Don’t you wish you just knew who to trust?
There are a lot of voices fighting for our attention: family, friends, strangers, advertisers, media, and politicians. And there are many more. In the middle of it all, don’t you wish you just knew who to trust?
John chapter 10 finds us in the most image-driven part of John’s Gospel. It expresses our need and our Lord’s desire. Our lostness and His desire to find us. Our need for a defender and His desire to defend. We all need someone to watch out for us. We all need someone to defend us. We all need someone to show us the way. We all need a teacher who will teach us what we NEED whether we realize it or not.
This is the Real Shepherd, Jesus. Starting this three-part journey through John 10 (John 10:1-10, John 10:11-15, and John 10:16-21*), we read in John 10:1-10:
“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.John 10:1-10
New International Version
In some ways, sheep are among the dumbest—albeit also the cutest—animals in God’s creation. If spooked, they’ll run right off a cliff, one after another. If a shepherd takes them to running water to drink, they might drown.
This metaphor, in its literal sense, is talking about sheep—well known to Jesus’ audience. For us in the Western world, it’s not as clear. We drive sheep with dogs, but shepherds in the East (both then and now) build a relationship with their sheep. They are not strangers to them. The sheep know their shepherd and the shepherd knows his sheep.
There’s a fascinating thing with sheep: several flocks could be mixed together at a watering source, for example, and the shepherd can begin walking away and call his sheep or whistle a certain tune, and only his sheep will come out of the mixed flocks and follow him. For as dumb as sheep are, they know and trust their shepherd completely.
The reason the Pharisees didn’t understand what Jesus was saying was not that they didn’t understand His metaphor. They didn’t understand because they weren’t His sheep. The Lord told us this in verse 4 saying, “His sheep followed him because they know his voice.”
At the same time, the sheep will run away from strangers. This is why the Pharisees and Romans had such difficulties against the early Christians: they didn’t answer to the voice of strangers but to the higher calling of their Shepherd.
Why do we seek the fullness of life through the temporary pleasures of this life? Why is it we will act more like pigs and throw ourselves into the mud of life instead of recognizing we are sheep of the Master’s flock? The life Jesus offers you and me is beyond our wildest dreams while what the world can promise is temporary at best.
Trust in money and you’ll spend it all.
Trust in relationships, and people will break your heart.
Trust in drugs and alcohol and you will destroy your body and your life.
Trust in Jesus and enjoy life as it was meant to be lived.
Hear His voice and follow Him.
* Starting on Sunday, we’ll be taking a break from John and moving through Advent and Christmas together. We’ll pick John back up on January 5.