A “good father” may yet be a deadbeat dad. The mother of his children may call him good because he dangles his keys in front of a crying baby twice a month or because his checks arrive on time.
This may fit our definition of “good” but not God’s.
A “good man” may yet be a scoundrel. He may be good for one job and terrible for any other, but for that one job—he’s a good man for it. The right man for that job. This may fit our definition of “good” and “right,” but it doesn’t fit God’s.
A good mother may not mind if you use wire hangers.
A good mother may call you by name and not by “It.”
A good mother—or aunt—may let you have your own room and not stick you in the cupboard under the stairs until you’re eleven.
We may call all of these “good,” but none of them are, by definition, beautiful, ideal, or sublime.
We may call these “good,” but none of them are, by definition, noble.
We may call these good, but God doesn’t.
So when Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11), set aside your definition of “good,” and hear how God defines what is meet, right, and salutary—what and who is truly good.
Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:11-15).
This is no metaphor.
Jesus identifies Himself as the good shepherd and then defines His God-given obligation: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…I lay down my life for the sheep” (cf. John 10:11, 15).
“Glorious now behold Him arise, / King, and God, and Sacrifice” (cf. “We Three Kings,” stz. 5).
This is why Jesus came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man—to bring that which had Fallen back into the Fold. To reconcile the world to God. To die for the ungodly. To lay down His life for the sheep.
“I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16).
The sheep versus the wolf isn’t David versus Goliath.
There’s no version of this where the sheep rely on their cunning, pick stones from the brook, sink one into the forehead of the wolf, and win the victory.
If not for the good shepherd, the wolf snatches the sheep and scatters them.
But David versus Goliath is like the good shepherd versus the wolf.
“The Lord saves not with sword and spear” (1 Samuel 17:47).
Desiring the sheep, the wolf strikes the shepherd, but the stone the builders rejected falls and crushes him.
The good shepherd destroyed death by enduring it.
He vanquished hell by descending into it.
Goliath met David but fought against God.
The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep—and death is swallowed up in the victory of Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:54).
The good shepherd is good, because He is in no way selfish. He’s good, noble, beautiful, ideal, sublime—because He doesn’t flee the wolf—He fights the wolf.
He doesn’t save Himself—He saves you.
Would that we’d defend our neighbor,
As we, ourselves, defend.
The Shepherd Good has won the battle,
Laid His life down for His friends.
It was not David, nor Goliath,
Nor wolf, nor hired hand.
But the Shepherd Good who died—is risen!
Eternal life to tend.
Believe on Him, the Shepherd Good
Who died upon that Cross of Wood
To show the Flock from curséd rood
The definition of the Good.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Misericordias Domini (Easter 3) Sermon, 2020
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt