John 10 – The Good Shepherd

 

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Fourth-century depiction at the Museum of the Baths of Diocletian, Rome

 

‘I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep know me’ (v11)

Here Jesus is drawing on an image of God from the Old Testament, from an Old Testament Book called Ezekiel.  Ezekiel was a prophet in Israel about 600 years before the time of Jesus.

It says in Ezekiel:

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 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.  (Ezekiel 34:11-12, 16)

Jesus is identifying Himself as the Good Shepherd building on this Ezekiel passage about God as the shepherd.  Jesus is the fulfilment of this Ezekiel passage, in Jesus’ ministry we see him healing the sick and acting justly.  But Jesus goes further than the Ezekiel passage by saying that the good Shepherd will lay down His life for His sheep.

Jesus tells us a hired hand is not willing to do that, faced with danger a hired shepherd will save themselves if a wolf attacks the sheep.  Jesus laid down His life for the sheep because He is the Good Shepherd because He loves us.

It’s not what you know it’s who you know.  And we know the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ.  Who loves us so much that He was willing to lay down His life for us.  So what can we do? Well in this chapter Jesus also talks about the sheep hearing His voice.  

his sheep follow him because they know his voice. (v4)

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (v16)

Our job then is to get better at hearing the voice of Jesus.  Hearing what Jesus is saying to us in our lives. Relationships work best when you work on them.  Keep listening out for the voice of Jesus in the Bible, through prayer, in church and with friends.  

Colossians 1 – What did Jesus look like?

question-mark-2123969_960_720‘Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation’

When we think of Jesus does an image appear in our minds?  If we look at art that depicts Jesus we see that He is presented in many different ways depending on where you are in the world.  If you are in Belgium Jesus looks like a Belgian, if you are in America, Jesus looks like an American, if you are in Ethiopia he looks like an Ethiopian.

This could be seen as a strength, It becomes easier to relate to Jesus if we imagine him like ourselves, it becomes easier to do mission to other places and present Jesus in different ways.

But what did Jesus actually look like?  Have you noticed that in the Gospels it doesn’t give a physical description of what Jesus looks like, in fact in the New Testament, there isn’t really a physical description of anyone, Jesus, Peter, Paul Pontius Pilate.  At the time people were less interested in recording that information.

We can make some educated guesses about Jesus’ physical appearance.  From skeletons dug up dating back to the time of Jesus, we can see that men would be about 5ft 4-6in.  Jesus would have course have had middle eastern features. He would have had a short beard. A lot of art show Jesus with long hair, but almost certainly He would have had fairly short hair.  The reason being is that there was a Jewish group called the Nazarites, who would take a vow not to cut there hair or beard and not drink any wine, and we see from the Gospels several different times that Jesus drank wine and so, therefore, would have cut his hair so as not look like the Nazirites.

But we know more about what Jesus wore then his physical appearance.  For example in Mark:

“Beware of the scribes, who desire to walk in long robes (stolai), and to have salutations in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets”

We can be pretty sure since Jesus makes a point of criticising the scribes in long robes that Jesus didn’t wear a long robe.  Long robes were a status symbol of the rich and powerful. Jesus would have worn tunic down to the knees like most normal people of the time.

Now I find this very interesting, for some it’s exciting to look at because they want to get to a more authentic Jesus for others its a bit more difficult because we have grown up seeing certain depictions of Jesus in art and in our churches, and we might have a particular image in our minds as we pray and read the bible.  

Job 9 – The Problem and Solution According to Job

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‘But how can mere mortals prove their innocence before God?’ (9:1) the answer is we cannot.  Job goes on to talk of God’s power but the part I want to focus on comes at the end of chapter 9:

‘He is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court.  If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more.  Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot.’ (Job 9:32-35).

Here with have a common image of God as a judge and heaven as a court.  Another name for the devil, is ‘the accuser’ which fits into this image.  Job is lamenting that there is no advocate to speak for him and that he cannot speak for himself because he is not righteous and because God is so great.  This means that there is a breakdown in the relationship between God and man. Job states quite clearly what is needed: a mediator and someone to take ‘God’s rod’ away so that Job might have his relationship with God restored.  Job is, in fact, crying out for Jesus.

‘For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus’ (1Tim 2:5).   

‘We have one who speaks to the Father in our defence – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One’ (1John 1:21).

‘He himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by his wounds you were healed’ (1Peter 2:24).

‘This is love: not that we love God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins’ (1John 4:10).

Job sees the problem and the solution, we can rejoice because we have Jesus as our mediator and because of His death and resurrection we are judged righteous.   What is the benefit of all this? It means that we can speak to God and therefore our relationship with him is restored! This is what Job is longing for and this is what God has given us, His only Son so that we might have a restored relationship with Him.  This is what we celebrate at Easter.

Isaiah 1 – Seven whole days not one in seven

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‘The multitude of your sacrifices what are they to me? Says the Lord.  I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats’ (1:11).

This verse immediately jumped out at me, it is talking about the gap between worship and life.  For the Israelites this was offering sacrifices without living the life that should go with this, this meant the sacrifices were meaningless to God.  We are told in verse 17 what they should be doing:

‘Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.’ (1:17)

The lives of those that follow God must act within God’s world to bring about God’s Kingdom here on earth, without this our worship is meaningless.  Isaiah tells that we need to learn to do good.  Learn, seek, correct, Isaiah is telling us that action is required for worship to be authentic.  This was the role of the prophet, through prophetic words and action, to bring the people back to God to His heart for justice.  The closer we are to God’s heart the higher the priority for justice in our lives will be.  This passage reminds me of one of my favourite quotes:

‘seven whole days, not one in seven’ (George Herbert).

George Herbert was talking about how as Christians we often are Christians only on a Sunday when we go to worship at church.  We must live as Christians seven days a week.  That means each of us in our spheres of influence at home, in work, with family, with friends we should be learning to do good, fighting injustice and bringing about His kingdom.  Not a Sunday Christian, but a follower of Jesus every day.

Romans 3 – The mercy seat

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The mercy seat on the ark of the covenant

‘God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness’ (Rom 3:25).

I want to focus on this one verse (3:25) and one phrase ‘sacrifice of atonement’ which in the Greek is hilasterion. Hilasterion refers to the lid, or ‘mercy seat’, of the Ark of the Covenant (see Exodus 25:17-20).

Exodus 25:22 says:

‘There I will meet you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim’.

So the mercy seat is the place where God is most present to his people. We see in Leviticus 16 that once a year the sins of the whole nation were atoned for by sprinkling the blood of the sacrifice on the ‘mercy seat’. This symbolized that the sins of the people were being taken into the presence of God and being dealt with. So what is Paul trying to tell us? He is saying that Christ is the point where the blood is splattered, where God is most present to his people, where atonement takes place.