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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:If We Want to Shepherd Christ's Church, We Must be Willing to Smell Like Sheep
Text:Mark 10:32-45 (View)
Occasion:Ordination (Elder/Deacon)
Topic:Leadership
 
Added:2023-01-25
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: John 10:1-18

Text: Mark 10:32-45

 

IF WE WANT TO SHEPHERD CHRIST’S CHURCH, WE MUST BE WILLING TO SMELL LIKE SHEEP.   THIS MEANS WE MUST BE PREPARED TO

  1. Suffer

  2. Serve

 

  1. Psalm 95: 1, 3

  2. Psalm 15:1-3

  3. Psalm 23:1-3

  4. Hymn 56: 1, 3

  5. Psalm 21: 1, 4 (post ordination/installation)

  6. Hymn 23: 1, 2

  7. Hymn 65: 1, 3, 4

 

Words to Listen For: bookends, cake, lightning, gents, travel

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. Why is Jesus called the Good Shepherd?

  2. What were other examples of leadership for the disciples?

  3. What might the cup of an office-bearer look like?

  4. Is desiring greatness the issue?  What is?

  5. What are all shepherds…at heart?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Picture the scene.

A man stands on a ridge overlooking a long, narrow gorge.

Below him, a single trail meanders the length of the gorge floor, before branching out into dozens of trails when it reaches the grassland.

The man’s eyes are searching.  Intently.  Looking for something specific.

And he finds it.  His eyes lock onto his target and he cries out in a loud voice: Kya kya kya kya!

And way down in the gorge, two small ears perk up, and a small bleating is heard.  A lost little lamb, whose foot is trapped by a boulder.

The man has seen the lamb, and moves towards it, crying out again: kya kya kya!

And the lamb cries out again, more desperately, more frantically.

The man comes close, frees the lamb, drapes this stinky, wayward sheep around his neck and carries it home.

The lamb was scared and hurting, alone, thinking that his shepherd had forgotten him, until he heard the unique voice of his shepherd, and he began to call out.  Here I am!  Come find me!

Even though the lamb was frightened, he knew that he could trust his shepherd.

This kind of trust can only be gained one way - by a shepherd touching his sheep - carrying them, handling them, tending them, feeding them…so much that he begins to SMELL like them.

A shepherd is someone who lives with the sheep.

A shepherd is someone who knows each sheep by name…nurturing the young, bandaging the wounded, caring for the weak, protecting them all.

A shepherd must…simply put…SMELL LIKE SHEEP.

IF WE WANT TO SHEPHERD CHRIST’S CHURCH, WE MUST BE WILLING TO SMELL LIKE SHEEP.   THIS MEANS WE MUST BE PREPARED TO

  1. Suffer and to 

  2. Serve

 

If We Want To Shepherd Christ’s Church, We Must Be Willing to Smell Like Sheep.  We Must Be Prepared To Suffer.

One of the most popular images of Jesus that we have in our minds is that of the Good Shepherd.  Jesus and a sheep.  It just…FITS.

But in no children’s Bible I’ve ever seen, no piece of medieval art that I’ve come across…has there EVER been a Pharisee linked to a sheep…except perhaps, in its slaughter.

But to imagine a Pharisee side by side with a sheep, caring for it…this just seems impossible.  The Pharisees were too high and mighty to care for sheep.  Leave that for the peasants.  Leave that for the shepherds…poor, dirty, ceremonially unclean…shepherds…

This isn’t a picture of a Pharisee…but isn’t it the PERFECT PICTURE of our Saviour?

Jesus left the comforts of heaven and came into our universe, into our pasture…to smell like sheep!  Jesus sweated like we do…He walked our pathways, braved our wolves, faced our temptations, shared our struggles.

The Holy One of Israel came to be our good shepherd.  He came to lay down His life to the sheep.

And this is the lesson that Jesus tried to teach His disciples, time after time.

In our text, we see Jesus reminding His disciples of this, yet again.

Verse 32 - And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them.  And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.  And taking the twelve again, He began to tell them what was going to happen to Him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him over to the Gentiles.  And they will mock Him and spit on Him, and flog Him and kill Him. And after three days, He will rise.

This is the third time in the gospel according to Mark that Jesus tells them what will happen.

  • The first time, in Mark 8, Peter refuses to accept this, and takes Jesus aside and rebukes Him.

  • The second time, in Mark 9, the disciples do not understand, but are too afraid to ask.

  • And now, the third time, in Mark 10, Jesus explains in great detail what will happen…and it seems that it once again falls on deaf ears.

What Jesus is saying here, and we see that because of the end of our text…what Jesus is saying here is not only about the gospel of salvation.

Of course it is about the gospel, first and foremost, but it is also an example.  Jesus is showing that what He is doing, how He is leading His people, is the way the church must be run.

If this can happen to the Greatest One…the Chosen One…the Messiah…GOD HIMSELF…then you’re not too good for it to happen to you.  You aren’t above this kind of treatment.

Mark bookends this narrative with statements to this effect.

Verse 43 -  But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

This is what it means to be a shepherd.  This is what it means to be a leader.

But…the disciples…like everyone else in the book of Mark…they don’t understand.

In the gospel according to Mark…nobody understands.  This is the theme throughout.

  • Jesus is misunderstood, even by those closest to Him.

  • The disciples continually wonder who He is

  • Mark’s account ends with the disciples fleeing from the empty tomb in fear.

James and John do not seem to understand…for they take THIS MOMENT…this moment when Jesus is explaining that following Him isn’t easy…when Jesus is explaining that He is walking to His suffering and death…like a shepherd, about to lay down his life for his dirty, helpless sheep…. And they take THIS MOMENT to ask Him a favor.  And it’s not a small one!

Verse 35 - And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to Him and said to Him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”  And He said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?”  And they said to Him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

Jesus was all about love.  The suffering, showing grace and mercy at all costs…being willing to LAY DOWN HIS LIFE for His sheep…but James and John have their priorities elsewhere.

Jesus is going to be a King…maybe in Jerusalem, maybe in heaven…there’s going to be a lot of glory there…and He could use a right hand man…literally.  He could use a right hand man and a left hand man.  If not us, then who?  Peter?  Oh…yeah…maybe Peter.  Let’s claim this spot for ourselves before Peter gets it!

James and John…don’t get it.  They weren’t really listening to what Jesus was saying.

Instead of looking to the shepherds, they looked instead to how the Pharisees rule - they sit on Moses’ seat…they preach and do not practice.  They tie of heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger…they love the place of honour at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called Rabbi by others.  They looked to the Pharisees and to the Gentiles for examples of leadership.

And there is one example in history for Gentile leadership that really takes the cake, so to speak.

Emperor Galba.  Have you heard of him before?

According to some sources, Galba made a little ascension speech when he became emperor…a very short speech.  This is what he said, “Now that I’m emperor, I get to do anything I want to anyone I want!”

And he did…and he was only emperor for 6 months before he was assassinated.

And James and John were seeking honour and glory.  Authority in a way that is not appropriate for the church.

Back to verse 35 - James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to Him and said to Him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”  And He said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?”

What do you want?

Jesus KNOWS what they want.  Jesus KNOWS that they weren’t listening properly to what He was saying previously, or at least not understanding it.

But He asks them what they want, because this is WHO GOD IS.

He does not shame us for our desires…we were made as creatures who desire.  As creatures who love, as creatures who strive.

We were made to strive for greatness.  We were made in the image of God!  He did not create us for little things.

The problem is not the DESIRE of James and John.  That’s not the issue here.

The problem isn’t the DESIRE for greatness…it’s the DEFINITION of greatness.

 

James and John are looking for glory without the grit.

They are looking for the crown without the cross.

 

But what they don’t realize is that this isn't greatness.  This isn’t true greatness.

And we’ll get there later, in our second point.  True greatness is service.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

They think that they can be great without the cost.

They said to Him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

Now…without Jesus’ response and the following conversation, we might think that this request, though weighty, might come from a place of faith.  Let’s not be too hard on James and John.

After all, the Zebedee brothers are recognizing that Jesus is King!  They are recognizing that Jesus WILL be in glory one day!  Their eyes are turned upwards!

But Jesus’ answer reveals the heart of these disciples.

Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.  Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?

Jesus is gently rebuking James and John.

Were you not listening to what I JUST SAID?  My path is one of suffering.

The Son of Man will be delivered over the chief priests and the scribes and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him over to the Gentiles.

Don’t you know that glory walks hand in hand with suffering?

And they will mock Him and spit on Him and flog Him and kill Him.

What you are asking for…it doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  There is NO GLORY without suffering.  There is no crown without a cross.

 

And so I ask you this morning, is it worth the cost?

Is your service worth the cost?

Are you able to drink the cup?

Are you willing to suffer? 

You don’t have to WANT the cup…suffering doesn’t have to be the truest desire of your heart.  Nobody actually WANTS a cross…not even Christ.  He bore the cross, despising the shame, for the joy that was set before Him.  He asked for it to be removed from Him…but He was still WILLING.

And, Jesus says…those who serve in His church, they will live lives like Him.

Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.

James and John would pay the cost of leadership in the kingdom.  They would drink the cup…and the cup, the cost was their lives.

James was the first apostle killed.  We read in Acts 12 that James was beheaded.

According to legend, John was first boiled in oil, and when that didn’t kill him, he too was beheaded.

And this was true for all of them.  They would all suffer and die.  Every disciple there that day would drink the cup.  But here’s the thing…when they died…they weren’t dying for the glory anymore.  They weren’t suffering out of selfishness…but they had been transformed from frightened confused children into bold and powerful men…motivated, not by love of self, but by love of Christ.  Not by self-glorification, but God-glorification.  They died, joyfully, to bring the most honour and glory to their beloved Saviour.

Now…as office-bearers of this church, it is unlikely that the cup that you must drink, the baptism with which you must be baptized with…it is unlikely that this will look like death or imprisonment.

But you will drink a cup.

And your cup might look like sorrow.  As elders and deacons, you are being put in a position where you come across the wounds in this congregation.  You will encounter sorrowful people, and you will share in the sorrow of a life that isn’t the way it was supposed to be.  You will smell like sheep…and sheep don’t always smell the nicest.

Your cup might look like frustration.  As elders and deacons, you are being put in a position where you will encounter pushback.  You are being put in a position where you are a lightning rod for everything that goes wrong in the church…and you will encounter those who oppose your ideas, and it might feel that they oppose you as a person.  You will live with some pretty stubborn sheep.

Your cup might look like loneliness.  As elders and deacons, you are being put in a position where you will encounter things that you must keep confidential.  Sometimes even from your wife.  You might feel alone in your task.

Now, are any of these things FAIR?

  • SHOULD you have to encounter sorrow?  No!  In the church, the sorrowful should be actively comforted, those you encounter should already be receiving support and comfort.  But that’s not how a fallen world operates.

  • SHOULD you have to encounter frustration?  No!  In the church, we should all be pulling in the same direction.  Ideally leadership would function, most of the time, like an improv show.  We don’t say “no” but we say “Yes AND” and we build off of each other’s ideas.  But that’s not how it goes.

  • SHOULD you have to encounter loneliness?  No!  You’re together as a team, no man is an island…and yet…sometimes you are.

It’s not FAIR that glory goes hand in hand with suffering.  But it does.  This is the kingdom of Jesus Christ.  This is the life of a shepherd.

And know…please know, current office-bearers, future office-bearers, Christians here, called to live this life of suffering…just as you are called to suffer for each other…Jesus Christ suffered for you.

He did it first, He did it best.

When He calls you to be strong in the face of someone else’s weakness and sin…know that He is strong in your weakness and sin.  The true power of a Christian is found in the One He serves.

And a shepherd is not a ruler.  A shepherd is not a tyrant.  Instead, a shepherd is one who serves.  One who serves selflessly, sometimes without recognition.  Our second point.

Now, of course, the other disciples hear about what James and John were trying to do, and they were none too pleased.

Verse 41 - And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.

But we can see that their indignance was not righteous indignance…for Jesus had to teach all of them the same lesson, yet again.

The ten were indignant because James and John had the audacity to ask what they themselves wanted to ask Jesus.  The twelve needed instruction, just as we need instruction.

This isn’t the way that life in the kingdom operates.

  • We aren’t a BUSINESS…we’re a FAMILY.

  • We aren’t run by CEOS…it’s pastors.  And though that’s a title usually reserved for ME in MY ROLE…it’s truly a title for all office-bearers, because it literally means SHEPHERD.  And that is why I dearly love it.  More than Reverend, which has to do with respect, more than Domine, which has the flavor of authority…but it is PASTOR that I love and seek to live up to.

Indeed, what Jesus does…what He has always done…is SUBVERT EXPECTATIONS.

This is done all the time in films:

  • The villain turns out to be the hero’s father

  • The mysterious alien planet turns out to be Earth the whole time

  • The main character has actually been dead the whole time

We live in the UPSIDE-DOWN KINGDOM of Jesus Christ.  A kingdom where the first will be last and the last will be first.  A kingdom where the meek will inherit the earth.  The upside-down kingdom of a rejected king, a suffering Saviour.

In a way…God subverts expectations.

But in another way…the fact that our expectations continue to be subverted, again and again, says more about US than it does about God.

Because with God…He is different from what WE expect…but He is always the same.

His character hasn’t COMPLETELY CHANGED…as though He was set up as ONE KIND OF GOD and then turned out to be a DIFFERENT KIND OF GOD ALTOGETHER.

Yahweh is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.  If we are continually surprised when He shows grace to those who don’t deserve it…that’s on us.

If we are continually surprised that He doesn’t favor the rich or the intelligent or the powerful…if we are continually surprised that authority means sacrifice…then maybe we need to know God a little better.

And we CAN.  He WILL show us again.  He WILL teach us again…because He is so patient!

Four times in the previous two chapters, Jesus has taught His disciples about humility.  But here in this text, He’s willing to do it a fifth time.  He’s patient with them.  He’s persistent with them.  They don’t get it..so He repeats Himself.  He repeats Himself until they understand.

You can get that sense of camaraderie here, in verse 42.

And Jesus called them to Him and said to them.

Essentially saying… “okay gents, we’re doing this again.  Huddle up.”  Arms are put around shoulders.

Jesus called them to Him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  But it shall not be so among you.  But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.

Notice what is here, and what isn’t here.

James and John, and all the rest desire to BE GREAT.

And this is a desire that is programmed into us from birth.  Nobody is born wishing that they could just blend into the background.  Nobody wants to be forgotten and unnoticed by everyone.  In our own ways, we want to be great.  We want to have an influence.  Not all of us want to be public figures…but being a GREAT friend, or a GREAT father…being remembered, making our mark on the world…we ALL want this.

And this does not change when God gets a hold of your life.  It doesn’t have to change…instead what happens is that greatness is flipped on its head.  The upside-down kingdom.  

GREATNESS IS HUMILITY.

AUTHORITY IS SUBMISSION.

LEADERSHIP IS SERVICE.

These are the kind of things that our God desires us to have.  All of us, but especially those in positions of authority.

Because office-bearers have more opportunity to misuse what we have been given.

With great power comes great responsibility.

Because with great power comes a great opportunity for corruption.

And so Jesus says, emphatically: BUT IT SHALL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU.

NEVER in my church.

NEVER NEVER NEVER.

Whoever would great great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.

This is what leadership looks like in the church.

When we enter that consistory room, when we enter that council room…it’s not about US anymore.  It CAN’T BE about us.  It’s about the flock.  Every meeting must be centered around the question: How can we best serve the flock in our care?  How can we be the best shepherds?  How can we be THE MOST Christlike?

Serving…leadership…means that we follow the example of Christ, and we submit to the leadership of Christ.

Because, as Peter puts it…Peter who was there that day when Christ gave this lesson…shepherd the flock of God that is among you…not domineering, but being examples to the flock.  And when the CHIEF SHEPHERD appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

We are shepherds…but we are not the chief shepherd.  As we expect the flock to submit to our good leadership, we must submit to Christ’s good leadership.

And what did His leadership look like ultimately?

We read it in John 10 - the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

And we read it in Mark 10 - For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

And so I ask you, fellow pastors, fellow shepherds of the flock of God…are you willing to do what it takes to be faithful? Are you willing to follow Christ’s lead?

Are you willing to lay aside your pride and humbly serve those under your care?

Are you willing to sacrifice anything that needs to be sacrificed for the safety and health and growth of Christ’s sheep?

__________

If this seems too much for you…that’s a good sign.  If you would say “YES” too quickly, I might have concerns.

For none of us can do this in our own strength.

Because for all the talk of shepherds…we are…all of us…at heart…truly sheep.  Sheep - frightened and weak.

We are, all of us, sheep in the great flock of the Shepherd.

Members and leaders alike.

We aren’t too different from each other.  There isn’t something that happens when we walk into that consistory room, when suddenly we sit in the pews up front…there is not a change.  No “us” vs. “them.”  As leaders we are still the sheep trapped at the bottom of the gorge, bleating for help.  Bleating for rescue.  Bleating for salvation.

And no matter who you are, no matter what your struggle…the Great Shepherd hears.  He hears us and He saves us.

There is no road too difficult for Him to travel

There is no cost too great for Him to pay for the lives and the flourishing of His sheep.

Brothers, on the verge of installation…this is a heavy task you have been called to.  You will encounter difficulty.  You will be tempted to lead poorly, run from the task, or both.  But Jesus Christ Himself has called you…and those whom He has called, He will also equip.

Just as Jesus had patience with His disciples, just as He gently encouraged them and strengthened them, showing them love and grace…He will do the same for you.

Jesus has patience with us all.  Not every one of us will be involved in leadership in the church.  That’s not the call of God to each one of us.  But He does call all of us to be CHRISTIANS.  He does call all of us to SERVE where and when we can.  To be LIVING MEMBERS.

He calls all of us, young and old, male and female, to act selflessly.  To serve.  To live lives worthy of the calling to which we are called.

These young men, fumbling about in fear and confusion were made into the pillars of the early church, standing before kings and emperors, guiding the flock of God through persecution and terror, standing firm in the face of death.

They did so, not because of their greatness, but because of the greatness of their God.

The God that you and I share.  The God who fills us with strength and wisdom for the task ahead.

He is my loving Shepherd and yours…and we have the honour, the joy, the privilege, of offering that same shepherding to those under our care.

So I urge you, brothers, as you live and work among your sheep…be willing to smell like them.  Because true shepherds smell like sheep.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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