Letters to the Prison - Week 106

Hello, friends!  We hope you’ve decided to join our study.  If you need a Bible, ask for one!
Last week, we looked at Jesus’ stunning claim in John 10:11a (“I am the good shepherd”).
That was only the first half of that “bombshell” statement.  Look what he says next:
•The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  -John 10:11b
If you’ve been reading in Ezekiel 34, you probably noticed that in verses 11-16, God (the Good Shepherd whom Jesus claims to be) describes in detail what he will do for his “sheep” (his people).  But you probably also noticed that, while God makes a lot of promises about what he will do, he doesn’t say anything about how he will do what he promises to do.  So, going back to John 10:11, we find Jesus (some 600 years after making his promises) beginning to describe how he plans to fulfill those promises he made so long ago.  
But first, Jesus makes another comparison between the “good shepherd” and the “hired hands” in John 10:12-13.  The hired hands “flee” at the sight of the “wolf” because they “care nothing for the sheep.”  It is interesting also to note at this point that, in Ezekiel 34, God mentions his “servant David” (Ezekiel 34:23-24).  We could spend a long time examining the implications of what is going on in this connection, but for the sake of our discussion consider two major points:
1)David, the great King of Israel (who ruled from 1011-971BC) was indeed a literal shepherd before he reigned as king in Israel, and he did indeed risk his life for the sake of his flock (1 Samuel 17:34-36).  1 Samuel 17 also records how David risked his life to save his people from Goliath –even before he was king.  So, David was a shepherd who risked his life to protect both sheep and people.  Yet Ezekiel wrote God’s promises about a “Good shepherd” between 590-570BC… some 420 years after David’s reign.  So, he wasn’t speaking of King David.  Looking ahead to the future, God was speaking to Ezekiel of a descendent of King David.
2)The Kings of Israel who were descended from David, and who reigned in the centuries after David died, but before Ezekiel wrote God’s promises about the “good shepherd” were, by and large, the sort of “hired hands” God was against in Ezekiel 34:1-10.  They “cared nothing for the sheep.”  This was also true of the descendant of David who was on the throne when Ezekiel wrote his prophecy.  So, none of these descendants of the “servant David” fulfilled the prophecy, either.  So, God’s word through Ezekiel looked forward to a future descendant of David --who happens to be Jesus (See Matthew 1 and Luke 3 for Jesus’ genealogy as traced from his mother, Mary and Joseph, her husband).
So, Jesus, the Descendant of God’s “servant, David,” is claiming to be the fulfillment of God’s promise through Ezekiel to personally appear as the “Good Shepherd” to rescue his people.
And his plan is to rescue them by “laying his life down for the sheep.”  Jesus isn’t just going to risk his life like David did.  He’s going to “lay his life down” for the sake of his people (“the sheep”).  This idea is so important that Jesus says it yet again in John 10:14-15 (“I am the good shepherd… I lay down my life for the sheep”).  But Jesus has more to add to this mind-blowing claim in those verses.  We’ll see when we continue our study next week.  We love you!

Dean A.

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