The good shepherd and his sheep 10 ‘Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold 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 recognise 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.
Today we look at another of the “I am” sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of John.
So often we only think of a gate as a defensive thing.
A gate is comforting because it is all about keeping those out who don't belong inside. But the danger with this way of thinking in churches is developing what we call a siege mentality. Where we feel like we have to stay on the inside and everything bad is on the outside.
But as also happens with churches, if sheep only stay in the sheep pen, they starve to death. It is to be a place for safety during the long night, a defensive construction. But the Good Shepherd has to lead the sheep out into the pastures during the day.
The easiest time of day for the shepherd would be the one where he lay across the doorway. Dangers can only come from one direction, and wayward sheep can only try to get out through a very small area.
See, I think the hardest time, the trickiest time would be when they are out in the unknown, and the shepherd has to be a 360 degree gate for the sheep: he has to watch every direction. This is the time when evil can come from any quarter.
So this is some lovely imagery, Jesus. But what does it mean for me in Dalby in 2023? It very rarely happens that we quite so obviously have some wild animal come to tear us away or if we're talking about our faith. It very rarely happens that there is a big showdown, a fight to the death.
I have found that in my everyday life, the gate that I need is a smaller one, but I need it more often. Because in my everyday life, the wild animals and the things that come to kill, steal and destroy come in smaller and more subtle forms.
This is something that I admire about Jesus so much: That he had the most amazing filter for what he would let into his life and what he would not. The false accusations that the Pharisees threw at him, he didn't even let bother him. They seemed to roll straight off his back. I take on board and take to heart every criticism and accusation ever thrown at me, and I let them get me down.
In knowing who he was, and in knowing whose he was, Jesus was able to repel all the falsehoods that came at him. He wasn't tempted by the little things that wanted to drag him away from his father by degree. But I am. And you are.
Where I need Jesus to be the gate for me, this sheep, this week is not in the massive scary life or death situations, because let's face it, we come across very few of those. Where I need Jesus to be the gate where I need to run everything past the “filter” of His Lordship is in the things that I see and hear.
It is in the images that I see in social media and on television. They used to say not to watch anything on TV that you wouldn't watch with your mum in the room. It is so much harder now.
The way that I urge you to look at everything you let into your life this week is to run them past the Lordship of Jesus. This is what I mean by that: If Jesus is the Lord of my life, then He is the Lord of what I let into my life. When I see something, when I hear something, when I think something negative about myself or someone else, the challenge for me is to ask would Jesus want this for me in my life? This song lyric. This hate speech. this baseless conspiracy theory or message of fear that I tend to come across every day so easily.
The images of war and destruction that I think are just in the interests of news, but still scar me, remember, there is no delete button in your brain.
Would my Lord Jesus, the good shepherd, want this for me in my life? Or are these things the weeds, and the rocky ground, and the wild animals that the shepherd wants to protect us from?
This is a very real and concrete thing that we can do in our lives, and I urge you to give it a try this week. Have a go.
It takes practice. It takes discipline. But like any discipline, it becomes easier after time. Why can't I repeat that off colour joke that someone told me? Why can't I fill my brain with those images and words?
Doesn't that question seem an awful lot like a sheep asking why can't I eat that weed? It doesn't look poisonous. But it's only when they eat of the pastures the shepherd selects for them, It's only when they stay in his sight that they are safe.
See for a few years there was this craze to wear the WWJD bracelet. What would Jesus do?
Really think that for us in the Lutheran Church who understand what Jesus has done for us already, it's the wrong question.
Perhaps it should be W H J D. What has Jesus done?
And now, because of what Jesus has done for me, there is a different question.
Now that I am his follower and he is my shepherd. Maybe the question should be. (although it has too many letters) W W J H M D?. What would Jesus have me do? Have me listen to? Have me watch? Have me say?
It seems like a narrow gate sometimes. Jesus spoke about the narrow gate. Remember, being a disciple of Jesus Christ, (Which is the third of our guiding principles), has a cost.
But it also has such a promise. The promise here in John 10 is a life in all its fullness, abundant life. Life without the weeds and wild animals. A life where we lie down in green pastures. And our souls are restored. Sound good to you?
From the inside out…
You also may remember that Jesus said in Mark 7:15 that it is actually what comes out of someone that makes them unclean.
So this gate, this gate that we need as sheep of the good shepherd is not a one-way gate.
If i am going to stand up here and say Jesus is Lord and pray: Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come and your will be done then the sobering reality is the admission that I am not therefore Lord, and that it is not my will, my name or my kingdom that matter. It’s his.
And if he is to be Lord of the things that come in, then isn’t it the right thing to do, to also offer to his Lordship all the things that come out?
The hurtful words and the destructive actions, are they right for someone who claims Jesus as Lord? Are they, having passed through the filter, the gate of his will for me, one of his sheep, something that will bring glory to him, or to me? Remember, Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done.
So that is the challenge this week. Jesus is the gate for the sheep. Ask him to be the gate for you in your life, and take him up on his promise: Life in all it’s fullness. Take him up on his offer. It’s there for you.