“The Good Shepherd Lays Down His Life for the Sheep”
Ezekiel 34:22-24; John 10:11, 15-18 (text)
January 25, 2016 (Big Springs URC & ZCRC Pasig) • Download this sermon (PDF)
Beloved congregation of Christ: On October 6, 1973, as I was looking forward to the last few days of my college years, news broke out that Egypt and Syria attacked Israel simultaneously on two fronts: the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. Egypt and Syria chose that day because it was the holiest day of the year for Jews, the Day of Atonement. Also, since it was a holiday, Israel was caught by surprise. Since the Hebrew name for the Day of Atonement is yom kippur, this war came to be known as The Yom Kippur War.
In Leviticus 23, we read that God appointed the Day of Atonement on the tenth day of the seventh month. On this day of Sabbath solemn rest, no work is done, and there is a holy assembly. Sacrifices and offerings are commanded to atone for the sins of all the people, including the sins of the priests throughout the past year. On this one day of the year, the high priest enters the Most Holy Place with incense and blood. He then sprinkles the blood of the bull on the cover and on the front of the Ark. The cover of the Ark is known in Hebrew as kippur, and this is why the Day of Atonement is also known as Yom Kippur. Sins are atoned for when they are covered by the sacrificial blood. The wrath of God is propitiated or appeased.
The sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross is usually called the “atonement.” In the New Testament, there is no more annual Day of Atonement in which animal sacrifices are made for the sins of God’s people. Our Day of Atonement happened once for all on that day when Jesus was crucified. He “atoned” for the sins of his people. This is very important. The Bible teaches in many places that Christ paid for the sins of his people.
Our text today in John Chapter 10 is one of these passages. Jesus says that as the Good Shepherd, he “lays down his life for the sheep.” And who are “the sheep”? These are those whom he calls “my sheep” and “my own.” Christ laid down his life for his sheep, not for all human beings. This is one of two doctrines that usually generates heated conversations. The other one is predestination, which we studied last Sunday. For many, both doctrines evoke images of a whimsical divine puppetmaster who amuses himself by toying with his created beings.
Thus, most evangelicals believe that Christ’s mission was to offer His life on the cross for all people who would ever be born in this world. Wouldn’t this then mean that everyone would be saved? He says no, for their salvation is based on their “freewill decision” to believe in Christ. But here he is caught in a quandary, because if no one is saved unless he makes a decision for Christ, then no one was actually saved by the death of Christ – His death only makes it possible for people to be saved. But the Bible contradicts this view; Christ actually accomplished the salvation of God’s people from their sins (Mat 1:21; Gal 3:13). On the cross, Christ even proclaimed, “It is finished” (John 19:30).
But the atoning work of Christ does not end on the cross. It is completed when he takes his life up again when he rose from the grave. And his death and resurrection have benefits for all of us believers. He atoned for our sins, and his resurrection was also for our holiness. So today, our meditation will be, “The Good Shepherd Lays Down His Life for the Sheep,”under three headings: first, The Good Shepherd Lays Down His Life for the Sheep He Knew; second, The Sheep Ought to Lay Down Their Lives for One Another; and third, The Good Shepherd Takes His Life Up Again.
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