Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’
We and the whole world around us are obsessed with leaders – who to take charge, make decisions, and how to become that kind of person. But Jesus is more interested in making us followers. And in John 10, he tells us who he is, and who we are – sheep who know the voice of our shepherd and run from the voice of the stranger. This is a direct overflow of the story of the healing of a blind man in John 9 and the controversy that ensues, which brings Jesus to the reflection that only by admitting to our spiritual blindness may we then begin to see. We do not rise above being blind and being sheep. We embrace that this is exactly who Jesus is calling us to be – blind followers that need our guide, sheep who need their good shepherd. We do not know where we are going apart from the protection and guidance of Jesus, and that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be. We’re happy to embrace who we are as sheep because Jesus is more than capable of leading us.
John 10 is dripping with good news (gospel means good news), and directly from the lips of Jesus himself:
The good shepherd knows you by name. The shepherd is leading you in the right direction. In the presence of the shepherd is the safest place to be. The shepherd leads you with gentleness and invitation from ahead, not from behind with force. The voice of the shepherd is not angry or anxious or judgmental, but gentle and welcoming and pleasant. In the presence of the shepherd is the most joyful and abundant life. The shepherd is capable of caring not only for your flock, but for every flock far and wide that belongs to him. The shepherd has already laid down his life for the sheep. The shepherd laying down his life doesn’t make you any less safe, because he took his life right back up. There is not a person or place or idea or enemy of fear that could possible snatch you away from the shepherd’s hand.
So much good news now has us asking some questions.
Where is the thief in my life? What is robbing me of joy and peace and abundance? With my words and actions, do I impart joy and peace? Or do I steal it? Am I a sheep, or might I be a thief? Can I distinguish the shepherd’s voice from all the voices of strangers? Can I be one flock with sheep that didn’t come from my sheepfold?
May these questions penetrate us, grab hold of us and not let go. And even more importantly, may all this good news penetrate us, grab hold of us and not let go.