John 10:11

I am the good shepherd:
the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

~ John 10:11

The sheep have known no better time than when the Good Shepherd was revealed. For years God’s people had been led astray. Their religious leaders were nothing more than hirelings. They cared not for the sheep. They did not do the things they did out of a motive of love and compassion. They loved the applause of men and sought it at every turn. “Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts” (Lu 20:46). They held to the traditions of men and “made the commandment of God of none effect.” Their teaching was not for the glory of God and the edification of the people. They rather hoped to bring men into compliance with their own whims and narrow standards.

They were also hypocrites. Jesus spoke of them plainly saying, “They say and do not.” They claimed to be the interpreters of the Law of God, but were themselves not subject to the Law. The sheep were not in real safety under the leadership of the hirelings. They would flee at the first sign of trouble. They certainly were not willing to “spend and be spent” in service. But, all hope is not lost. The Good Shepherd has come. Jesus declares, “I am the good shepherd.” The Good Shepherd tends, leads, feeds, and cares for the sheep. He is moved with love and compassion and is tender toward them. He will not flee. He will never forsake. In fact, He gave His life for the sheep.

More than once in John chapter 10, Christ states that He lays His life down. In verses 17 and 18 He says, “I lay down my life…. no man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.” He was certainly no hired shepherd. He did it all willingly and lovingly. He was not coerced. He obligated Himself. So, He willingly laid His life down. Let us consider how that Jesus laid down His life in two ways.

Firstly, He laid down His life in a selfless act of service. Paul states of Christ, “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Ph 2:7). He laid down His life in self-denial. He did not have His own agenda. He was not seeking the praise of men. He did not go about trying to make Himself more comfortable, rich, powerful, honored, or famous. We read in Matthew 4:23, “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” And again in Acts 10:38, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” He made it clear that He did not come to earth to do His own will. He came “to seek and to save that which was lost.” He humbled Himself and became a servant. He laid down His life. He laid it aside and did not serve Himself.

Secondly, He laid down His life as a sacrifice. His obedience had no bounds. He was “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” He gave it all. He kept nothing back. The hymn writer wrote,

I gave my life for thee, My precious blood I shed,
That thou might’st ransomed be, And quickened from the dead;
I suffered much for thee, More than thy tongue can tell,
Of bitterest agony, To rescue thee from hell;

He was slain, but it was from the foundation of the world. He was not overtaken and forced. He willingly laid down His life. He made no objection while He was lifted up from the earth. Praise God, what a Shepherd! This story is amazing and it makes us wonder,

Love sent my Savior to die in my stead,
Meekly to Calvary’s cross He was led,
Nails pierced His hands and His feet for my sin,
He suffered sore my salvation to win,
O how He agonized there in my place,
Nothing withholding my sin to efface,
Why should He love me so? (Adapted JFS)

He died in order to pay for the sins of the sheep and gain for them eternal life. What wondrous love is this? Praise God for the Good Shepherd that loves the sheep and was willing to suffer for them.

Leviticus 1:8-9

And the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat,
in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar:
But his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water:
and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice,
an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.
~ Leviticus 1:8-9

The burnt offering was a sweet savor offering. It was not an offering for sin to appease just wrath. It was rather an offering of worship to please God. God also had offerings that were for sin. We see from this that man has a two-fold problem. He owes divine justice for his transgression of the holy law. He also owes the holiness of God to fulfill all righteousness. There is a negative and a positive side. Now the offerings prefigure Christ, the one that was to come. We read in Ephesians 5:2, “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” Christ did satisfy divine justice, suffering for sin. He also pleased the Father, walking in righteousness.

In particular now, the burnt offering is the object of our attention. And in this offering, certain aspects of the service of Jehovah’s servant can be seen. Let us now note how some of the particulars here are related to service. We are considering the highest grade of the offering, which was a bullock. The ox was a laboring beast and very strong. The picture is of Christ as an untiring servant always working the works of the Father that sent Him. Peter spoke of Christ, saying He “went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” He was always busy doing the work. Oftentimes He was so involved in service that He had “no leisure so much as to eat.”

God gave directions for every part of the animal to be used. He mentions the head, the fat, the legs, and the inwards. We see from this that our whole man is to be involved in this service. The head speaks of the intelligence. We must learn and grow if we are to serve God acceptably. The fat speaks of strength, vigor, and vitality. We must put forth an effort and expend our energy. How often was Christ weary and when involved in the work, virtue would go out of Him? The legs speak of our physical body and our walk. Christ went about doing good works. The inwards speak of our heart and soul. Nothing is to be kept back. We must employ all our faculties in God’s service. We read that the entire animal was to be burnt. We are to be consumed in God’s service. It was said of Christ in Psalms 69:9, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” Oh, to spend and be spent should be our aim.

The bullock was also the highest grade of the offering. The ox was much more valuable than a lamb or turtledoves. The ox was a very valuable animal indeed to the owner. Solomon said, “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox” (Pr 14:4). To own such an animal was very profitable. In making this offering to God, it wasn’t just a bullock that was required, but the male without blemish. It was the best of the herd. We ought to serve God with the very best that we have. We should spare ourselves no expense in His blessed employment. We should be as the woman that came bearing an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard. It was very precious and she poured it out upon the Savior. Christian, what are you keeping back? What is just too precious to let go? Pour it out upon the Lord. Solomon said, “There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt” (Ec 5:13). Take the best that you have and offer it to God. He deserves no less, and a great deal more.

Lastly, we see that the offering was burnt with fire. The fire is the holiness of God. The service meets with God’s holiness and finds His approval. Our text says, “it is a sweet savour unto the LORD.” Note that it pleases the “Lord.” If you serve the Lord in this manner, giving your all, don’t expect your service to be accepted of men. Sometimes even our brethren will question, “To what purpose is this waste?” The Lord’s own family thought that He was beside himself and tried to take Him home. You may be a fanatic to some. But, never mind that, just keep endeavoring to “do always those things that please him.” He is the righteous judge and is able to keep that which we have committed to Him against that day. Great blessings await those that serve in this manner. “To obey is better than sacrifice.” As the hymn writer said,

But we never can prove, The delights of His love,
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, And the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Giving and Living

Giving necessarily involves some sacrifice or it is not really giving in a biblical sense. David refused to offer to God that that cost him nothing. In David’s case, he would merely have been transferring and not giving. Giving means willingly taking something that rightly belongs to us and giving it to another. It comes at some cost to the giver. It was out of “deep poverty” that the Macedonian churches gave to support Paul in the mission work the Lord called him to (2 Corinthians 8:2).

Ironically, this type of giving tends to strengthen rather than weaken the giver. It may seem to us that the opposite would be true, but Solomon avows, “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth” (Proverbs 11:24). This is Scripture truth and practical reality. The greedy hand tries to cling tighter and tighter to what he has and cannot seem to find any room for giving to someone else, but in the end he has less.

The only real living is giving and that by sacrifice. But, let us apply the biblical test to the sacrifice. If the sacrifice harms us, we may be trying to play the martyr rather than giving in line with the life of Christ. Christ sacrificed and gave more than all, but rather than weakening Him, He was strengthened, “being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father” (Acts 2:33).

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