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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:I am the Good Shepherd
Text:John 10:14 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 92:1,2                                                                                          

Ps 119:64,66                                                                                                  

Reading – Psalm 23; John 10:1-30

Ps 23:1,2,3

Sermon – John 10:14

Hy 37:1,2

Hy 56:1,2,3,4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved in Christ, nobody enjoys feeling like they’re just a number. But this tends to happen when you deal with a big organization, like a bank or the government. It feels like to them, you’re just another account number, just another taxpayer. Sometimes the bank will send you a nice letter, “We really care about you, and we’re grateful for your business”—but it’s the same letter they sent to 100,000 other people! What do they know or care about who you are?

But each of us has a name. Each of us has a personal history, a complex story of where we’ve come from and what has shaped us. We have our own weaknesses, and some strengths, and there are hopes that we cherish for our lives.

How good it is then, that Christ know us and cares for us! He knows us by name, knows us as individuals. He knows our struggles and temptations, our deepest needs and fears. Even though we belong to a worldwide church which is past all counting, to a numberless multitude of believers, Christ knows his people—He knows each one.

For Jesus is our good shepherd. John 10 paints a beautiful portrait of how Christ is devoted to the pastoral care of his people. That is what a pastor is, after all—a shepherd—and Christ is the best and most effective pastor that there will ever be. For Christ was willing lay down his life for the sheep. Because of him, we can go in and out and find pasture.

In our text today, we look at one of the ‘I am’ sayings of Christ, “I am the good shepherd” (10:14). And again we see what makes him the best and most effective pastor of the church: “I know my sheep, and am known by my own.” Christ is well acquainted with each of his believers, having a personal knowledge that means He can save us and care for us. Christ in turn invites us to know him and trust him more. I preach God’s Word to you on this theme,

            I am the good shepherd:

                        1) Christ knows his sheep

                        2) Christ’s sheep know him   


1) Christ knows his sheep: Part of the shepherd’s task was physical. He would carry those who were weak, he would fend off enemies, and search for the lost. It was a physical job, but it was also verbal. One thing that comes out clearly in John 10 is how a shepherd would speak to his sheep. At times there could be many noises to startle the sheep. Maybe a loud crash of thunder that sends them into a frenzy, or the roar of a distant lion that makes them panic.

But above the din, there came the shepherd’s voice. He shouts out warnings, he calls with encouragements. And his sheep listen. For the sheep are used to his voice; they can recognize and respond to it.

A bit earlier, Jesus describes this work of a shepherd. He says, “The sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (v 3). To appreciate what Jesus is teaching, we should know how close a bond there could develop between a shepherd and his sheep. As he tended that same group of animals, year after year, he got to know his sheep well—and they got to know him!

For example, sometimes there would be more than one flock staying in the same enclosure at night. As they milled about and then lay down to sleep, the sheep belonging to the care of the different shepherds would all be mixed together. But when morning came, it was time for them to go out to pasture again.

So the shepherds would stand outside the fold. And looking at the sheep, outwardly they would be hard to distinguish—just a mass of fuzzy wool and beady eyes. But the shepherds would call out in a way that was recognizable. And the individual sheep would gather to the one they knew, the one they trusted. It sounds strange to us, but a shepherd might even give names to his sheep. ‘He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.’

Like human beings, probably all sheep are essentially alike. Probably every sheep is timid and easily frightened. Yet each sheep has its own characteristics, and a good shepherd knows this. One of his sheep is afraid of heights, one gets nervous around running water, and some always need to have the other sheep nearby. A loving shepherd recognizes these traits in his sheep, and he cares for them accordingly.

Years ago, when I worked on the family farm, we had hundreds of cows. We didn’t give them names, but they did have numbers, worn on thick bands around their neck. And over many months of working closely with the same cows, you would notice certain characteristics. We knew #142 was feisty, that she would use her body to push around other cows, and sometimes even people. We knew that #250 was very calm, no matter what was happening around her. Some cows were fast milkers, others took a long time—and it was good to know these things.

What kind of shepherd is the Lord Jesus? He’s not one who manages the sheep from a safe distance, who keeps them at arm’s length. He says that He is a shepherd who knows his sheep and walks alongside them with care. When Christ regards his followers—even though his believers are countless in number, and endlessly different—they’re not strangers to him. He knows our names, our backgrounds and particular struggles.

Earlier in the Gospel, this is what John said about Christ, “He did not need any testimony about mankind, for He knew what was in each person” (2:25). Christ knows his people with a knowledge that goes much deeper than some superficial awareness. He has a knowledge that gets down to what’s really inside us.

And as we’ll see a bit later, Christ and his people have a mutual knowledge of each other: “I know my sheep and am known by own.” That speaks of how there should be an intimacy in our relationship with Christ, a deep bond that is secure in love and loyalty.

We’ve been talking about a shepherd and his sheep, or a farmer and his cows, but you could also compare it to the kind of knowledge that a husband and wife have about each other. If you have been married for ten years already, fifteen, twenty-five—even fifty or sixty years—you know your spouse in a way that is far deeper than what you had in the first years of dating. You knew a few important things back then, but now so much more: some good things, some bad, all of it real. Through the countless experiences of life, through times of joy and of hardship, you have learned about this person on a level that cuts very deep, down to the spirit.    

Christ knows his sheep. He actually knows us apart from experience, for He is God and He knows all things. He doesn’t need to learn it over the years. But as He cares for us, Christ has that deep knowledge of who we are.

He knows our character, the ways in which we have gifts and talents, and how we have quite a few shortcomings. He knows those particular temptations that often lead us into sin, whether pride, or anger, lust or envy. He knows our past too, how sometimes the things that have happened to us in life have led to great challenges in our faith. Christ is a shepherd who knows our particular anxieties and worries. He sees our secret sins. He understands our regrets and fears.

He sees them all clearly. But amazingly, it doesn’t cause him to love us less! For Christ loves his sheep with an intense and steadfast love. And in his love, He responds and pastors us in a way that will truly help us.

It’s probably true that a lot of times, we don’t even know our own needs. We don’t understand why we act in certain ways. From one day to the next, we can’t always predict where our sense of confidence will be, or why we will be discouraged, or why our resistance to temptation suddenly seems so weak. And sometimes we’re not ready to admit that we are weak, or that we’re scared, or that we need help.

But the good news is that Christ knows these things, and He cares for us in ways that are really well-suited to who we are (and where we are). He knows the spiritual encouragement that is necessary, so He gives it through the preaching. He knows when we would benefit from some loving discipline to keep us on the right path, so He sends an illness or a disappointment into our life. He sees our fears and sins and regrets, and He uses his Word in powerful ways to direct and exhort us.

Hebrews says that Christ sympathizes with us in our weakness, and He prays for us constantly to his Father. He prays that we would receive those things that we truly need. Think again of Psalm 23. Because the LORD is our shepherd, we shall not want. Because He knows us so well, we are secure.

We should keep in mind how Jesus is making a contrast in this chapter. The contrast is between the one who is the good shepherd and those who are false shepherds, “thieves and robbers” (v 8) or “hirelings” (v 13). The religious leaders of that day were supposed to be shepherds, but they did not really know their sheep. They were too busy protecting their own reputation and obsessing over minor points of the law, so they didn’t have time to know the sheep. And the result, of course, is that “the sheep did not hear them” (v 8). God’s people recognized that the Pharisees were not the ones to guide them onto the path of life.

But Christ knows his sheep, and his sheep know him, so they listen to him. If you read one verse further, you get a picture of how deep and close our relationship with Christ is meant to be. Jesus says in verse 14, “I know my sheep and am known by my own.” And then in the next verse He says, “As the Father knows me, even so I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep” (v 15). Jesus implies something amazing here: He knows his people, and his people can know him, in a way that is like how the Father knows the Son!

Try to ponder that. We can have a relationship with Christ that is so close, so intimate, so unbreakable, it’s like the union of God the Father and God the Son. They are bound together in perfect and eternal love. And in some small way, we’re allowed to share in this. For Christ knows his sheep, and his sheep know him.


2) Christ’s sheep know him: Imagine the sheepfold again, at the end of a long night. The shepherd is standing at the door and calling his sheep by name. Do the sheep listen? Do they follow this man into the great wide open, into green pastures and beside still waters? The shepherd knows us—that’s not in question at all.

But what is in question sometimes is whether the sheep know him. For we’re all slow learners when it comes to holy things. We’re not quick to grasp and keep holding onto what is most important. So much of what we’ve learned about Christ through the preaching or through our devotions gets forgotten and discarded over time.

This is why Jesus says that not only does He know his sheep, but his sheep know him—that is, they need to know him! “I am known by my own.” Beloved, this is essential, then: what does it mean for you to know Jesus? In the first point we saw that Jesus is speaking about much more than a passing acquaintance with him. He is describing a personal knowledge, that kind of familiarity that people have after they’ve known each other for a long time.

“I am known by my own.” This means that Jesus Christ must be for us much more than just another chapter in our Reformed confessions. It means that He must be for us much more than whatever mental picture of Jesus we have, like that friendly-looking man with a nicely trimmed beard and a white robe. Knowing Christ takes more. It means recognizing that He has drawn near to you, but that you must also draw near to him.

So this passage teaches us that knowing the voice of Christ is essential. Knowing his voice is even critical to our survival! We have to keep eyes and ears on our shepherd. As Jesus says, “When he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him.” And what is the reason that they will go wherever he leads them? “For they know his voice” (v 4). They’ve learned it. They’ve listened to it often. They’ve come to grasp this one truth, that the man over there—their shepherd—he cares for them, and he’ll always lead them in the right way. They recognize his voice, so they go to him.

As the sheep of his pasture, our Shepherd speaks to us. When He was on this earth, He let his disciples hear his voice. It’s a big theme in John’s Gospel, that a disciple of Jesus is known by one thing, more than any other: a disciple listens to the words of his teacher!

It’s not any different today. Christ is not present with us anymore in person. But He’s given us an immense collection of promises and commandments and instructions and exhortations. And not just in the New Testament—the whole of Scripture can be called the “Word of Christ,” for all of it speaks of him. All of it helps us to know the Good Shepherd.

Jesus wants us to know him by his Word. We are allowed to read the Scriptures every day and get to know the one who is our Saviour. Then on the Lord’s day too, we have the privilege of hearing his Word. When we come to church, and the Scriptures are opened and explained, the Good Shepherd speaks to us. More than anything, we need Scripture—the soul-restoring, life-nourishing waters of the Scripture!

Yet knowing Christ doesn’t simply happen by reading the Bible every day and coming to church. Sadly, it is possible to know the Scriptures very well and still not know Christ. A person might be part of the church for his whole life, and not really know Christ.

We need to know Christ by faith, when we slowly come to see how all that the Bible says about him is true. We come to know Christ in the same way that sheep came to know their shepherd: by experience, by following him year after year, by learning that we can love and trust him. We come to know that He will bring us to places of safety, that He will protect us, that He will be faithful. As He cares for us, year by year, we get to know him better, more truly.

Compare it to how Christ knows us deeply, in our sins and hurts and frailties. In a similar way, we seek to know him deeply. By our daily experience of walking with him, we come to find out so much more about our Saviour. From how He treats us, we learn about the depths his character, his mercy, his patience, his power. From what we see in the church, we come to appreciate in new ways the great works He has done.

By walking with Christ by faith, year after year, we come to know his heart: what kind of Saviour is He? He is gentle and lowly. He is just and true. He is steadfast and unchanging. We come to learn how much He cares. We come to learn what He wants for us, and how He desires that we live. He wants to be known, and He lets himself be known.

Knowing Christ well—and knowing his voice—means that we must also be prepared to shut out some of the other voices we hear. Christ says that even a slow-learning sheep needs to know that some words are dangerous. They need to know that some shepherds they should not follow: “They will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers” (v 5).

Today there are lots of other voices, many saying to us: “Listen to me! Hear me. Trust me.” You hear these voices on your television, or your device, or your computer. Their words and their lessons come streaming into your homes. And they will give you instruction and set examples in all kinds of areas. They’ll teach you where the world came from, many billions of years ago. They’ll teach you that love is love. They’ll whisper that the Bible is outdated. They’ll say that your body is yours, and you can do and you can have whatever you want.

Do we listen to these voices, and do we follow wherever they take us? Sometimes we do. But Jesus says that we must not. Don’t follow a stranger, but flee from him! Learn that some voices in this world have nothing good to say.

So listen attentively to the songs on your playlist. Read the books on your shelf carefully. When you visit a website, or when you watch a video, ask whether you are hearing words that echo the voice of the Good Shepherd? Would Christ agree with what they’re saying? Would He applaud their performances? Perhaps for some of them, but for many, certainly not.

Don’t let your life be led by a stranger, but get to know the Good Shepherd. Let the Word of Christ fill your richly. Let his Word mold and shape you, and let it stay with you. Know his voice and follow it! What does He say about your life? What does He say about your future? What does He say about your money? Your friends? What does the Good Shepherd say about your purpose here on earth? He speaks about all these things, and countless more.

To follow him, we must listen to him. To listen to him, we must know him. So we ought to spend time every day, hearing his voice, speaking with the Saviour, and growing in our bond with Christ. We know Christ, and we want to know him better.

In all this, we have a great confidence. For our Good Shepherd is one we can trust. You can follow him, and not be disappointed. You can go to him, and know that you’re safe and secure. We have a Good Shepherd who has promised to lead us in and out to find pasture. He knows his sheep, and He cares for his sheep in just the ways that we need. So does He know you? Does He know your name and where you’ve come from?

In a way, that’s the wrong question. Christ does know you, knows all about you—and that’s a beautiful thing. He knows you, and He loves you still. But do you know him? Every day do you draw near to Christ, and listen to his voice? Seek to know him so that you can follow more closely the Good Shepherd!  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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