The Credentials of Our Lord
Men must have a leader, and how ready they are to follow any upstart who can make enough promises of good times to come, and how constantly disappointed and deceived they are by those they follow. That must be the experience through life of all, until they find and follow the true Leader, the One whom God has appointed to be the Shepherd and Leader of men.
There is an old text which used to be quoted a great deal more by Gospel preachers in former days than it is now; it runs like this, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.” Those solemn words were true of every one of us once; they are true today of every man who has not listened to the voice of the God-appointed Shepherd of His sheep. Yes, whether you follow some demagogue with the silly crowd, or choose a leader from the learned amongst men, or refuse to be cajoled by any, and tread an independent road of your own, you go astray. You can only tread the paths of righteousness which end in the eternal glory of God as you follow the One whom God has ordained to be your Leader.
The question is of first importance; the eternal welfare of our souls depends upon our having the right Leader, and God has not been indifferent to this. He promised in the Old Testament Scriptures that He would raise up the One we need, One who would be able to combine in Himself faithfulness to God and mercy to us, and it is for us to search and see how wonderfully His promise has been fulfilled, in the 10th chapter of John, the Lord Jesus presents to us His credentials. He tells us that He is the Shepherd, the Leader, and I propose to examine with you His credentials so that we may prove whether He is the One who should come or whether we should look for another.
1. HE COMES IN BY THE DOOR
“He that entereth in by the door is the Shepherd of the sheep” (John 10:2).
The door is the appointed way of entrance, and in the first place we ask, Is Jesus indeed the Christ, and did He come in by the appointed way? Did He come in the way in which God said He would in the Old Testament Scriptures? Did He fulfil the ancient word? Let us see. He is introduced to us in Matthew’s Gospel; but how shall we know that it is He of whom wonderful things were foretold? Well, He must be the Son of a virgin daughter of David’s royal house; for seven centuries before He came Isaiah had prophesied that the Great Sign of God’s intervention on behalf of men would be that “A virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14). And Matthew gives us the fulfilment of this, for the angel of the Lord appeared unto Joseph in a dream, saying, “Thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfiled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet” (1:20-22)—and will the critic please mark that it was the Lord that spoke in those prophecies. Thus we have the manner of His birth in full accord with the prophetic word.
Then the place of His birth was predicted by another prophet of God, and the visit of the wise men from the East, and their mistaken notion that He who was the king of the Jews most necessarily be born in their capital city, is used to call our attention to the fulfilment of this. For the Scribes, when Herod demanded of them where Christ should be born, said, “In Bethlehem of Judaea, for thus it is written by the prophet, and thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel” (2:5-6).
Here we have indicated the place of His birth. And let us remember that the home of Joseph and Mary was in Galilee, and it was an Imperial decree that carried them to the royal city according to the prophetic word. The empurpled Caesar little thought when he vaunted his world-wide authority in this way that he was bringing to pass the will of God and demonstrating the fact that the Scriptures are inspired by God; yet so it was. But what a tale of grace is here unfolded; this decree caused Mary and Joseph to be homeless strangers in Bethlehem, with no shelter but a stable, and no bed but a manger, when the holy Christ was born.
But at this point a problem faces us. Micah had said that Bethlehem was to be the place of the birth of Christ, but fifty years earlier Hosea had spoken the word of God saying, “I . . . called my son out of Egypt.” This problem, however, is solved by the fact that the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and warned him that Herod would seek the young child’s life. So be arose and “he took the young child and His mother by night, and departed into Egypt” (2:14). And when this was done we read, “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet [note again that the Lord is the speaker] saying, Out of Egypt have I called My Son” (2:15).
We should have thought that the birth of the long-promised Deliverer would have filled the land with joy, but instead Jeremiah had spoken of lamentation and bitter weeping. This also was fulfilled when Herod in his determination to destroy Jesus commanded that all the children in Bethlehem under the age of two should be slain, for we read, “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not” (2:17-18).
Again, He was to be despised by the great and haughty of the land; hence Joseph did not return to the royal Bethlehem from Egypt, but turned aside to the despised Nazareth, “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene” (2:23).
It would be a pleasant task to continue showing how that step by step in His life from the manger to the cross Jesus answered to the word, fulfilling the law and the prophets. And specially so at the cross. See how all the sufferings and shame of crucifixion are detailed in Psalm 22, when, as it has been pointed out, crucifixion was not a Jewish mode of execution. The crucifixion of our Lord Jesus could not have been anticipated by David’s or by any other Hebrew mind; it was God who inspired that prophetic psalm, and the Gospels give us the fulfilment of it in Christ’s death.
A history of the Lord might be compiled from these Old Testament Scriptures. To do so would be an interesting and profitable study, and I commend it to the young Christians present.
The Apostle Peter divided the prophetic Scriptures into two parts: first, the sufferings of Christ, then the glories that should follow, and every jot and tittle that spoke of His sufferings has been fulfilled, “for thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer.” In like manner every word that speaks of the glory to follow shall also be fulfilled. He shall reign in righteousness, and the whole earth shall be full of His glory.
The first proof then that this is “He of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write” is that in His coming, His life, and His death, He fulfilled the word that was spoken of Him.
2. HE IS GOD
It is clear from those Old Testament Scriptures which speak of the Shepherd that He is God the Creator. Take Isaiah 40 as an example, “Say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! . . . He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arms, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and meted out the heaven with a span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?” Can the lowly Nazarene, who was despised by the people, be indeed the Shepherd, so infinitely great and yet so good and gentle, as is described in this glorious Scripture? Well, in our chapter twice over He says, “I am the good Shepherd,” and in so saying He declared that He was God.
It is said by the religious enemies of the truth of the Person of Jesus that He did not lay claim to Deity in the Synoptic Gospels, and that the “author of the Fourth Gospel” cannot be trusted. But they who thus talk read the Gospel with blind hearts; the truth as to the Lord’s deity is woven into the very texture of all the Gospels, just as the gold was woven with the blue and scarlet and fine twined linen in the ephod of Aaron, and to tear it out would leave the whole fabric of them nothing more than useless rags. And here in this tenth chapter of John He declares His deity, for here we have not the words of His disciples about Him, even though their words were inspired by the Holy Spirit, but His own words about Himself. He says, “I am the good Shepherd” and the Shepherd of Israel was the Almighty Creator of the heavens and the earth. He also says, “I and My Father are One.”
Whatever modernists may think of this declaration the Jews had no doubt as to the meaning of it, for they took up stones to stone Him for blasphemy, saying, “Thou being a man makest thyself God.” If we believe that the truth flowed from His lips without adulteration, we must accept this word as it stands; we have no alternative; to refuse it is to brand our Lord as the supreme impostor of all time. But let us examine this declaration, for it must be owned that for a man to make it opens up a tremendous question. If He was not what He said He was, those Jews were right when they took up those stones to cast at Him; if He lied He was neither God nor from God, for “it is impossible for God to lie.”
He makes another declaration in this chapter which will help us here, and I claim your special attention for it. He says, “Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself, I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father” (vv. 17-18). What man who ever lived but He could make such a statement? No man taketh my life from me! That means that it was impossible for men to slay Him; in intent they did it, on their part no effort was spared to bring Him down to death, but when they had done all He voluntarily laid down His life as a sacrifice for sin. He did not die by the violence of men, nor by any natural cause. I know the popular hymn says, “He died of a broken heart.” It is not true. But was not His heart broken? Yes, it was. But He lived with that broken heart. Yes, the lowly Man of Sorrows stretched forth His hands in earnest entreaty to men all the day long, and they answered Him with reproach and rejection. And His tender heart was broken by their conduct; but He lived until His hour was come; then He yielded up His life as a sacrifice for sin, so that when the soldiers came to close up the work of that brutal day, they marvelled that He was dead already. One act on their part alone remained to be done, and that was to pierce His sacred side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. “And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe” (John 19:35). But why this care to emphasize the fact that blood and water flowed forth? Well, if the Lord had not been dead, and if the spear thrust had slain Him, blood only would have been seen; the blood and water proved that the spear was thrust into the side of a dead Christ; He had already yielded up His life.
In His own power and right, and yet in obedience to His Father’s commandment, He yielded up His life; and, by that same power and right, and according to that same commandment, He has taken His life up again. Death has met its Master, the power of the grave has been brought to naught, the gates of the morning were lifted up for Him, and the King of Glory, the Lord of Hosts, sits now in the glory where He was before, glorified with the glory that He had with the Father before the world began and thus is proved the truth of His word, “I and My Father are One.” “How do you know that Jesus is God?” asked a scoffer of a recently saved sinner. “How do I know that Jesus is God?” came the answer; “why, He saved me.” Yes, He is the Saviour and Shepherd. We who are saved know the tenderness of His Shepherd care. We have proved in our own experience that He is the Shepherd, and who can the Shepherd be but the Lord?—the Lord triumphant over death, who laid down His life for the sheep.
3. HE MUST SAVE HIS SHEEP FROM EVERY THREATENING FOE
To whom do the sheep belong?
They belong to God. We might spend much time and gain much profit in searching out the Scriptures that declare this. One comes readily to the mind. In Acts 20:28, Paul, the Apostle, speaks of the blood-purchased Church of God as the flock. In our chapter Jesus claims them as His, but to establish that claim He had to meet the foe and take them from his power. The hireling, whose own the sheep are not, will not suffer to save the sheep; but the Shepherd, who loves them with a never- dying love, will face every foe and every question on their behalf. He became a Man that He might die for them, for they lay under the condemnation of death, and only His death could deliver them from this; and by dying He destroyed him that had the power of death, which is the devil, and so He has delivered them from the bondage in which they were held.
“When blood from a victim must flow,
This Shepherd by pity was led
To stand between us and the foe,
And willingly died in our stead.”
Oh, my hearers, death rolled like a mighty flood between us and eternal blessing. No leader could be of any use to us, but one who could subdue those awful waves and make a way through them along which we could travel out of death into life. This Christ has done by His dying.
“He Satan’s power laid low;
Made sin, sin’s reign o’erthrew;
Sowed to the grave, destroyed it so,
And death by dying slew.”
The great prophet Isaiah anticipated this great victory for the flock of God when he cried, “Art Thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?” And the answer comes “I am the Lord thy God, that divided the sea, whose waves roared: the Lord of hosts is His Name.”
“Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion, and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away” (Isa. 51).
4. HE MUST PRESERVE THEM FOR EVER, SO THAT NONE OF THEM PERISH
This also He declares that He will do. How full of comfort are His words. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28).
Here we learn His ability to keep His own, and if He is able all who trust Him must be safe. The hand that holds them is the hand that broke the power of death, it is the hand of a Man in which omnipotence dwells, and so those whom He leads will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. Does not the Psalm say so? “The Lord is my Shepherd. . . I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” Nothing else is possible. The Psalm that begins with “The Lord is my Shepherd” would not be complete if it did not end “in the house of the Lord forever”; for His sheep shall never perish. Yea, though they walk through the valley of the shadow of death, they shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever, for He will not abandon them until He gets them there. How could He, since He paid so great a price for them! How could He, since He has pledged His word that He will hold them in eternal safety!
I beg you to consider well these four great proofs that Jesus is the one and only Shepherd and Leader for us men; there are other proofs of this in this chapter that I might well have brought to your notice, but my time is done. These are enough for my purpose, they prove that our Lord stands without a rival. Invincible love and Almighty power dwell in Him; the tenderest heart and the strongest hand in the universe are His. How matchless is He! How supremely blest are all they who put their trust in Him. They shall never perish but have eternal life, for He changes not, and His love cannot wane.
“I thought His love would weaken
As more and more He knew me
But it burneth like a beacon,
And its light and heat go through me.
And still I hear Him say,
As He goes along His way,
Wandering souls, Oh do come near Me!
My sheep should never fear me,
I am the Shepherd true.”