Pastor Barry Robinson

Letters to the Camberwell Congregation from Pastor Barry Robinson

Easter 2010

Easter 2010

Sermons

Download a PDF version of this letter.

April 2010

Dear Church Family,

Statistically homeowners tend to take better care of their property than those who are renting. It's not a particularly good commentary on human nature, but in general it's true.

Kids get angrier about the misuse of their own toys than they do about their misuse of other's, and adults are a lot more likely to throw rubbish out the window of their car than they are to throw it in their own garden.

The standards we have for our own homes, our own toys, and our own possessions are higher than our standards for the things of others.

That's not good. It's one of the things Jesus came into the world to change (Matthew 7:12; Philippians 2:3–5). But that's the way human nature is apart from the transforming grace of God through Jesus Christ.

Now Jesus understood this and He used it to contrast his commitment to his own sheep with the commitment of hired help.

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. (John10:11–13)

Jesus pictures himself in this text as a shepherd, and he pictures his people as the sheep that he owns and cares about. He then contrasts the way the owner responds to wolves and the way the hired help responds.

To the hired hand sheep tending is just a job. They don't really care about the sheep. They are doing this to earn a living, not because they love the sheep. So they say, "No job is worth your life. If you're just working for a living, then you sure don't need a job that might kill you."

So if a pack of wolves attacks your sheep, and you're just a hired hand, you run. You don't risk your life and fight the wolves. Who cares about a few sheep? Who cares if the place gets trashed; it's not our house anyway.

Now the reason Jesus mentions these hired hands, is to show that he's not like that. He's not a hired hand. He's the good shepherd and the owner of the sheep.

"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (V.14)

The difference is that the hired hand loves his life more than the sheep, but Jesus loves his sheep more than his life. Four times in this passage Jesus says he lays down his life for the sheep:

‘…The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep’ (V.11)
‘…I lay down my life for the sheep’ (V.15)
‘The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life…’ (V.17)
‘No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord...’ (V.18)

So Jesus is not a hired hand, because the sheep belong to him and because he loves the sheep more than he loves his own life. When he sees the wolves coming, he does not leave the sheep to be destroyed. He fights the wolves and saves the sheep, and in doing it, he lays down his life for the sheep.

Now what does this all have to do with us as we approach Easter?

If we are the sheep that he loves, what are the wolves? What is it that threatens to destroy us?

Well, there are at least three things, three destroying wolves, mentioned in John’s gospel that Jesus lays down his life to save us from.

The first of these is the wolf of sin. In John 1:29 it says of Jesus,

‘…"Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’

Sin is a wolf that destroys the world and cuts us off from God. So Jesus came into the world to draw the wolf of sin off the world onto himself, and to die in the place of his sheep. When the good shepherd sacrifices himself for the flock, he becomes like a Lamb and bears the sin of many (Isaiah 53:6–12).

The second and third wolves are death and divine judgment. Death is a great destroyer. It attacks and destroys everyone, great and small, rich and poor, men and women, every race, every creed. It is a wolf of destruction. And after death comes judgment: ‘Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment’ (Hebrews 9:27).

But thankfully Jesus is not a weak shepherd. When those three wolves threaten his sheep, he lays down his life to destroy them and to save us from them.

‘I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life’. (John 5:24)

When Jesus laid down his life for the sheep, he saved us from three destroying wolves: sin and death and judgment. He saw them coming; he went out to meet them; he drew them away from the flock and gave his life to kill them and take away their power so that they could not destroy the flock.

But now, if the story ended here, there would be a great problem. If a flock of sheep lose their shepherd because he laid down his life to save them from a pack of wolves, they are now shepherd less. Even if no more wolves come, they will sooner or later run out of green pasture and wander away into the desert valleys of death and perish. In the end they will not be saved, and the death of the shepherd will have been in vain.

But thankfully the story doesn't end with a mangled shepherd lying dead among three dead wolves, and sheep scattered thirsting and starving in the desert.

‘No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father’ (John 10:18).

When Jesus came into the world to save his sheep from sin and death and judgment, he came with a command from his Father in heaven, and that command was that he should die for sinners and rise again.

With this command came the authority to do it. “I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again”.

He decided by his own authority when he would give himself into the jaws of sin and death and judgment, and after three days, he alone had the authority to take back his life again.

Now it would be clear that Jesus’ battle with sin and death and judgment had not been a draw: With them dead and Him dead. No. He alone had authority as the Son of God to take back his life, and therefore he alone was triumphant. Sin and death and judgment can never again destroy the sheep of Jesus.

But not only that; the sheep now have a shepherd. Christianity is not merely being saved from sin and death and judgment; it also means having a living shepherd to guide you, feed you, protect you and help you love. John 1:14-15 shows the depth and intimacy of the relationship we have with our Shepherd:

‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father’

Jesus took his life back again from death so that he might have that kind of personal relationship with all his sheep. The relationship that we enjoy with Jesus is like the relationship between God the Son and God the Father. And there is no deeper, nor more satisfying, relationship in the world than the eternal relationship between God the Father and God the Son.

But there is more. Jesus took back his life from sin and death and judgment not only to prove that he, and not they, was triumphant, and not only to give himself to his sheep in the deepest personal relationship, but also because he now has a worldwide mission to fulfil with the very authority with which he rose from the dead.

‘I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd’. (V.16)

Jesus didn't come into the world to lay down his life only for a few Jewish disciples in Palestine. He has other sheep that are not of that fold. He has sheep in Antioch, Rome, and Camberwell.

Jesus is the living Shepherd, triumphant over death, and with authority over the entire world to gather his own sheep from all the peoples of the world. After his resurrection he said,

‘…All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ (Matthew 28:18–19).

Because Jesus moves now through the world with the very authority that raised him from the dead, He cannot be defeated. His sheep will hear his voice and they will become one flock with one shepherd.

The Christian movement began with a dozen men filled with the love and the Spirit of the risen Christ, and today 1.3 billion people from every country of the world give some kind of allegiance to Jesus Christ.

The risen Christ cannot fail. He reigns by virtue of an indestructible life, with absolute authority over every created reality.

The utterly crucial question for us is: Are we Christ's Sheep? Are you one of Christ's sheep today? That is, do you hear his voice? Do you follow him? Do you trust in his saving work and promise of life? This is what it means to be his sheep.

‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand’. (John 10:27–28)

Please listen to the voice of Jesus, and follow him when he calls you to trust him, then you will not come into judgment but will pass from death into life (John 5:24).

With love in Jesus’ name,

Barry Robinson
Pastor

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PS

Below is the schedule of services for the Easter period. Please note we will be at a different venue for these services.

Sermon Schedule for Easter 2010

  1. Maundy Thursday 1st April – 7.30pm
  2. Good Friday 2nd April – 2.00pm
    God in the hands of angry sinners’ – (Various Scriptures surrounding the crucifixion)
  3. Easter Sunday 4th April - 3.00pm
    How do you view the Resurrection?’ – (Acts 25)
    Including: Lord's Supper and a WCG Offering.

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