Read John 10:1-21
1"I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." 6Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.
7Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
11"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I 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. 17The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life — only to take it up again. 18No 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."
19At these words the Jews were again divided. 20Many of them said, "He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?"
21But others said, "These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?" (NIV)
In our passage today, Jesus gives several images of what the good shepherd does and is. Jesus in this is conveying that he is the good shepherd. The good shepherd is known by the keeper of the gate and opens the gate for the good shepherd. The sheep follow the true shepherd because they know his voice. Jesus sums up this first section of the good shepherd with the powerful statement that not only is he the good shepherd, but he is the gate which we go through. This idea has caused much debate among people as to if Jesus is the only way. But it is through Jesus we enter salvation, not through the church. It is in the church we serve Jesus, but salvation comes through Jesus.
In the next section Jesus points to the idea that the good shepherd lays his life down for the sheep. He contrasts this with the hired hands who help the shepherd. They will not defend the sheep when trouble comes where as the good shepherd will defend the sheep. This is a comforting image of who Jesus is. He fights for us and gave his life for us. Jesus then tells of what he will do at the end of his ministry which is to willingly lay down his life for all of us and then take it back up.
In the middle of this second thought is a powerful verse, verse 16. Jesus tells those listening that there are other sheep in other places and he must bring them to him also. I love what someone pointed out about this passage, “One of the hardest things to unlearn is exclusiveness.” I think this is so hard because deep down, all of us want to feel we are special in some way. But we also find a security in like people. But God calls us to be about sharing the Gospel with all people and welcoming all people. And I think one of the most damaging things that can happen is for a church to become exclusive. I have seen it over my lifetimes. And there are many ways a church becomes exclusive. It can be for some of the most trivial things. But the most damaging is when a church thinks they have everything right and everyone else is wrong. This is where I like Wesley’s thought on this. He talks about the many different churches and denominations. He writes that each has something wrong that they don’t know. He said if everyone was completely right, there would be no separation. But because we are separated, we are wrong.
There are standards for being a leader in a church and churches should have these. But the church should be welcoming all to come and to be introduced to Christ. We are called to share the Gospel and let God change the person from sinner to saint.
Where do you struggle with exclusiveness? Are you comfortable with the notion that Jesus is the gate to salvation and we must enter through him? How does you understanding of Jesus saying there are other sheep in other places stir you to share the gospel with people?
These are good things to contemplate on.
Blessings and Peace