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John 10:14-15, NIV
14 "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me--15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for the sheep."
September 22, 2011Jesus was future-oriented. Those who were listening were, in regards to their faith, oriented by tradition and ancient rituals. Jesus was thinking about what had not happened yet but was soon to take place. His listeners were tied to the laws and instruction of Moses and the prophets. God was doing a new thing, but these believers in the one true God of Israel were caught in a trap that was centuries old in the making. Jesus offered to set them free but to no avail. They would not believe his words. They could not be persuaded.
There was no way his listeners could foresee the upcoming years. There was no way for Jesus to be satisfied with the past. Poles apart, the contrasts were as extreme as Jesus had pointed out in the three little stories he just told them.
Some were repelled by the words of Jesus. Others were strangely attracted. So Jesus continued and described himself as The Good Shepherd. The one who knows, and is known by, his sheep. And not just like an acquaintance, but in the most intimate and loving way, as he and his Father know each other--to the extent there is no question that they would die for each other, even as Jesus intended to die for his "sheep."
No one had heard words like this before. It was not even close to being a typical sermon. I am not surprised that, hearing these thoughts for the first time and before it happened, they were skeptical.
As future events unfold, some of them will remember these words. Connect the dots, as we like to say. Ah-ha, so that's what he meant. The gospel writer has written the end of the story into the middle section of his work. He has previewed the outcome. Maybe to help the reader understand better what is happening when Jesus is arrested and gives up his life. Jesus on the cross is like the shepherd lying in the doorway of the sheep pen and giving his life to save his flock.
Other Notes, no dateIn the Christian church the imagery of the shepherd and the sheep is a familiar one which we have heard and seen pictured many times. Green pastures and still waters suggest perfect peace and tranquility--the way things are meant to be versus all the impostors who destroy the peacefulness and cause harm to the sheep. Sin is an impostor that creates havoc in our lives.
The Good Shepherd is a beautiful picture knowing each sheep and calling them by name leading, going out in front of them talking to them keeping them safe willing to die out of love for the sheep bringing others into the safety and unity of the fold.
Knowing and being known is a two-way relationship; I must do my part if I expect Jesus to do his part.
Lord Jesus Christ, You are my Good Shepherd: when I am lost, You find me; when I am anxious, you calm me; when no one wants me, You pick me up; when I am tired, You give me rest; when I am in danger, You stick by me; when I am fearful, you give me courage; when I am unknown and alone, you call me by name; when I am filled with joy, You share it; when I am empty, You fill me; when I am in crisis, You are there to guide me; when I am stubborn, you open my eyes; when I am self-centered, You teach me to look at You.You are the Goodness of my life.You are the Mercy which brings me back again and again.You are the Love that saves me.In my better moments, I take notice, thank you, and love you in return.
John 10:16, NIV
16 "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."
September 23, 2011I call the words of this verse God's big dream. The more "sheep" the merrier God is. The scripture that says, "I will be their God and they will be my people" has no boundaries. The edges of God's tent extend to all who are willing to be his people.
There's a concept expressed in the Old Testament that the people of Israel are God's chosen people. But chosen people are those people who choose to know and love God. Israel was supposed to be a light to the nations, an ideal community guided by justice and righteousness that would be the envy of the world and a channel through whom people everywhere would be drawn to claim God for themselves.
Sometimes I look at the world and want to tell Jesus to "dream on!" Like, no way will there ever be one flock and one shepherd. But little do I know. Miracles happen every day. Jesus spoke these words with urgency. I must bring them. They too will listen. There shall be one flock and one shepherd. If I don't believe these words of Jesus, then I'm in the same boat as the people in this passage who did not understand what Jesus was talking about!
Must, will, shall be--these are future-oriented. It's Jesus-talk. He asks me to believe in him. even though what he said has not happened yet and sounds unbelievable to me. Let's see how that goes, whether Jesus has any more success with me than he did with those unrelenting Pharisees.
Other Notes, no dateThe sheepfold is not complete and Jesus wants to bring other sheep into the fold. I would read into that sentence that we have work to do. Jesus wants to draw to himself all those who are scattered. So let the voice of the Good Shepherd ring throughout the land and let each of us who believe act as amplifiers of his voice. Let the good news be heard in every nock and corner so that all who are hungry will find the bread of life, those who are thirsty will discover the living water, and those who stumble in darkness will come to know the true light of the world.
John 10:17-18, NIV
17 "The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. 18 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."
September 24, 2011The reason God loves me is . . . ! That strikes me as an odd comment. We like to think God's love is unconditional and doesn't need a reason to be. If we take these words of Jesus at face value, then God's love for his only begotten was/is different than it is for humanity. Maybe because God expected and needed more from Jesus than he needs and expects from us.
According to this verse, the reason God loved Jesus was because of the willingness of Jesus to lay down his life and then take it up again. This command from his Father was freely chosen, no one forced him to do so. Jesus was himself the authority who determined what Jesus would choose to do. No one and no circumstance forced him to do anything. Satan could not tempt Jesus to do anything but obey the wishes of his Father.
That being said, God had good reason to love Jesus.
John 10:19-21, NIV
19 At these words the Jews 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?"
Other Notes, no dateThis is a continuation of the great debate which gets a lot of space in John's gospel. The conflict is between Jesus and the religious leaders. Was he demon-possessed and raving mad, or was he the promised Messiah? Was Jesus a son of God or was the devil his father? When Jesus spoke they thought they were listening to the evil one! On the other hand, he possessed the ability to perform amazing miracles! His words sounded anti-religious and blasphemous; yet he did good things. It was all so confusing to them. His words or his deeds--which carried more weight?
In the previous chapter the man who had been born blind and was healed by Jesus was excommunicated, literally thrown out of the synagogue, because he expressed belief in his healer. That would make others very cautious about speaking publicly in favor of Jesus.
September 25, 2011The Good Shepherd Jesus going ahead of us sounds easy. All we need to do is follow. But it's not that simple because Jesus is spirit. We can not literally see him. That makes it difficult because how can we follow what we can not see?
Jesus in this chapter highlighted the voice of the shepherd, and that we recognize and follow the sound of his voice. That's where things get tricky for me.
As always in the Gospels, I must be careful to understand metaphors for what they are and not take them literally. Jesus is describing what our relationship to him can be. He will figuratively lead those who will follow him. A herder knows more than the sheep. The flock trusts him and follows wherever he goes. Jesus claimed to be the Good Shepherd because he knows each sheep by name and will care for them even if it means sacrificing his life in order to save them.
Jesus also claimed his heavenly Father loved him because he is the Good Shepherd. If Jesus has earned the love of his Father in heaven then he must surely be worthy of my trust, too! And the trust of all those other sheep who are not yet a part of his flock.