Think of the difference between Jesus as a leader in the world and just about any other person or group of people that you can imagine. Jesus majored in healing broken, messed up lives and turning them around to become, faithful, loving, serving and leading people again. In John 10, Jesus discusses his leadership style and goal. He saw himself as “The good shepherd.” In verse 10 he said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Think about the shepherd as a leader of people for a moment. In Jesus’ world there were no sheep dogs that were sent out to round up the herd. The shepherd led the sheep. He was the man out front leading them and their challenge was to follow him as the leader. He went ahead of them to clear the path. He used the rod and staff in his hand to guide, to discipline when the need was there and to fight off any predator that tried to harm the sheep. The shepherd used some sort of song or call that would be recognized by his sheep to call them from the rest of the herd to follow him. They knew his voice and followed him. In the evening when he brought the sheep into some area he would stand at the entrance as each sheep came in, to examine each one to see if they had any cuts or hurts that needed treatment. He examined the wool to see if anything was caught in the wool that needed to be removed. He had a name for each one and called them by the name and lovingly cared for each sheep each day. At night when they entered into the fold the shepherd laid down across the entrance into the fold to make certain that nothing came in through the night to harm them. He was the door of entrance and no wolf could enter without going over him.
In John 10:11-16 Jesus notes the difference between him as the shepherd and the poor shepherd that was only hired to do the job. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming he abandons the sheep and runs away. The the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen, I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” As a leader of people, how much do you care for them? Would you be willing to fight for them if you needed to? If you saw the people being attacked in some way, would you run to save your life, or would you risk your life to save the people? As a leader, Jesus cares so much for his people, the sheep that he is ready to go all the way to the cross and die that awful death so that we can be saved. The most often recorded parable of Jesus was this one. “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them becomes lost, will he not leave the 99 and go searching for the one that is lost until he finds it. Then he will put it on his shoulders and bring it back with joy because the sheep that was lost if found.” When he told that story in Luke 10 he added the explanation that in this way there is more joy in heaven over one sinner that repents than over 99 just persons who need no repentance.
Think about the implications of this whole point with regard to Jesus as the leader. It means he is deeply concerned about all of his people. At that point he was working only with those who were Jews, but he had other sheep who weren’t of that Jewish background and after his death they would all be brought together so that there is one flock and one shepherd. He knows and loves each one and ministers to each one to strive and help them in whatever way they may need it. It means that if one sheep wanders off from the herd or flock of sheep, he is ready to leave the 99 for someone else to care for as he goes searching for the one who is lost to try to bring them back home again safely. So many people in that same situation would reason that the one that left was doing what they chose to do. We still have the 99 here and rather than risk losing the 99 while I’m out searching for the one that is lost, I will work with and encourage the 99 so none of them leave. Jesus took the redemptive view every time.
His point as a leader is that no one can simply be allowed to go on and not work to bring them back again. The challenge for the shepherd is to care so much for each sheep that your heart is broken over the thought of losing just one. Picture the one that wanders off or the one that gets mad at some other sheep or even the shepherd and leaves in frustration, what will be your reaction? Does it depend on which sheep left? For some it would depend on how much money they have or what kind of standing the person has in the community. The Jesus style is, EVERY SHEEP MATTERS. For us that would mean that every person matters so that no matter who wanders away or gets mad and leaves, we are going to do everything we can to bring them back home again. Good shepherds are the ones who are never satisfied with the 99 when they know that one is lost somewhere out in the cold and dangerous world. Too often with us the question is going to be what sin they committed that led to them wandering away? If it is some honorable, acceptable sin then we are ready to go out to find them and bring them back again. But if it is some really awful sin, like sexual immorality, homosexual relationships or cheating on one’s wife or husband, then it may be that they just need to be left alone and allowed to go further in their sin.
Do you remember the story of the man who wrote the 23rd Psalm, David? Remember how David was the man after God’s own heart. He was so devoted to God, he wrote hundreds of songs about the Lord and his love and devotion to him. God took him from being the shepherd of his father’s sheep to become a mighty warrior that killed the giant Goliath, to being the one the women sang about saying, “Saul has killed his thousands and David his ten thousands.” He gradually led him to the point he became the king over all Israel. God loved him so much that he promised him that through his descendants the Messiah would come into the world and that of his descendants one would always reign on David’s throne in heaven. But, David messed up royally. Actually, he messed up more than one time and each time it brought horrible consequences. He messed up by looking, lustfully off his roof top one night to see a woman bathing. He called to a servant to find out who it was and the servant informed him that it was Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. It should have been the case that on learning it was another man’s wife, even the wife on one of his soldiers who was out doing battle for him and the nation right then, that David would have said, “thank you” to the servant and used his time on the roof to pray. But that didn’t happen. Instead he sent for the woman. When she was brought to him, he had sex with her and sent her back home. I suppose he thought it was a one night stand and he was king and nothing more would happen. But it didn’t work that way. Three months later, she returned with the news she was pregnant with his child.
David set out on the plan to hide his sin. He had Uriah sent home for a few days thinking he would go down and have sex with his wife and no one would know the difference. Now lets be honest, if he had gone down and had sex with his wife, are we to think he wasn’t bright enough to figure out when the baby was born that it had only been six months since he had sex with her and this baby looks like it has gone full term. But desperate people do dumb things thinking it will all work out. Uriah came to see David. David asked a few questions and told him to go home for the night. The problem was, Uriah was an honorable soldier. He refused to go to his house and sleep with his wife while the rest of the army was out on the battlefield risking their lives for the nation. David tried getting him drunk and sending him home. Even drunk he had more honor than David and refused to go. David had the gall to send a note by Uriah to Joab, the leader of the army saying, “Put Uriah in the thickest part of the battle and withdraw from him so that he may be killed by the enemy soldiers.” Joab received the note, followed the command and Uriah was murdered by the enemy. Now David is guilty of both adultery and murder. If you were in the Lord’s place, what would you have done with David? David took Bathsheba as his wife and evidently thought everything has been taken care of and I’m O.K..
While we might have thought, “it’s hopeless.” God sent Nathan the prophet to visit David. He told him a story. There was a rich man who had many sheep and he had a neighbor who was poor and had just one little lamb that he loved so much he kept it in his house and treated it like a child. One day the rich man had company to come and instead of killing one of the many sheep he had, he stole the little lamb from the poor neighbor, killed it and fed it to his company. David was so angry that the rich man had taken the one little lamb the poor man had he declared that the man would surely die. Nathan shocked David when he said, “You are the man.” He reminded him how God had given him everything, even all the wives that had belonged to Saul and said, I would have given you many more if you had only asked. But instead you took the one wife of Uriah the soldier and murdered him to take her as your wife. David cried out in agony. “I have sinned against you, you only O God and committed this great iniquity.” David pleaded for forgiveness, that God would cleanse him of the guilt and restore to him the joy of his salvation.
God had Nathan to tell him that his sin was forgiven. But there were going to be some tragic consequences of the sin that would follow. The child would die. The sword would never depart from David’s house. Your own wives will be taken in the sight of all Israel and be involved sexually with another man. There is a powerful point here. God forgave completely when he repented of the sins. Yet there were consequences of the sin nonetheless. Forgiveness doesn’t remove the consequences of our sins. It keeps us from being lost eternally. But we will still suffer for the wrongs that are done. If I murder a person God will forgive me when I turn from the evil. But the person will still be just as dead as ever.
But the point I want us to get is that no matter what sins David committed, God was still ready and pushing for his redemption. He sent the prophet to tell him what was about to happen, but he sent him to bring him to repentance so he could be forgiven. God was always about bringing the person back. What is utterly amazing is that the child died, but David went in afterward to Bathsheba and she gave birth to another son, whom they named Solomon. Of all of the children David fathered, God chose Solomon, the son of Bathsheba to become the next king over Israel. He didn’t require David to separate from Bathsheba. Instead he blessed their marriage after that time.
Imagine having a David in the church where you worship. He would likely be one of the leaders in the church if he were there. What would happen in the church where you worship when the word got out that he had committed adultery and murder? Who would be the prophet to go out to him and confront him for the sins he had committed? What would happen when the word got out that he had repented of the sin and was broken over what he had done and now was devoted to living for God again? Would he and Bathsheba be welcome in church next Sunday? What would he need to do to get back into the good graces of the church? Would there be a path by which he could again serve as a teacher, a leader in the congregation? Would he be allowed to lead your worship in songs? Just what is the path for redemption in church where you worship?
I have always wondered at what point in David’s life he wrote the 23rd Psalm. I’ve always supposed it was when he was an older man looking back on his life and thinking of all the ways God had led him through life and comparing it with how he had worked with his father’s sheep back when he was a teenager. Imagine him sitting alone one night, up on the roof top of the king’s mansion in Jerusalem. Instead of looking off to see a beautiful woman bathing, he is thinking, praying, and looking back on his life. Then he took a pen into his hand and began to write, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
God looks at broken lives and thinks of healing them. How about us?