Read John 10:1-21
Why did Jesus come? Today’s reading was another that explicitly said why Jesus came. What was it?
Jesus said that He came that we might have life and have it to the full.
Sometimes we have the impression that God is stingy; that He wants to withhold things from us. That is so wrong. In fact, God wants us to have an abundant life. Jesus came for that very reason. What does that mean? What is the abundant life? Are you living it? And how we can receive it? Let’s explore this.
John 9 (the previous chapter) is about the healing of a blind man. The Pharisees objected and Jesus made yet another statement about why He had come into the world.
John 9:39 For judgement I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.
We are not going to talk about that this Christmas season but Jesus came to separate. Jesus’ very presence reveals people’s hearts. Some will be for Him. Some will oppose Him. Some will understand the things of God. Some will close their ears. In fact, we see that at the end of this incident. Some claimed Jesus was demon-possessed and raving mad. Others said, ‘Look at the evidence. These are not the saying of someone possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind. Jesus divides people into two groups. The Pharisees heard Him talk about those who see becoming blind and said, “What? Are you saying we are blind?”
Jesus said, “If you were blind you would not be guilty of sin but since you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” In other words, “If you claim to understand the things of God then you are responsible for obeying God.”
There is no break between that and chapter 10. The conversation carried straight on. Jesus talked about a sheepfold, a gate, a gatekeeper and a shepherd plus some sheep. He said that some climb over the wall into the sheepfold but they are robbers. They are not genuine shepherds.
There is one who enters by the gate; who has the approval of the gatekeeper. Jesus didn’t identify Himself in this picture. He didn’t say that He was the true shepherd but it is pretty obvious that He is and the Pharisees were the false shepherds who had climbed in over the wall without the approval of the gatekeeper. They are thieves. Jesus was very direct although it was camouflaged in the story.
The sheep know the voice of the true shepherd and they follow him. He knows them by name. He leads them out and they follow because they know his voice. But they will not follow the stranger.
Note John’s comment in v.6: Jesus used a figure of speech but the Pharisees did not understand what He was telling them. They had been offended at the suggestion they were blind – but they were. They didn’t understand that they were the false shepherds who climbed over the wall; who did not have God’s approval. They were thieves. But they didn’t get it.
So Jesus carried on and made it clearer. He changed the image a bit and this time did identify Himself. “I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers.” That was a very direct challenge to the Pharisees. To their faces, Jesus called them thieves and robbers. He said that they were illegitimate spiritual leaders; they didn’t have God’s approval and they comes to rob, kill and destroy.
That was one image. A few verses later, Jesus used another image. In v.11, “I am the good shepherd.” Again, that was a direct challenge to the Pharisees. Jesus didn’t say that He was a good shepherd – one among many. “The good shepherd” means He is the only good shepherd. In contrast they were thieves and robbers. Again, He damned their motivation. The hired hand does not care about the sheep. The hired hand simply abandons the sheep whenever there is danger.
Let’s explore those two images. “I am the gate for the sheep… whoever enters through me will be saved.”
In this verse, Jesus said exactly the same as He said in
John 14:6 I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Jesus is the only doorway to God – to salvation.
Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.
The only way to be saved is through Jesus – through faith in Him. There are all sorts of other spiritual options but all who propose them are illegitimate spiritual leaders. They do not have God’s approval. They climb in over the wall. They are thieves and robbers. Jesus’ sheep will not listen to them.
Of course many people do listen to them. Many are led astray but Jesus’ sheep will not listen to those voices. They will follow only the voice of Jesus.
Notice how strongly Jesus talked about all of these false options: the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. Ultimately that is a description of Satan’s motives. Satan doesn’t care about anybody’s welfare. Look at the news any night of the week and see living examples of how Satan steals, kills and destroys. His desires are totally negative, totally destructive and totally unloving. He doesn’t care a fig about people. He simply wants to hurt.
The same thing applies to the servants of Satan. False teachers and spiritual leaders – those who climb in over the wall – are also motivated by robbing, killing and destroying. Isn’t that exactly what we see in so many cults and religious groups: people robbed of their possessions; people robbed of their dignity; sexual immorality that destroys; people crushed and sometimes people literally killed – Jonestown, for example. It is not just religious groups. We could include crime syndicates, people feed off others’ addictions – to drugs, or to making money or to being loved – anything that offers people hope but not through Jesus – and we find people robbing, killing and destroying. Think of the sex industry. Satan promises so much but delivers poverty, death and brokenness.
Contrast that with what Jesus offers. Jesus offers: abundant life. In contrast to poverty, death and brokenness, abundant life. Jesus offers the very opposite: riches. Not material riches but richness in the things of God such as love, joy, peace, hope, security, purpose… the very things money cannot buy. Not poverty, death and brokenness but riches, life and wholeness.
There are two Greek words for life: bios and zoe. Bios means biological life; living and breathing. Zoe means the life of God. It is a different dimension of life. Guess which one Jesus was promising here!
The Pharisees had bios. They were living and breathing but they were also dead because they didn’t have the life of God or life with God.
We periodically hear people say, “I got to the point where I thought there must be more to life than this.” You can have wealth and achievement and adventure and still say, “There must be more to life than this.” It can still feel empty.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “Bios (biological) life is that life that comes to us from nature, the life that is always tending to run down and decay and needs to be nourished constantly with air, water and food. Spiritual life (Zoe), on the other hand, is the life which is in God from all eternity, which has always existed and will always exist… The difference between having bios and zoe is like the difference between a statue and a man. A man who changed from having bios to zoe would have gone through as big a change as a statue which changed from being a carved statue to being a real man… Now the whole affair which Christianity makes is this: that we can, if we let God have His way, come to share in the life of Christ… He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has…”
You have bios. You are still breathing, but do you have zoe; do you have God’s abundant life?
In this passage, Jesus tells us how to have that abundant life. Firstly, He said, “whoever enters through me will be saved.” The first step towards the abundant life is to have salvation. There is no zoe outside of Jesus. We receive life when we come to faith in Jesus.
Secondly, Jesus said. “I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” The sheep and the Shepherd enjoy an amazing relationship, as intimate as that between God and Jesus. That is part of the abundant life – living in relationship with Jesus like that.
Thirdly, Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice and follow me. I lead them out.” The abundant life includes being led by Jesus. The shepherd doesn’t lead the sheep within the fold. He leads them out of the fold. If we follow Jesus’ leading, he will lead us into all sorts of adventures where we will see God at work. If we sit where it is comfortable, we will never experience the blessings God has for us. It is obedience – knowing the voice of Jesus and following Him – that provides abundance.
When we are saved, there is all the security of being in the sheepfold away from the wolves and with the Shepherd. With Jesus there is security – eternal security but also the knowledge that we are always in God’s hands and He watches over us.
But a life sitting in a sheepfold would not be very fulfilling. In fact, if the sheep stayed in the fold, away from the pasture, it would die. Notice that Jesus said the sheep come in and go out and find pasture. He is the gate by which they come in. He is also the gate by which they go out. The going out is about being led by Jesus. It is about adventure; leaving the security of the fold. A safe life is boring. An abundant life must have an element of adventure and risk, and the Jesus-life does. Jesus talked about the wolves out there. For a sheep that is risky.
If we follow Jesus’ leading, where will He lead? There was another time when Jesus talked about sending His disciples out like sheep among wolves – when He sent them out in mission in His name. The abundant Jesus-life includes mission. It includes being out like sheep among wolves.
Ten days ago, I went to a conference in Auckland. On the Friday we had to go to Sylvia Park Mall and share our testimony with someone. I was right out of my comfort zone. I wandered around the mall for ages before plucking up the courage to talk to someone. I felt like a sheep among wolves. I’ll tell you the story some other time but God led me to a person who had been to church only once in his life and it was the previous Sunday. I didn’t know that. God knew that. I suspect that God is doing something in that man’s life. God set up that encounter. Doing God-stuff and seeing God do stuff is part of the abundant life Jesus promises us.
Why on earth would sheep go out among wolves? That is stupid except for two things: it is where Jesus will lead us and we have with us the good Shepherd, Who lays down His life for His sheep. In fact, there is a third instance of Jesus saying why he had come: v.18, “I lay my life 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, under the orders of His Father, came to die and to rise again.
Jesus said the hired hand will run away when the wolves approach. They care nothing for the sheep. In contrast, Jesus lays down His life for His sheep. The security is not simply within the fold. There is security out amongst the wolves too because Jesus is the good Shepherd.
Think about the book of Acts. If anybody had abundant lives, those Christians did. What do we see in Acts? We see people being saved. We see them growing in their relationship with Jesus and we see them doing what He commanded them to do. That is the abundant life. The people who live the most fulfilling lives are those who are being led by Jesus; are involved in Jesus’ mission and are seeing God at work.
God wants us to have an abundant life. How can we experience the God-life?
- We must enter through the door. Have you put your faith in Jesus? Have you been born again?
- We must know Jesus and be known by Him. Do you have that intimate relationship with Jesus whereby you can say, “I know Jesus and Jesus knows me”?
- Jesus’ sheep know His voice and follow Him. Do you recognise the voice of Jesus? Are you following? Jesus will lead us out of the fold into the world of mission – like sheep among wolves. That is where the real adventure starts. Are you following Jesus into the mission field?