1: "Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit." - These verses in John 10 should be read in context with the story of the blind man in John 9. The Pharisees had driven the blind man from the temple. Jesus' response is that His teachings are they way that will lead people to God, not the narrow-minded, self-centered leadership of the religious community.
3: "The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." - The sheepfold is shared by the community but when a shepherd comes and calls, only his sheep respond and follow because they recognize his voice. This is a lesson on discernment.
6: "Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what He was saying to them." - Again, this is a reference to the stubbornness of the Pharisees and their unwillingness to listen to the truth that Jesus presented.
8: "All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them." - He is telling the gathered crowd that they should not listen to what the Pharisees have to say. The manner in which they treated the healed blind man indicates that they do not have any vision for the kingdom of God.
9: "I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture." - When we follow Jesus we have the freedom to live our lives in His presence, coming and going through Him.
10: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." - The leaders of the religious community were only acting in their own behalf. Jesus has our best interests in mind and will lead us to greener pastures.
Points to Contemplate:
Who are the thieves or bandits in your life?
Today's parable by Jesus was in response to the narrow-mindedness of the Pharisees. They were the bandits attempting to steal access to the kingdom of heaven. What prophet are you following that is leading you astray? Are you inspired by the voices of patriotism and have come to expect that the kingdom of heaven is accessed through a flag or political leader? Are you listening to messages that inspire hate and condescension towards those different from you? Are religious overtones of self-righteousness causing you turn from your calling to love your enemy and to become a peacemaker in the world? Jesus has a message for you today. His teachings will lead you to greener pastures.
Do you hear the voice of Christ? Within the myriad of voices that fill your day, among the thousands of attempts to catch your attention, do you hear Christ calling? How can you tell? What can you do to learn to recognize Jesus in the cacophony of sound beating at the door of your heart? Jesus says you will know. His followers will recognize His voice. Why? Because everything He says will lead you to the truth - the truth of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, sanctification, justification, and salvation. Are the voices to which you are listening leading you in this direction?
Have you entered through the "Gate?" Again, as we look to Christ as the gate to salvation it is important to keep these verses in context to the story of the blind man. Those listening to Jesus were trying to decide if they should follow their religious leaders or this new, upstart prophet. Jesus says that the ways of religiosity are wrong! The pathway to God's glory is a personal path to salvation and Jesus is leading the way. Have you decided to set aside all forms of religious bigotry and self-imbued righteousness in order to find a personal relationship with Christ? Are you willing to go it alone and allow Jesus' helping hand into the kingdom of heaven? Are you willing to allow Him to be your shepherd who will lead you beside the still waters and restore your soul? Promise of the Gospel:
All too often, these verses in John are pointed to as proof that Jesus is the only way to God's kingdom. Religious experts of world, I call you to consider the possibility that none of us truly know the ways of God. Christ may be the only way into heaven, however, as we come to know God we find Him to be loving and forgiving. He is not a God that creates barriers to His love. The gate to heaven is not a narrow path. Jesus was talking directly to a group of people who had experienced the fallacies of a religion that had been led astray by the teachings of self-righteous zealots. In this story He was telling these people that His teachings and the life He was leading them to was the correct path to God. It was the correct path as compared to the thieves and bandits called Pharisees. It may be that Christianity is the only pathway to God - that is a human debate. But it is certain that bigotry, hatred, and, most importantly, self-righteousness are characteristics that close the gates to heaven. As Christians, it is important to make sure that we are not following the "Pharisees" of our day. We are to listen for the voice of the Shepherd and when we do we will find the pathway to the greener pastures that God has in store for us all.