- Introduction ()
This morning we cover the second last sermon in the “I am” series that we have been in for the last few weeks. The last two come from the same passage and there is a large amount of cross over in the language. I am the door (gate); I am the good shepherd.
Read John 10:1-10
- Three main characters
- The shepherd/door
This passage is divided in two by the words “I tell you the truth” (1, 7). The reason that he changes metaphors is that his hearers just don’t get it [read verse 6].
- In the first 6 he is talking about a town setting where in the evening all the shepherds form the town would bring their sheep into a communal pen for the night. There was a watchman who would be on duty through the night and would only allow shepherd in and out of the pen – a robber would have to climb in. The sheep were like pets. They were not flocks of a couple of hundred, they were flocks of 10s. And each shepherd knew his sheep and they knew him. If you think, “that’s impossible – all sheep look the same to me”, if you were to put my dog, a staffie, among 50 other staffies I would know him instantly and he would know my voice.In the morning each shepherd would come in through the gate, with the gatekeepers permission and call his sheep out.
- The don’t get it so Jesus shifts gear from the town setting to the countryside setting (7-10). During the day the sheep would feed in the fields, but as the sun started to set the shepherd would find a cave or a protected formation or structure of rocks. And in this context he would sleep with his own body across the entrance – he was the actual door. This is really where we are concentrating this morning.
Secondly there are sheep. Honestly, we don’t know much about the sheep because we live in the suburbs and the closest we get to sheep are the black polystyrene containers you take off the meat fridge at PnP.
So here are a couple of things about sheep: not the brightest, wanders by nature, vulnerable, they often get themselves stuck all on their own (they are a danger to themselves), and that are in need of a shepherd to love, lead and protect them. And that is our team! If you think that’s a bit insulting and that you are smart and tough: you are smart and tough – for a sheep!
- The stranger/thief/robber
The third ‘character’ are the stranger/thief/robber. To understand who these people are you have to look back in chapter 9 when Jesus heals a man who had been born blind on the Sabbath. The Pharisees get wind of it they make an investigation. The parents of the man who has been healed are too scared to call it a miracle because the Pharisees were excommunicating those who gave credit to Jesus. When the blind man tells the truth (that Jesus healed him) they “hurl insults at him” and throw him out. Jesus finds the man; the man worships Jesus; Jesus comforts the man: you were blind but now you see – the Pharisees are the ones who are really blind. So, who do you think are the stranger/thief/robber? Then come John 10.
The Pharisees are in the position of shepherding the people of God but they show that they have no heart for the flock by their treatment of the blind man in John 9. They care just for themselves and they reputation; for their power and their position. They won’t love, lead and protect the sheep. They will use the sheep and if they get stolen, killed or destroyed in the process then they don’t care.
Read 10:7-8. At this point in the text many preachers and commentaries go into a discourse about the Pharisee-like church leaders/pastor that Christians need to be aware of today, ones that pray on the flock of God. This is not unimportant. The thief implies deception and trickery; the robber implies violence and destruction – and both of these still happen today.
The most helpful thing I read put it in the positive: “To know whether a pastor is worth following, don’t ask yourself how funny he is, how entertaining his sermons are, how nice he is, or how authentic he is. Ask yourself, “Does he point to the door? Does he point to Christ, because he knows him above all else? Does he say to me over and over, ‘That’s the way in?’ Does he exalt Christ? Does he love and treasure him above all?” If not, what good is he to you?” That is how you know who are the thieves and robbers.
- The gift of abundant life
I don’t know if you have noticed through our journey in the “I am statements” of Jesus how the theme of life is woven into them. I am the resurrection and the life. I am the bread of life, I am the way the truth and the life, I am the door… that you may have life and life to the full, I am the good shepherd I give them eternal life.
In this passage it is life and life more abundantly, superior in quality and exceeding in quantity, full and overflowing, beyond measure. What a promise Christ makes! And I believe he gives us insight into what that means in the preceding verses. Certainly it is not based simply on earthly blessings! There are many people through the ages who have lived within the fullness of this promise who have had far, far less than even many of us.
- Entrance into salvation (9a)
Abundant life begins with salvation [read verse 9a]. This salvation is the forgiveness of sins. It is the reason that Christ came. He is about to tell how the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (15) and then takes it up again (17) so that shall have eternal life and never perish (28). Abundant life begins with rescue from our sin. Before that we were subject to pursuits that would never produce the fruit that they promise, never bring satisfaction, never bring peace.
Each person needs to come to their own humble confession where they abandon hope in every other person and pursuit in favour of the promise that Christ make to forgive, cleanse and reconcile us with our Father in heaven.
- Protection and pasture
Abundant life continues with our shepherd’s provision and protection / solid safety and soul satisfaction [read verse 9b]. The idea is that the sheep enter the protection of the sheep pen in the evening and in the morning are lead out to pasture. During the day they enjoy the leading of the shepherd to the food and water that they need on a daily basis. Without the shepherd they would be vulnerable and directionless. He leads them to pasture – the soul satisfying food that we as Christians need.
The idea of an “abundant life” has been used in a misleading way by some:
It is about enjoying the living in the physical world that God created for us, but it is not measured by the amount of money and possession that you have. This verse has been widely abused by what have become known as the prosperity gospel teachers who teach that you should measure God’s blessing on your life in health, wealth, and success. And also that if you don’t have these things then there is something wrong with your faith. However, Jesus warns that, “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15).
If we were to look at this matter simply through the lens of money: Money can buy you a medical aid but it can’t buy your health; money can buy you a holiday but it can’t by you more time; money can buy you a house but it can’t buy you home, money can buy you popularity but it can’t buy you trusted friends. Money can buy you a secure retirement and the best secure system, but it can’t buy you peace. The things that money can’t buy are the exact things that represent the truly full life.
God in his good grace has determined that different people have different amount of material access at different times. “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share”. (1 Timothy 6:17-18). In other words: enjoy the material access you have but (a) do it with thanks to God because money is not your God; (b) be rich towards others because God has been rich towards you.
It is about a full and superior life to what we could otherwise enjoy apart from Christ but the emphasis is on quality not quantity; character not collecting; internal not external.
And there is not second threshold that you have got to cross to enter into this full life, after salvation (I am the door) you enter into the care of the Great Shepherd of the sheep who promises you everything that you need in this life; rest for your soul; spiritual food and water feeds the heart; peace in that midst of the aggressive pace of life; guidance into the good plans that he has for us; protection the evils that swirl around us; and an improbable eternal reward that demonstrates the eternal depths of his love.
We need grapple with this: Jesus doesn’t say: I will give you bread, guidance, light, resurrection, life. He says, “I am those things to you…”
- What do you observe?
- What questions do you have?
- Jesus begins with the words, “I tell you the truth….” or “Truly, truly I say to you…” why do you think he says this?
does the context of chapter 9 help us to identify the thief/robber/stranger?
- Does the church still face this threat today and if so how?
is it significant that Jesus says, “I am the door”?
- What does this tell us about Jesus?
10:9-10 tells us about the privileges we enjoy because Jesus is the door.
- What are they?
- How do the thief/robber/stranger/wolf only steal, kill and destroy?
- Give examples of this (better if they are from your own life)
promises abundant life / life to the full.
- Spend some time discussing what characterises a ‘full life’.
- What should we not allow to cloud our judgement or what a ‘full life’ is?