We're continuing our study of our good Shepherd, and today we will start with verses 7-10:
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.
The shepherd is going to always be careful to lead his sheep to rich pasture land, to pleasant pastures. And Jesus identifies Himself with the gate to these pleasant places. He also identifies the pastures with "Life to the full." In the King James it says, "I came that they might have life and have it abundantly." Wow! I always love to read that!
It doesn't necessarily mean (tho it can) that we will have an exceptionally long life -- but it does mean that we'll have a full life. We will truly live; we won't just shuffle along taking furtive glances at what is happening alongside us. We won't struggle with the chain that binds us to the "I should have done that" and the "why did I do that" thoughts that come to us. We will be so preoccupied with the blessings that God has given us, and the direction that Christ is leading us, that we will live in the moment. We'll enjoy the peace and freedom that comes from trusting Him to lead us into pleasant pastures. As believers, we can be secure in His care, and we can follow His voice as the sheep follow their shepherd.
Now, so far we've studied about how the sheep know the shepherd's voice, and they are protected by him, and he leads them to abundant pastureland . . . we also see in this passage that there are many different sheep that are all called together.
Let's look at verses 14-18:
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 -- and I lay down my life for the sheep. 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. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life -- only to take it up again. 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.
Jesus is speaking here to a Jewish audience. And He is telling them, announcing to them, that the family of God will be opened up to people from all other races! That is an astonishing thought for a people who have been taught from birth that they (and they alone) are God's chosen people.
That means that all of us -- Gentiles, people of Asian descent, African descent, European descent, American descent -- all of us will be included in the family of God. When everything is said and done, and all of the history of this world has been written, the Good Shepherd will call out sheep from every nation on earth to worship.
What is this unity of worship based on? Look back at our verses. See where He says He lays down His life voluntarily?
Hmmm.....let's make this clearer.
Often we hear today of suicide bombers in the Middle East and elsewhere, strapping on explosives and detonating them while they are in the midst of a crowd of people. What do they hope to accomplish by the shedding of their blood? Are they protecting anyone from any danger? No, they just hope to make a statement, and perhaps "take out" some humans that they blindly hate.
In war years (whether World War I, II, or in present-day Iraq) we also hear of soldiers who will throw their bodies onto a mine or grenade at the moment of detonation. What do they accomplish? Are they protecting anyone from danger? Yes, they are saving the lives of the soldiers or civilians around them.
That is what pulls all of us believers together and gives us unity -- the fact that He died for each one of us. Christ paid a very high price to save us, to save our souls . . . the highest price ever. And we see repeated calls for unity in the New Testament. Remember Paul, talking to the Ephesians?
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:3-5)
We are one; so even when it's hard, we try to extend grace and mercy to one another, and to look out for each other. We are one flock. We're one people. We honor and obey the one Good Shepherd.
We'll have some closing thoughts on this passage tomorrow.