Friday, June 02, 2006

A good sheep Part II

The text from John 10

John 10
The Shepherd and His Flock
1"I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." 6Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.

7Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The 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. 12The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns 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. 13The 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— 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I 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. 17The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18No 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."

And from John 10
the sheep listen to his voice: Might as well begin at the beginning right. Listening is the first thing when it comes to becoming a good sheep. In Wesleyan circles this is translated to prevenient grace, the grace that is calling us to God from the very start, before we ever realize it is God calling. When we do realize, we turn, and this is called repentance. Repentance is the first of many stages of listening to the voice of God.

The sheep are led out: A good sheep allows itself to be led. In fact a good sheep needs to be led and will not do the leading.

sheep follow him: This is a bit of knowing the shepherd. There is a story I was told some years ago about a shepherd who during one of the wars in the Middle East had his sheep confiscated and put into a common pen with several other flocks of sheep. When the time came and the war was over the shepherd returned to the pen and asked the military official if he could get his sheep. The official replied the shepherd could not because the sheep were all categorized and the paperwork would need to be addressed and the numbers verified, and that it would take weeks. He could submit his request at this time and then come back later. The young shepherd, undeterred, asked the official to verify the piece of paper he had been given when his sheep were taken away. The official recognized it and saw how many sheep were being requested and that it was not a large flock. This development only further encouraged the soldier that he was right to wait it out as there were several large flocks in the pen. The young shepherd asked the soldier to open the pen door for a moment, while he showed him a piece of knowledge every shepherd has. The soldier grudgingly obliged. The young shepherd went to the gate and whistled his peculiar whistle. Out came the small flock of about 8 sheep. The soldier was duly impressed and let the young shepherd go.

Sheep run away from a stranger's voice: The very reason this worked was because the other sheep in the pen heard the soldier’s voice and ran away. The only reason the sheep of the young shepherd came forward was because of the trust they had in their own shepherd and the knowledge they had of his whistle.

Sheep who enter through [Jesus, the gate] will be saved: This is a salvation story. There is one way into the pen and that is through the gate. Jesus opens the pen door for all who will come. As we have already discussed those who do not know the shepherd (Jesus) will not come to the gate because they do not trust the shepherd and will not go willingly where the shepherd is leading – namely into the pen.

Sheep will come in and go out, and find pasture: The pen is a place of safety, but the pasture is a place of nourishment and some chance of danger. However, it is the shepherd who will then lead the sheep in and out of the pen, to ensure they have the opportunity to receive the nourishment they need, with food and exercise, and fellowship (Goodness! Aren’t those the very things we need as humans?)

Sheep have life to the full: Well, well, I guess maybe the truth comes to the front now. Having a safe place to come together (the church) and the skillful work of a master shepherd (Jesus), as well as a place to graze and frolic (the world) life is lived to the full.

My sheep know me: See above illustration of the young shepherd.

There shall be one flock and one shepherd, from sheep of several pastures: This is the hard part for us to realize. Our shepherds are limited by the time and space they have for shepherding. Their flocks are small enough to travel and graze without overgrazing. This is where there become several shepherds for a large flock, and the master shepherd is the one who comes at the end of the day to check on the hired shepherds and the entire flock, gathering them into a common pen at the end of the season for shearing, breeding and butchering. The challenge for us to understand is that the little shepherds and the master shepherd are the same.

(As a pastor I am not the hired shepherd, just another of the sheep who tells the flock of what I know. I have to follow the master shepherd as well, and it is the safety I find in God, through Jesus that I can come to share with others – the same task we all have once we have become followers of Jesus)



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