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The Medal of Honor was created during the American Civil War. It is the highest military decoration presented by the United States government to a member of its armed forces. The recipient must have distinguished themselves at the risk of their own life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an "enemy of the United States" or an "opposing foreign force". Due to the nature of this medal, it is commonly presented to the person after they have died. Here are a few stories of Medal of Honor recipients from WWII.
Thomas A. Baker was a Private in the Army. In Saipan on the Marianas Islands, he advanced ahead of his unit with a bazooka and destroyed a Japanese emplacement which was firing on his company. Several days later, he single-handedly attacked and killed two groups of Japanese soldiers. On July 7, 1944, Baker's position came under attack by a large Japanese force. Although seriously wounded early in the attack, he refused to be evacuated and continued to fight in the close-range battle until running out of ammunition. When a comrade was wounded while trying to carry him to safety, Baker insisted that he be left behind. At his request, his comrades left him propped against a tree and gave him a pistol, which had eight bullets remaining. When American forces retook the position, they found the pistol, now empty, and eight dead Japanese soldiers around Baker's body.
George W. G. Boyce, Jr. was a Second Lt. in the Army. On July 23, 1944, after being ambushed by superior enemy forces, he was planning a tactical maneuver with his platoon. During this planning, a hand grenade fell in between him and his men, and he promptly threw himself on the grenade to save his men.
Richard B. Anderson was a Private First Class in the Marines in the Marshall Islands when on February 1, 1944, in a shell crater, he hurled his body on a grenade to save his companions, taking the full impact of the explosion.
These are just a few of the Medal of Honor winners of World War II. These and many more were worthy of the Medal of Honor they received for what they did during that War.
Now I cannot adequately follow that up with a story from my life but as I was growing up in my home church, I was part of a group called Christian Service Brigade. It was like a Christian Boy Scouts and the highest honor was called the Herald of Christ. In all the years my church had this program, no one had ever achieved this award. In my junior year of high school, one of my best friends and I worked through all the book requirements and the service projects to be the first in our church to become a Herald of Christ. I had been deemed worthy of that award by my pastor and my church. It was a very humbling experience.
Now maybe you can think of a time that you were deemed worthy of a promotion at work or an award at school, etc. How many remember or were a part of the Safety Patrol growing up? They wore orange belts and helped other kids cross the street and get on the bus. There were certain requirements to be on the safety patrol. A Safety Patrol member should be responsible, respectful, cooperative, and helpful. They must remain in good academic standing in all subject areas and model good behavioral choices. They were held to a higher standard and those students who wore the “belt” were deemed worthy of being on the safety patrol.
As Christians we are all held to a higher standard by God. Our purpose is that God is glorified by people for all generations and to that end we are all called to “walk worthy.” In Ephesians 4, Paul urges us “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have received.” If our purpose is to display God’s glory and God be glorified through us, then there is a particular way we need to live our lives. As Christians we do not get to act the way we want to act or do what we want to do. We need to surrender our will to God’s will and be willing to obey him with our lives. Our walk is our response to all that God has done for us. You have been called to something great and glorious. Walk worthy of it! That brings us to the first next step on the back of your communication card which is to “walk worthy of the calling that I have received from God.”
This morning we are in chapter 10 verses 1-21. Our scripture this morning is a continuation of the healing of the man born blind from birth in Chapter 9. Chapter 9 ended with the theme of judgement and in chapter 10 Jesus uses a parable to condemn the Pharisees as unworthy rulers of Israel because of their conduct toward the man born blind. As the spiritual leaders of Israel they were responsible for the flock of God but they had shown to be in grievous dereliction of duty. Greene says, “Jesus’ object in giving this parable to those opposed to him was to show them how unfit they were to be leaders and teachers in Israel.”
The background for this parable was Ezekiel 34 where Israel’s rulers are seen as false shepherds and in prophetic vision, God deposes them, seeks out his lost sheep, sets over them a shepherd Messiah of David’s line and delivers his flock from all evil. In John 10, the Pharisees are accused of being thieves and robbers, hirelings and heartless shepherds, and the veiled claim is made that in Christ’s mission God’s promise of deliverance is fulfilled. The shepherd of Ezekiel’s vision has come alive in the person of Jesus who truly cares for God’s sheep and who by his life-giving death brings them deliverance.
This morning, we will see the unworthiness of the Pharisees to be shepherds of God’s flock and the worthiness of Jesus to be the Good Shepherd. We will see that it is what Jesus does for us that makes him worthy of being our shepherd. That brings us to the big idea John wants us to understand this morning which is “Jesus is the only one worthy of being our Good Shepherd.”
Before we dive into our scripture, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we thank you that you created us, you know us and you love us. Though we fail you, you have never turned your back on us, you remain faithful forever. We praise you for your sacrificial love and we strive to walk worthy of the calling you have placed upon us. We thank you that you are our Good Shepherd and that you take care of us and provide for us always. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Jesus used a familiar image of the sheep pen. A sheep pen was a circular wall about 10 feet tall with a single opening that served as a door. At night, several shepherds would bring their flocks to the same pen and the gate keeper, probably someone hired to watch the flocks, would watch over them. He would lay in the opening so nothing or no one could get into the sheep pen without having to go through the gatekeeper. The next morning when the shepherds came back to gather their flocks for the day, the gatekeeper would let the shepherd in. The gatekeeper knew the shepherd and the sheep knew their shepherd as well. He came into the sheep pen the right way unlike the thieves and robbers who would have to climb the walls of the sheep pen to get to the sheep.
The Pharisees, as thieves and robbers, were self-condemned because they attempted to enter the sheepfold another way, setting themselves up as leaders with the wrong motives. Milne says, “As a result they are false shepherds whom the sheep of Christ do not recognize and from whom they will run away.” We see this is the story of the man born blind at the end of chapter 9.
But Jesus is worthy because He came into the world in the right way. He was the one sent by God to be our Messiah. Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Micah 5:2 says, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” And Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” Jesus is worthy because he was born of a virgin and born in Bethlehem as the scriptures predicted. He is worthy because he came according to God’s plan and timing. (Big Idea)
But the shepherd gives his life unconditionally for the sheep. He fights for the sheep because of his great love for them. A real shepherd is born into his task. He was sent out with the flock early in life, he grew into his calling and grew up with the sheep and they became his friends. He owns the sheep which speaks to his unique passionate commitment to them. He is invested in their lives. He dotes on them, he cares for their hurts, and he feeds them and give them clean water so they can grow up healthy. Because of these things he will pay any price to keep them safe even if it means giving up his own life for them.
Jesus again is condemning the Pharisees. They are the hired hand who cares nothing for the sheep. They are the religious leaders of the Jewish people, but they were selfish and self-righteous and don’t care about the souls of their flock. Jesus knew this in Matthew 9:36, where it says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” The Pharisees were no better than the hireling.
Two attitudes define the relationship of Jesus to the Father. The first attitude is love. God loves Jesus because Jesus loved us so much that he sacrificed his own life on the cross in order to save us from our sins and an eternal separation from God. One of the reasons the Jews didn’t think that Jesus was the Messiah was because of his death on the cross. They believed that the Messiah would never be humiliated like that and it proved that God didn’t love him. But the opposite was true. God loves Jesus because he was willing to die on the cross for us.
The second attitude was obedience. No one forced Jesus go to the cross. He was not a victim of circumstance. God didn’t make him go to the cross nor did Satan force him to go to the cross. Jesus went to the cross voluntarily. Jesus showed his love to the Father by becoming obedient even to death on the cross. Love and obedience are inseparable since it is impossible to love God without obeying him.
When Jesus said “I lay down my life, only to take it up again” he is referring to his resurrection which was the ultimate demonstration that he was the Messiah. His resurrection was victory over death and sin. Jesus had the power and authority to come back to life after three days. Acts 2:24 says, “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” Jesus had full confidence in God that he would not abandon him. He knew obedience to God would bring suffering, for a moment, and glory for eternity. Jesus came into the world to do the Father’s will and to finish the work the Father gave him to do. The purpose for Jesus’ death was to rise again so that we could rise again with him one day.
In verses 19-21, we see the reaction of the Jews and the Pharisees that heard Jesus’ words. This is what God’s word says, “The Jews who heard these words were again divided. 20 Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” 21 But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”