“he goes on ahead of them” John 10:4 (NIV)
As we read the four Gospels it is fascinating how many of the names for God and metaphors for God used in the Old Testament, Jesus claims for Himself. In John 10 Jesus uses a metaphor for Himself. He says He is the “good Shepherd” in the context of our verse. Yet in the Old Testament David in the immortal Psalm 23 says that the Creator God was his shepherd. The audacity of Jesus in claiming for Himself the images that belonged to God alone in the Hebrew Bible is stunning if true and a lie if untrue.
However we believe Jesus is our creator God and accept His references to Himself as the only, the “good Shepherd”. He is the all wise, all loving, all gracious, Sovereign of the universe. This is the one who claims to walk ahead of His people throughout their lives on this earth. Imagine for a moment that every step you take in life, Jesus was there just ahead of you. This sovereign God who knows all things and loves you so much has walked your path a few moments before you and knows exactly what is coming to His beloved sheep.
This puts perspective on our journey in this life. Jesus is checking the way before me and sees everything that will come my way. He will make sure that nothing on the path will destroy me or overcome me in any manner. Always, with the issues of life that I experience, the Good Shepherd will either remove the difficulty or else give me the grace to endure it. He knows all about me and understands perfectly what I can and cannot endure.
Knowing that the good Shepherd is walking ahead of His sheep is a most reassuring truth to meditate on in times of difficulty. As part of my pastoral work I attend people shortly before they go into surgery. As I stand by their gurney that will take them to the operating theatre I frequently use this verse to comfort the child of God. I remind them that they are one of Jesus’ chosen sheep. He is their shepherd and as He said in John 10 He goes before them. I suggest the patient concentrate on the thought that as the orderly pushes the gurney down the halls to where the operation will take place, they should think of Jesus walking ahead of the gurney and right into the theatre with them. As they go to sleep Jesus will remain awake and guide the surgeon’s hand so that the need will be met just as the Lord determines.
So many people have told me after their operation that this thought brought much comfort and peace to them at such a challenging time.
What we really need to ask ourselves if we want to benefit from this truth about Jesus going before us is, “Am I one of Jesus’ sheep?” Sometimes we can fool ourselves into thinking we belong to Jesus when we don’t. In the context for the verse for today we read Jesus’ description of His sheep. Jesus said that His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. He goes on to say that His sheep will not follow a stranger but will flee from everyone else except Himself.
So if you want to know if you are a Christian you need to ask yourself if you are truly following Jesus. No one has any authority to say they are a Christian or one of Jesus’ sheep unless they walk in Jesus’ way. This is the acid test of belonging to Jesus. Jesus would never impose Himself on those who do not follow Him. If anyone chooses to walk a different path they have made their choice and must accept the consequences of ignoring this good Shepherd.
However, the good things that come to those who follow Jesus are many as described in the beloved Psalm 23. These people find all their needs supplied by a sovereign God who orders all things after the counsel of His own will. There are material needs supplied, peace amidst the storms of life, even the shadow of death holds no fear for the sheep. They know the Shepherd will cause al things to come together for good to them. They will never fail reaching heaven and the eternal presence of the Lord. They shall dwell with Him for all eternity.
As the good Shepherd goes ahead of His sheep do you have assurance He is a step ahead of you? If not why not? This wonderful Shepherd does not stop you from coming to Him. Instead He calls to everyone to come and receive from His hand eternal blessings. Come and come now.