I have been spending some time in the Gospel of John lately. It is amazing how reading familiar words can have a new impact on you when you are reading them again.
Just look for a minute at some phrases from John 10.
here are verses 3-5:
3. To him [the shepherd] the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
Isn’t that comforting? Amazing? the Shepherd calls “his own sheep” by their own name and he leads them. The sheep “know his voice”. What a great and comforting word from God. Jesus calls his sheep by their name and he leads them. Just think about how fantastic that is for a bit.
go on down to verses 9-16:
9. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15. just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
Jesus came to give the sheep that enter by his name abundant life. He is good and proof that he is a good shepherd is that he put his own life on the line for his sheep. Just think about that for a bit. Contrast that with man made gods like Zeus or Money or Fame. Which of these man made idols ever proved their love for us by laying down their own life for their flock?
Jesus knows his own and they know him. They know his goodness. They know of his sacrifice for them. They know him just like he and God the Father know each other. They are part of the God’s family. There are even more sheep out there who belong to Jesus the great Shepherd and they will listen to Jesus’ voice. Why will they listen? Because verse 3-5 above says that he calls them by name and is not a stranger.
then check out verses 24-27:
24. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25. Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26. but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
Very interesting indeed. The Jews gathered around and asked Jesus straight up “Are you the Messiah or not?” Jesus answered by saying that he had told them plainly and had done works (miracles) in God’s name as evidence to prove what he had said with his mouth. Then Jesus says something that should capture much more attention in pulpits than it does. He says “you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.”
Now think a minute. Doesn’t Jesus have that backwards? Shouldn’t he have said “you are not part of my flock because you do not believe”? Wouldn’t the latter be more consistent with the way most of us are taught about salvation?
But he didn’t say it the way we would expect. And when you think about it very much, you can see why. Making our status inside or outside the sheepfold of God dependent on our choosing to believe elevates us. It makes anyone who “believes” smarter/wiser/better than someone who doesn’t “believe.” But Ephesians 1 and 2 make it clear that there is no such possibility. We were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world to the praise of His glorious grace. We were part of His flock before we were born and before the Earth was created. We were part of His flock before time began. Names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life before the foundation of the world. We are saved by grace through faith and all of it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8-9
But you say, We must follow the shepherd. We must believe. We must exercise faith. And I agree. Scripture makes this requirement clear such that there is no doubt about it. Indeed we must make a choice (Romans 10:9-10), but the thing to realize is that apart from God’s hand, we are dead and unable to make such a choice. By the providence of God and the love of the Great Shepherd, we were made alive and by grace we are given the faith as a gift that we use to choose to follow the Shepherd who laid down his life for us. Salvation is God’s work from first to last. Salvation is God’s work so that his glorious grace might be seen and praised for the magnificent thing that it truly is.
Jesus says that his sheep are called by their own name. Jesus says that his sheep know his voice and follow him because they know him. Jesus says that he has other sheep in other pastures who also know his voice and will follow him when they hear his voice. Jesus says that other sheep do not believe in Him because they are not part of his flock.
Now my question to you after you read John 10 and think about it and pray about it is: Do you agree with what Jesus plainly says? Or do you find yourself saying some version of “yes, but….”
hat tip to John Samson for the John 10:26 rephrase
Filed under: teaching | Tagged: faith, God's grace, grace, jesus the great shepherd, Jeus, John 10, life, love, providence, sacrifice, sheep, shepherd | 6 Comments »