The Life-Giving I AMs of Jesus: The Good Shepherd

I AMs of Jesus: The Good Shepherd

Three Precious Pearls of Revelation

“I AM the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)

Lauren Crews

Lauren Crews

Well, my hiatus from blogging stretched out a bit longer than I expected! My travel schedule has just been haywire, and there’s a seemingly infinite to-do list involved in launching my debut novel, The Plum Blooms in Winter–which is on pre-order on Amazon now! But I think I have something good for you today. 🙂 (And you might want to look into the aggressive pre-order pricing on the novel. $2.99 for now! Just sayin’… 🙂 )

Once again, I’m tag-teaming with teacher extraordinaire, author and speaker Lauren Crews, a regular guest here at Five Stones and a Sling, to wrestle with these life-giving truths. I’ll kick it off.

Since I’ve gone quiet for a couple of weeks, let me remind you where we are in the current series. This is the third post in a series on the I AMs of Jesus. But it occurs to me that I haven’t set this series up very well. We moved into the series kind of “sideways.” We were talking about the Feast of Tabernacles, and it made a very seamless transition to Yeshua’s statement, “I AM the light of the world” (John 8:12, 9:15). So… we just started talking about that.

Please permit me to step back and set the stage a bit. John’s gospel, of all the gospels, is strategically structured around seven miracles, seven discourses, and seven I AM statements. John’s gospel is also the most careful about showing the relationship between Yeshua’s ministry and the Hebrew calendar–my ongoing theme. It’s not surprising, then, that almost all of Yeshua’s I AM statements, as John records them, attain an even deeper significance when viewed in the light of the Hebrew calendar.

Yeshua made three of His I AM statements in the context of the Feast of Tabernacles—we’ve talked about two of those already. The fourth came in the context of the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah). John records the final three during Passover week.

Here’s how the events progressed from the final day of the Feast of Tabernacles.

  • The seventh “Great Day” of the Feast with its elaborate light show and water ceremony have just transpired. Yeshua is in the Temple courts, where He pardons the woman taken in adultery. Yeshua declares “I AM the light of the world” to the assembled crowd. (John 8:12). (You’ll find the first post in this series, which covers this dramatic declaration, here.)
  • Leaving the temple, Yeshua encounters the man born blind.
  • Yeshua repeats His statement that “I AM the light of the world” (John 9:5), then heals him, sending him to wash in the Pool of Siloam.
  • The man is questioned extensively by the Pharisees, who eventually excommunicate him from the synagogue.
  • Yeshua finds the man and speaks words of comfort to him, which occasions another sharp exchange with the Pharisees. (“If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains,” He tells them. John 9:41)
  • Yeshua further challenges the Pharisees with His statement, “I AM the door of the sheep” (John 10:7). (Please see the second post in this series, which also features key insights from Lauren Crews, here.)

Lauren, picking up the story from here, can you describe for us the emotional scene after Yeshua’s “I AM the door of the sheep” statement?

Lauren:

Yeshua was causing quite a stir. His healing a blind man on the sabbath challenged the Pharisees. Even more challenging was the way He was stringing together pearls of scripture. This method, traditionally used by the rabbis, was designed to point His audience to Torah, to the Prophets and the Writings. This also challenged their authority. His teachings, His innuendo are building to a final declaration that He is Messiah.


The Good Shepherd Puts the Pharisees in Their Place

Linda:

Agreed, and I think the first two pearls went on the string at the climax of the Feast of Tabernacles. First, Yeshua told the crowd that He was the light of the world, the eternal reality to which their big annual Temple light show pointed.

Replica of the Temple Menorah

Replica of the Temple Menorah
It stands around five feet tall!

He demonstrated the truth of His claim with a powerful sign when He healed the man born blind. He reiterated the statement, “I am the Light of the World” (John 9:5), then applied a mud-and-spit mask to the man’s eyes. Jesus sent him to wash at the Pool of Siloam, specifically—the very pool from which the priests drew water for their ritual the night before. The man “went away and washed, and came back seeing” (John 9:7).

Yeshua demonstrated the truth of His claims by using the WATER of the same sacred pool to give LIGHT to the eyes of a man born blind! 

At the Pool of Siloam by Harold Copping

Yeshua gave the simple beggar light he’d never had, and never even hoped he could possess.

“Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.” (John 9:32)

Yet the Pharisees reviled the man who’d received his sight, saying, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.” (John 9:28-29) But… didn’t Moses tell them to look for another Prophet like himself? (Deut 18:18)

So. Here’s another radical claim Jesus made that day.

Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death. (John 8:51)

These people had just spent seven days observing every minute detail Moses captured about Sukkot. Down to what they were supposed to carry. And quite a few rules and rituals the Pharisees made up for good measure.

Has their elaborate Sukkot ritual saved anyone from death? No.
Has it given anyone back his sight? No.

No wonder the Pharisees were torqued at Jesus. And afraid. And no wonder “the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.” (John 9:22)

Sadly for them, His indisputable proof of His claims made their position untenable!

The second pearl was Yeshua’s claim, “I AM the door of the sheep” (John 10:7), which Lauren dissected so adroitly in the previous post in this series. Yeshua was challenging the the Pharisees’ assertion that they were the rightful leaders of Israel who would be “over the congregation, who will go out and come in before them” (Num 27:16-17).

Now, how does Yeshua go on from there, stringing a third pearl that would challenge them even further?

Lauren:

Yeshua begins by contrasting true shepherds with the thief and robber. The shepherds of the Ancient Near East guided their sheep by walking with their flock. Sometimes they led at the front. Sometimes they walked by their side. Often, they brought up the rear to gather any lagging behind. Yeshua references this in John 10:3-4: “The sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.”  Good shepherds did not drive their sheep like their counterparts of the West we are familiar with.

Linda:

I love this mental picture of the shepherd walking with, rather than driving, his sheep–that picture’s going to stay with me. I learned here that the Hebrew word for “shepherd” (רֹ֝עִ֗י) is thought to derive from רֵעַ (re’a), meaning “friend.” So a shepherd is the great friend of his sheep!

Shepherd: Friend

Lauren:

In essence, Yeshua was asking the Pharisees, Israel’s religious shepherds, “Are you tending or are you herding?” As He adds this next pearl to His string, the reference to shepherding may have nudged a reminder of Isaiah 52:12, which speaks of the Lord’s presence.

“For you shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the LORD will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” (Is 52:12)

Or, again, probably Numbers 27:15-17.

“Moses said to the Lord, ‘May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.’” (Num 27:15-17)

And very likely Ezekiel 34:2.

“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock?” (Ez 34:2)

Linda:

Ouch! Indeed, Ezekiel had a great deal to say on the topic of good versus bad shepherds. We’ll explore his message further next week.

Lauren:

Exactly. But Jesus, the true shepherd, calls for His sheep and they respond to His voice. As He declared a few days earlier:

“Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say…He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:43,47)

The Pharisees are neither the good shepherds of Israel, nor are they any better than a hireling. They do not even belong to God.

Linda:

How tragic, that those who should have cared for the people were leading them into ruin instead! So what’s the application so far? For me, two come mind.

  • Our Lord never shied away from controversy. God’s truth is God’s truth, whether popular or unpopular. In this culture of relativism, can we say the same in our lives? Can we say the same of our church leaders?
  • Yeshua’s escalating conflict with the Pharisees underscores the danger of placing too much faith in human leaders. We must be careful to follow our Good Shepherd, and to heed His voice. While human guides and teachers can be helpful, we can trust them only as long as their guidance clearly stems from God’s word, and not from human tradition. Otherwise we are at risk of winding up in a “blind leading the blind” situation (Matt 15:14). Or worse–mixing metaphors a bit, sorry!–“wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matt 7:15).

We’ve left two more pearls related to Yeshua’s claim to be the Good Shepherd–very beautiful and lustrous pearls–for the next post in this series. I hope you’ll check back!

The Shepherd Cares for Lost Sheep

 

If you’ve never opened God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus (Rom 3:23, 6:23), if you’ve never invited Him to become your shepherd, please please please be persuaded to do it now! It’s simple. Just tell God from your heart that you admit you’re a sinner that needs a Savior (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom 3:23) that you’re done running your own life, and that you’re ready to make Jesus Lord of your life.

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (Rom 10:9-11)

The decision that saves you is that simple!

Simple… But no one said living it out will be easy. Especially now.


Lauren Crews, MDiv.

As a Bible teacher and speaker, Lauren is excited to encourage Christians to explore and understand the Jewish roots of their faith. She lives in north-east Florida with her husband and two chocolate labs. She is mom of three fantastic young adults and recently welcomed a daughter-in-love to the Crews crew. She is represented by Credo Communications and working toward the publication of her books The Strength of a Woman and Jesus: The Alef and the Tav. You can connect with Lauren on the web at www.laurencrews.com.

4 Comments

  1. GOH says:

    I was sharing abt this in our lesson on the Feast of Sukkot last month: and assigned a group to explore the relationship between Yeshua’s claim to be the “Light of the World” and the Temple Grounds Illumination on Sukkot nights… and a young sister brought up Genesis 1:2 .. “Let there be light” even before the Sun was created (4th day).. that was revelatory insight…

  2. Rose McCauley says:

    Thanks to Linda Thompson and to Lauren Crews for sharing so many great insights. I am going to keep this open on my computer for several days to glean more from this Gem-packed lesson! And Linda, congrats on that book getting ready to release. I started reading it last night, then read some more today You’ve got me hooked already! Rose

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