Have you ever been in a line to get into a theatre, sports event, social evening or exclusive club and found yourself coming face-to-face with a rather large human wall? Such people are called security officers, bouncers, ushers or guards.
They are often ex-military, ex-boxers or weight lifters chosen deliberately for their intimidating look and physical presence.
Then there is sometimes the experience of being with a friend who happens to have VIP status, know the bouncer personally or, better still, be related to the owner or organizer of the event. Then you hear the magic words; “it’s okay, they’re with me!” And you’re in.
Apply this experience to any challenge in your life and work and you can see how gratifying and helpful it is to gain entrance through personal recommendations.
The Son of Man knew beyond a shadow of doubt that his Father would always hear him and respond. He had developed a rich, vibrant and unique prayer life over his years on earth and had reached a place of certainty.
It is this certainty that he connects to the image of shepherding and gates in the turning point tenth chapter of John’s account.
The image is of a gatekeeper to a large communal sheepfold in town. The gatekeeper has the power to unlock the gate and stands guard with a strong presence protecting those inside while keeping out thieves and robbers.
But when the shepherd calls out the gatekeeper opens the gate. Then the shepherd calls out to his sheep and they go in.
It’s still doorway language but its not the same as the image we looked at last time. Here the shepherd is the voice and his words open the way in.
What is the message here? What is the Son of Man opening up to our minds?
I suggest to you that he is illustrating the impossibility of self-help. Without the shepherd’s voice the gate stays closed. Without the shepherds voice the sheep don’t know who to follow.
Here the gatekeeper connects to the Father in other narratives. It is the Father who hears the voice of his Son of Man and opens the gate.
It is tempting to apply this to the event of Christian conversion. The Son of Man calls your name and calls to the Father and you’re in. And that’s true.
But it is also a way of life. Each week you face challenges and need to get to better places. It is the shepherd’s voice that calls you and the shepherd’s voice that connects you to the Father who opens the gate. It would be arrogance on your part to think that once you’re in there’s no more need to listen.
Every decision you make, every task you undertake, every job you do this week will only really work as you connect it to the shepherd’s voice.
What is the Father’s approach to your project? What is the Father’s approach to your financials? What is the Father’s approach to your team, your schoolwork or your lesson plans? What is the Father’s approach to your building or construction company?
Perhaps you feel you’re just standing in line waiting for something to happen. Then you hear the Shepherd’s voice and it’s time to move. The gate opens and you are now functioning in Kingdom fashion.
The Son of Man knows His words will always work.
“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. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 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.4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech,but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The 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. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own 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. 13 The 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—15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 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. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 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.”
19 The Jews who heard these words were again divided. 20 Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”
21 But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
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