-"all Scripture is given by Inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction,for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim 3:16).
Still, there is to our mind a peculiar sweetness about words which were actually spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself-theseare as honey in the comb. You have before you, in this text, not that which comes to you by Prophet, priest, or king, butthat which is spoken to you by One who is Prophet, Priest and King all in one, even your Lord Jesus Christ! He opens His mouthand speaks to you. You will open your ears and listen to Him if you are, indeed, His own.
Observe here, also, that we have not only Christ for the Speaker, but we have Christ for the Subject. He speaks and speaksabout Himself. It were not seemly for you, or for me, to extol ourselves, but there is nothing more comely in the world thanfor Christ to commend Himself. He is other than we are, something infinitely above us and is not under rules which apply tous fallible mortals. When He speaks forth His own Glory, we feel that His speech is not vain-glory-no, rather, when He praisesHimself, we thank Him for so doing and admire the lowly condescension which permits Him to desire and accept honor from suchpoor hearts as ours! It were pride for us to seek honor of men-it is humility in Him to do so seeing He is so great an Onethat the esteem of beings so inferior as we are cannot be desired by Him for His own sake, but for ours! Of all our Lord'swords, those are the sweetest in which He speaks about Himself. Even He cannot find another theme which can excel that ofHimself.
My Brothers and Sisters, who can speak of Jesus but Himself? He masters all our eloquence. His perfection exceeds our understanding!The light of His excellence is too bright for us, it blinds our eyes! Our Beloved must be His own mirror. None but Jesus canreveal Jesus! Only He can see Himself and know Himself, and understand Himself and, therefore, none but He can reveal Himself!We are most glad that in His tenderness to us He sets Himself forth by many choice metaphors and instructive emblems by whichHe would make us know some little of that love which passes knowledge. With His own hands, He fills a golden cup out of theriver of His own infinity and hands it to us that we may drink and be refreshed. Take, then, these words as being doubly refreshingbecause they come directly from the Well-Beloved's own mouth and contain rich Revelations of His own all-glorious Self. Ifeel that I must read them again-"I am the good Shepherd and I know My own, and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me,and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep."
In this text there are three matters about which I shall speak. First, I see, here, complete character. "I am the good Shepherd."He is not a half shepherd, but a shepherd in the fullest possible sense. Secondly, I see complete knowledge, "and I know Myown and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father." Thirdly, here is complete sacrifice. How preciouslythat sentence winds up the whole, "and I lay down My life for the sheep!" He goes the full length to which sacrifice can go!He lays down His soul in the place of His sheep so the words might not be incorrectly translated. He goes the full lengthof self-sacrifice for His own.
I. First, then, here is COMPLETE CHARACTER. Whenever the Savior describes Himself by any emblem, that emblem is exalted andexpanded and yet it is not able to bear all His meaning. The Lord Jesus fills out every type, figure, and character-and whenthe vessel is filled, there is an overflow. There is more in Jesus, the Good Shepherd, than you can pack away in a shepherd.He is the Good, the Great, the Chief Shepherd-but He is much more. Emblems to set Him forth may be multiplied as the dropsof the morning, but the whole multitude will fail to reflect all His brightness! Creation is too small a frame in which tohang His likeness. Human thought is too contracted, human speech too feeble to set Him forth to the fullest. When all theemblems in earth and Heaven shall have described Him to their utmost, there will remain something not yet described. You maysquare the circle before you can set forth Christ in the language of mortal men! He is inconceivably above our conceptions,unutterably above our utterances!
But notice that He here sets Himself forth as a Shepherd. Dwell on this for a moment! A shepherd is such a man as we employin England to look after sheep for a few months, till they are large enough to be slaughtered. A shepherd after the Orientalsort, such as Abraham, Jacob, or David, is quite another person.
The Eastern shepherd is generally the owner of the flock, or at least the son of their owner, and so their proprietor in prospect.The sheep are his own. English shepherds seldom, or never, own the sheep-they are employed to take care of them-and they haveno other interest in them. Our native shepherds are a very excellent set of men as a rule-those I have known have been admirablespecimens of intelligent working men-yet they are not at all like the Oriental shepherd, and cannot be, for he is usuallythe owner of the flock which he tends. He remembers how he came into possession of the flock and when and where each of thepresent sheep was born. He knows where he has led them and what trials he had in connection with them. And he remembers thiswith the emphasis that they are his own inheritance.
His wealth consists in them. He very seldom has much of a house and he does not usually own much land. He takes his sheepover a good stretch of country which is open common for all his tribe-but his possessions lie in his flocks. Ask him, "Howmuch are you worth?" He answers, "I own so many sheep." In the Latin tongue the word for money is akin to the word, "sheep,"because to many of the first Romans, wool was their wealth and their fortunes lay in their flocks. The Lord Jesus is our Shepherd-weare His wealth! If you ask what is His heritage, He tells you of "the riches of the Glory of His inheritance in the saints."Ask Him what are His jewels and He replies, "They shall be Mine in that day." If you ask Him where His treasures are, He willtell you, "The Lord's portion is His people. Jacob is the lot of His inheritance." The Lord Jesus Christ has nothing thatHe values as He does His own people. For their sakes He gave up all that He had
and died naked on the Cross. Not only can He say, "I gave Ethiopia and Seba for you," but He "loved His Church and gave Himselffor it." He regards His Church as being His own body, "the fullness of Him that fills all in all."
The shepherd, as he owns the flock, is also the caretaker. He always takes care of them. One of our Brothers now present isa fireman and, as he lives at the fire station, he is always on duty. I asked him whether he was not off duty during certainhours of every day and he said, "No, I am never off duty." He is on duty when he goes to bed, he is on duty while he is eatinghis breakfast, he is on duty if he walks down the street! And any time the bell may ring the alarm, he must be in his placeand hasten to the fire. Our Lord Jesus Christ is never off duty. He has constant care of His people day and night. He hasdeclared it-"For Zion's sake will I not hold My peace and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest." He can truly say what Jacobdid, "In the day the drought consumed Me, and the frost by night." He says of His flock what He says of His garden, "I theLord do keep it; I will water it every moment lest any hurt it. I will keep it night and day."
I cannot tell you all the care a shepherd has over his flock because his anxieties are of such a various kind. Sheep haveabout as many complaints as men! You do not know much about them and I am not going to enter into details, for the all-sufficientreason that I do not know much about them, myself, but the shepherd knows, and the shepherd will tell you that he leads ananxious life. He seldom has all the flock well at one time. Some one or other is sure to be ailing and he spies it out andhas eye and hand and heart ready for its succor and relief. There are many varieties of complaints and needs-and all theseare laid upon the shepherd's heart. He is both possessor and caretaker of the flock.
Then he has to be the provider, too, for there is not a woolly head among them that knows anything about the finding and selectingof pasturage. The season may be very dry, and where there once was grass, there may be nothing but a brown powder. It maybe that herbage is only to be found by the side of the rippling brooks, here and there, but the sheep do not know anythingabout that-the shepherd must know everything for them. The shepherd is the sheep's providence. Both for time and for eternity,for body and for soul, our Lord Jesus supplies all our need out of His riches in Glory. He is the great Storehouse from whichwe derive everything! He has provided, He does provide and He will provide! And each one of us may sing, therefore, "The Lordis my Shepherd; I shall not want."
But, dear Friends, we often dream that we are the shepherds, or that we, at any rate, have to find some of the pasture. Icould not help saying, just now, to our friends at our little Prayer Meeting, "There is a passage in the Psalms which makesthe Lord do for us what one would have thought we could have done for ourselves-'He makes me to lie down in green pastures.'"Surely, if a sheep can do nothing else, it can lie down! Yet to lie down is the very hardest thing for God's sheep to do!It is here that the full power of the rest-giving Christ has to come in to make our fretful, worrying, doubtful natures liedown and rest. Our Lord is able to give us perfect peace and He will do so if we will simply trust to His abounding care.It is the shepherd's business to be the provider- let us remember this and be very happy.
Moreover, he has to be the leader. He leads the sheep wherever they have to go. I have often been astonished at the shepherdsin the South of France, which is so much like Palestine, to see where they will take their sheep. Once every week I saw theshepherd come down to Mentone and conduct all his flock to the beach. I could see nothing for them but big stones. Folk saythat perhaps this is what makes the mutton so hard, but I have no doubt the poor creatures get a little taste of salt, orsomething which does them good. At any rate, they follow the shepherd and away he goes up the steep hillsides, taking longsteps, till he reaches points where the grass is growing on the sides of the hills. He knows the way and the sheep have nothingto do but to follow him wherever he goes. Theirs is not to make the way; theirs is not to choose the path, but theirs is tokeep close to his heels!
Do you not see our blessed Shepherd leading your own pilgrimage? Cannot you see Him guiding your way? Do you not say, "Yes,He leads me, and it is my joy to follow"? Lead on, O blessed Lord! Lead on and we will follow the prints of Your feet!
The shepherd in the East has also to be the defender of the flock, for wolves yet prowl in those regions. All sorts of wildbeasts attack the flock and he must be to the front. Thus is it with our Shepherd. No wolf can attack us without finding ourLord in arms against him. No lion can roar upon the flock without awakening a greater than David. "He that keeps Israel shallneither slumber nor sleep." He is a Shepherd, then, and He completely fills the character-much more completely than I canshow you just now.
Notice that the text puts an adjective upon the shepherd, decorating him with a chain of gold. The Lord Jesus Christ Himselfsays, "I am the good Shepherd." "The good Shepherd"-that is, He is not a thief that steals and only deals with
the sheep as He bears them from the fold to the slaughter. He is not a hireling-He does not do merely what He is paid to do,or commanded to do, but He does everything "con amore"-with a willing heart. He throws His soul into it. There is a goodness,a tenderness, a willingness, a powerfulness, a force, an energy in all that Jesus does that makes Him the best possible Shepherdthat can be. He is no hireling! Neither is He an idler! Even shepherds who have had their own flocks have neglected them,as there are farmers who do not well cultivate their own farms, but it is never so with Christ. He is the Good Shepherd-goodup to the highest point of goodness, good in all that is tender-good in all that is kind, good in all the directions in whicha shepherd can be needed. He is good at fight and good at rule. He is good in watchful oversight and good in prudent leadership.He is most eminently good in every way!
And then notice He puts it, "I am the good Shepherd." That is the point I want to bring out. Of other shepherds we can say,he is a shepherd, but this is the Shepherd. All others in the world are shadows of the true Shepherd and Jesus is the Substanceof them all. That which we see in the world with these eyes is, after all, not the substance, but the type, the shadow. Thatwhich we do not see with our eyes, that which only our faith perceives, is, after all, the real thing. I have seen shepherds,but they were only pictures to me. The Shepherd, the real, the true, the best, the most sure example of shepherding is theChrist, Himself-and you and I are the sheep. Those sheep we see on yonder mountainside are just types of ourselves-we arethe true sheep and Jesus is the true Shepherd. If an angel were to fly over the earth to find out the real sheep and the realShepherd, he would say, "The sheep of God's pasture are men and Jehovah is their Shepherd. He is the true, the real Shepherdof the true and real sheep." All the possibilities that lie in a shepherd are found in Christ. Every good thing that you canimagine to be, or that should be in a shepherd, you find in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, I want you to notice that, according to the text, the Lord Jesus Christ greatly rejoices in this. He says, "I am thegood Shepherd." He does not confess that fact as if He were ashamed of it, but He repeats it in this chapter so many timesthat it almost reads like the refrain of a song. "I am the good Shepherd"-He evidently rejoices in it. He rolls it under Histongue as a sweet morsel. Evidently it is to His heart's content. He does not say, "I am the Son of God, I am the Son of Man,I am the Redeemer"-but this He does say-and He congratulates Himself upon it, "I am the good Shepherd."
This should encourage you and me to get a full hold of the word. If Jesus is so pleased to be my Shepherd, let me be equallypleased to be His sheep and let me avail myself of all the privileges that are wrapped up in His being my Shepherd and inmy being His sheep! I see that it will not worry Him for me to be His sheep. I see that my needs will cause Him no perplexity.I see that He will not be going out of His way to attend to my weakness and trouble. He delights to dwell on the fact, "Iam the good Shepherd." He invites me, as it were, to come and bring my needs and woes to Him, look up to Him and be fed byHim. Therefore I will do it! Does it not make you feel truly happy to hear your own Lord, Himself, say and say it to you outof this precious Book, "I am the good Shepherd"? Do you not reply, "Indeed You are a good Shepherd. You are a good Shepherdto me. My heart lays emphasis upon the word 'good' and says of You, 'there is none good but One, and You are that good One.'You are the good Shepherd of the sheep"?
So much, then, concerning the complete character.
II. May the Holy Spirit bless the word still more, while I speak in my broken way upon the next point-THE COMPLETE KNOWLEDGE.
The knowledge of Christ towards His sheep and of the sheep towards Him is wonderfully complete. I must read the text again-"Iknow My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father."
First, then, consider Christ's knowledge of His own and the comparison by which He sets it forth-"As the Father knows Me."I cannot conceive a stronger comparison! Do you know how much the Father knows the Son, who is His Glory, His Darling, Hisalter Ego, His other Self-yes, one God with Him? Do you know how intimate the knowledge of the Father must be of His Son whois His own Wisdom, yes, who is His Himself? The Father and the Son are one Spirit! We cannot imagine how intimate that knowledgeis and, yet so intimately, so perfectly, does the great Shepherd know His sheep!
He knows their number. He will never lose one. He will count them all, again, on that day when the sheep shall pass, again,under the hand of Him that knows them, and then He will make full account of them. "Of all that You have given Me," He says,"I have lost none." He knows the number of those for whom He paid the ransom price.
He knows their persons. He knows the age and character of each of His own. He assures us that the very hairs of our head areall numbered! Christ has not an unknown sheep. It is not possible that He should have overlooked or forgotten one of them.He has such an intimate knowledge of all who are redeemed with His most precious blood that He never mistakes one of themfor another, nor misjudges one of them. He knows their constitutions-those that are weak and feeble, those that are nervousand frightened, those that are strong, those that have a tendency to presumption, those that are sleepy, those that are brave,those that are sick, sorry, worried, or wounded. He knows those that are hunted by the devil, those that are caught up betweenthe jaws of the lion and shaken till the very life is almost driven out of them. He knows their feelings, fears and frights.He knows the secret ins and outs of each of us better than any one of us knows himself!
He knows our trials-the particular trial under which you are now bowed down, my Sister. Our difficulties-that special difficultywhich seems to block up your way, my Brother, at this very time. All the ingredients of our life are known to Him. "I knowMy own, as the Father knows Me." It is impossible to conceive a more complete knowledge than that which the Father has ofHis only-begotten Son! And it is equally impossible to conceive a more complete knowledge than that which Jesus Christ hasof each of His chosen!
He knows our sins. I often feel glad to think that He always knew our evil natures and what would come of them. When He choseus, He knew what we were and what we would be. He did not buy His sheep in the dark. He did not choose us without knowingall the devious ways of our past and future lives-
"He saw us ruined in the Fall, Yet loved us notwithstanding all." Herein lies the splendor of His Grace. "Whom He did foreknow,He also did predestinate." His election implies foreknowledge of all our ill manners. They say of human love that it is blind,but Christ's love has many eyes and all its eyes are open-and yet He still loves us!
I need not enlarge upon this. It ought, however, to be very full of comfort to you that you are so known of your Lord, especiallyas He knows you not merely with the cold, clear knowledge of the intellect, but with the knowledge of love and of affection.He knows you in His heart. You are peculiarly dear to Him. You are approved of Him. You are accepted of Him. He knows youby acquaintance with you, not by hearsay. He knows you by communion with you-He has been with you in sweet fellowship. Hehas read you as a man reads his book and remembers what he reads. He knows you by sympathy with you. He is a Man like yourself-
"He knows what sore temptations mean, For He has felt the same." He knows your weaknesses. He knows the points wherein yousuffer most, for-
"In every pang that rends the heart The Man of Sorrows had a part."
He gained this knowledge in the school of sympathetic suffering. "Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the thingswhich He suffered." "He was in all points made like unto His brethren." And by being made like we are, He has come to knowus and He knows us in a very practical and tender way. You have a watch and it will not run, or it runs very irregularly andso you give it to one who knows nothing about watches and he says, "I will clean it for you." He will do it more harm thangood! But here is the very person who made the watch. He says, "I put every wheel into its place. I made the whole of it,from beginning to end." You think to yourself, "I feel the utmost confidence in trusting that man with my watch. He can surelymake it right, for he made it." It often cheers my heart to think that since the Lord made me, He can make me right and keepme so to the end. My Maker is my Redeemer! He that first made me has made me, again, and will make me perfect to His own praiseand Glory! That is the first part of this complete knowledge.
The second part of the subject is our knowledge of the Lord and the fact by which it is illustrated. "And My own know Me,even as I know the Father." I think I hear some of you say, "I do not see so much in that. I can see a great deal more inChrist's knowing us." Beloved, I see a great deal in our knowing Christ! That He should know me is great condescension, butit must be easy for Him to know me. Being so Divine, with such piercing eyes as His, it is amazingly condescending, as I say,but it is not difficult for Him to know me. The marvel is that I should ever know Him! That such a stupid, blind, deaf, deadsoul as mine should ever know Him and should know Him as He knows the Father, is 10,000 miracles in one! Oh, Sirs, this isa wonder so great that I do not think you and I yet understand it to the fullest, or else we would sit
down in glad surprise and say-"This proves Him to be the Good Shepherd, indeed, not only that He knows His flock, but thatHe has taught them so well that they know Him!" With such a flock as Christ has, that He should be able to train His sheepso that they should be able to know Him-and to know Him as He knows the Father-is miraculous!
O Beloved, if this is true of us, that we know our Shepherd, we may clap our hands for very joy! And yet I think it is trueeven now. At any rate, I know so much of my Lord that nothing gives me so much joy as to hear of Him. Brothers and Sisters,there is no boasting in this personal assertion of mine! It is only the minimum truth! You can say the same, can you not?If anybody were to preach to you the finest sermon that was ever delivered, would it charm you if there were no Christ init? No! But you will come and hear me talk about Jesus Christ in words as simple as I can find-and you cry, one to another,"It was good to be there."-
"You dear Redeemer, dying Lamb, We love to hear of Thee! No music's like Your charming name, Nor half so sweet can be."
Now mark that this is the way in which Jesus knows the Father. Jesus delights in His Father and you delight in Jesus. I knowyou do, and here the comparison holds good.
Moreover, does not the dear name of Jesus stir your very soul? What is it that makes you feel as if you wish to hasten away,that you might be doing holy service for the Lord? What makes your very heart awake and feel ready to leap out of your body?What but hearing of the glories of Jesus? Play on what string you please and my ear is deaf to it-but when you once beginto tell of Calvary and sing the song of free Grace and dying love, oh, then my soul opens all her ears, drinks in the musicand then her blood begins to stir-and she is ready to shout for joy! Do you not even now sing-
"Oh, for this love let rocks and hills Their lasting silence break And all harmonious human tongues The Sa vior's praisesspeak. Yes, we will praise You, dearest Lord, Our souls are all on flame, Hosanna round the spacious earth To Your adoredname"?
Yes, we know Jesus! We feel the power of our union with Him. We know Him, Brothers and Sisters, so that we are not to be deceivedby false shepherds. There is a way, nowadays, of preaching Christ against Christ. It is a new device of the devil to set upJesus against Jesus-His Kingdom against His Atonement-His precepts against His doctrines. The half Christ, in his example,is put up to frighten souls away from the whole Christ who saves the souls of men from guilt as well as from sin, from Hellas well as from folly. But they cannot deceive us in that way. No, Beloved, we know our Shepherd from all others! We knowHim from a statue covered with clothes. We know the living Christ, for we have come into living contact with Him and we cannotbe deceived any more than Jesus Christ, Himself, can be deceived about the Father. "My own know Me, even as I know the Father."We know Him by union with Him and by communion with Him. "We have seen the Lord." "Truly our fellowship is with the Fatherand with His Son, Jesus Christ."
We know Him by love-our soul cleaves to Him even as the heart of Christ cleaves to the Father. We know Him by trusting Him-"Heis all my salvation and all my desire." I remember once feeling many questions as to whether I was a child of God or not.I went into a little chapel and I heard a good man preach. He was a simple working man. I heard him preach and I made my handkerchiefdamp with my tears as I heard him talk about Christ and the precious blood. When I was preaching the same things to others,I was wondering whether this Truth of God was mine, but while I was hearing, for myself, I knew it was mine, for my very soullived upon it! I went to that good man and thanked him for the sermon. He asked me who I was. When I told him, he turned allmanner of colors. "Why," he said, "Sir, that was your own sermon." I said, "Yes, I knew it was and it was good of the Lordto feed me with food that I had prepared for others." I perceived that I had a true taste for what I, myself, knew to be theGospel of Jesus Christ. Oh, yes, we do love our good Shepherd! We cannot help it!
And we know Him, also, by a deep sympathy with Him, for what Christ desires to do, we also long to do. He loves to save soulsand so do we! Would we not save all the people in a whole street if we could? Yes, in a whole city and in the
whole world! Nothing makes us so glad as that Jesus Christ is a Savior. "There is news in the paper," says one. That newsis often of small importance to our hearts. I happened to hear that a poor servant girl had heard me preach the Truth of Godand found Christ-and I confess I feel more interest in that fact than in all the rise and fall of Whigs or Tories! What doesit matter who is in Parliament, so long as souls are saved? That is the main thing. If the Kingdom of Christ grows, all theother kingdoms are of small account. That is the one Kingdom for which we live and for which we would gladly die! As thereis a boundless sympathy between the Father and the Son, so is there between Jesus and ourselves.
We know Christ as He knows the Father because we are one with Him. The union between Christ and His people is as real andas mysterious as the union between the Son and the Father.
We have a beautiful picture before us. Can you realize it for a minute? The Lord Jesus here among us-picture Him! He is theShepherd. Then, around Him are His own people and wherever He goes, they go! He leads them into green pastures and besidestill waters. And there is this peculiarity about them-He knows them as He looks upon each of them- and they, each of them,know Him! There is a deeply intimate and mutual knowledge between them. As surely as He knows them, they know Him. The worldknows neither the Shepherd nor the sheep, but they know each other. As surely, as truly and, as deeply as God the Father knowsthe Son, so does this Shepherd know His sheep! And as God the Son knows His Father, so do these sheep know their Shepherd!Thus in one band, united by mutual union, they travel through the world to Heaven. "I know My own and My own know Me, evenas the Father knows Me, and I know the Father." Is not that a blessed picture? God help us to figure in it!
III. The last subject is COMPLETE SACRIFICE. The complete sacrifice is thus described, "/ lay down My life for the sheep."
These words are repeated in this chapter in different forms some four times. The Savior keeps on saying, "I lay down My lifefor the sheep." Read the 11th verse-"The good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep." The 15th verse-"I lay down My life forthe sheep." The 17th verse-"I lay down My life that I may take it again." The 18th verse-"I have power to lay it down andI have power to take it again." It looks as if this was another refrain of our Lord's personal hymn. I call this passage HisPastoral Song. The good Shepherd, with His pipe, sings to Himself and to His flock, and this comes in at the end of each stanza,"I lay down My life for the sheep."
Did it not mean, first, that He was always doing so? All His life He was, as it were, laying it down for them. He was divestingHimself of the garments of life until He came to be fully disrobed on the Cross. All the life He had; all the power He had,He was always laying it out for His sheep. It means that, to begin with.
And then it means that the Sacrifice was actively performed. It was always in the doing as long as He lived, but He did itactively. He did not merely die for the sheep, but He laid down His life, which is another thing. Many a man has died forChrist-it was all that he could do. But we cannot lay down our lives, because they are due already as a debt of Nature toGod and we are not permitted to die at our own wills. That were suicidal and improper. With the Lord Christ it was totallydifferent. He was, as it were, actively passive. "I lay down My life for the sheep. I have power to lay it down, and I havepower to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father."
I like to think of our Good Shepherd not merely as dying for us, but as willingly dying-laying down His life while He hadthat life-using it for us and, when the time came, putting off that life on our behalf. This has now been actually done. WhenHe spoke these words, it had not been done. At this time it has been done. "I lay down My life for the sheep" may now be read,"I have laid down My life for the sheep." For you, Beloved, He has given His hands to the nails and His feet to the crueliron! For you He has borne the fever and the bloody sweat! For you He has cried "Eloi, Eloi, lame Sa-bachthani!" For you Hehas given up the ghost.
And the beauty of it is that He is not ashamed to avow the objective of it. "I lay down My life for the sheep." Whatever Christdid for the world-and I am not one of those who would limit the bearings of the death of Christ upon the world-yet His peculiarGlory is, "I lay down My life for the sheep.
Great Shepherd, do You mean to say that You have died for such as these? What? For these sheep? Died for them? What? Die forsheep, Shepherd? Surely You have other reasons for which to live beside sheep! Have You not other loves, other joys? We knowthat it would grieve You to see the sheep killed, torn by the wolf, or scattered. But You really have not gone so far in lovefor them that for the sake of those poor creatures You would lay down your life? "Ah, yes," He says, "I would, I have!" Carryyour wondering thoughts to Christ Jesus. What? What? What? Son of God, infinitely
great and inconceivably glorious Jehovah, would You lay Your life down for men and women? They are no more in comparison withYou than so many ants and wasps, pitiful and obnoxious creatures! You could make ten thousand millions of them with a word,or crush them out of existence with one blow of Your hand! They are poor things, make the most you can of them. They havehard hearts and wandering wills-and the best of them are no better than they should be! Savior, did you die for such? He looksaround and says, "Yes, I did. I did. I laid down My life for the sheep. I am not ashamed of them and I am not ashamed to saythat I died for them."
No, Beloved, He is not ashamed of His dying love! He has told it to His Brethren up yonder and made it known to all the servantsin His Father's house-and this has become the song of that house-"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain!" Shall not we take itup and say, "For You were slain and have redeemed us to God by Your blood"? Whatever men may say about Particular Redemption,Christ is not ashamed of it! He glories that He laid down His life for the sheep. For the sheep, mark you! He says not forthe world. There is a bearing of the death of Christ towards the world, but here He boasts and glories in the specialty ofHis Sacrifice. "I lay down My life for the sheep"-"instead of the sheep," it might be read.
He glories in substitution for His people! He makes it His boast when He speaks of His chosen, that He suffered in their place-thatHe bore, that they might never bear the wrath of God on account of sin! What He glories in, we also glory in! "God forbidthat I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world!"
O Beloved, what a blessed Christ we have who loves us so, who knows us so-whom we also know and love! May others be taughtto know Him and to love Him! Yes, at this hour may they come and put their trust in Him, as the sheep trust to the shepherd!We ask it for Jesus' sake. Amen.