What did I learn about Jesus?
- Jesus is the Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep (us!)
- We must go through Jesus to experience abundant life.
What did I learn about disciple-making?
- Disciple-makers guard and protect younger disciples from the enemy who is out to kill, steal and destroy.
- As a disciple-maker I must be willing to make sacrifices for those I disciple
Extended thoughts and observations from Pastor Mark:
This extended metaphor of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is a favorite of mine. In it, Jesus offers two new “I Am” statements. (First, a review: I am the Bread of Life (6.35;) I Am the Light of the World (8.12; repeated 9:5) and “Before Abraham was, I Am” (8:58…most commentators don’t “count” this one but it’s right there!) Today, we find numbers 3 and 4 in the same teaching.
You need to know several things about first century Palestine sheep craft. Sheep were housed together at night in a common stone pen that had one doorway and was open to the sky. This provided economical security from predators and thieves because one pen provided refuge for many different flocks.
The single opening to the sheep pen was blocked at night by a shepherd who essentially became the door. Sheep could not go out and, more importantly, wolves and thieves could not easily sneak in. In the morning, when it was time to return the sheep to pasture, the shepherds of the various flocks would return and call their sheep to him. Because the sheep recognized the voice of the shepherd, they organized themselves into the correct flock and went on their way.
One last thing: these shepherds did not “drive” their sheep; they led them. The sheep followed the shepherd they knew and trusted.
Doesn’t this provide a deeper explanation of Jesus’ teachings? When he first declares, “I Am the gate”—twice—what do you think he is saying? Reflect on that before you read my thoughts.
I think Jesus is saying two things. First of all, no one gets to his sheep without his permission—he is their protector and defender against the thief. Who is the thief in this metaphor and what does he want to do? Verse 10 is one of the great promises from Jesus’ lips: he has come to give life and life to the full to all who are part of his flock. Who DOESN’T want that kind of life???
Also, no sheep gets into his flock without going through him. In other words, Jesus alone is the access point to salvation and real life. This is not the only time that Jesus will speak about his exclusive role in salvation. This is irksome to our culture, but they are Jesus’ words and we must deal honestly with them.
Finally, Jesus declares “I Am the good shepherd,” Again, he makes two points. First, he is willing to lay down his life for his sheep (crucifixion!) Second, he knows his sheep and they know him. When he speaks, his sheep recognize his voice.
Put all of those affirmations together, and what are the things we learn about Jesus…and about his disciples?
And thinking about our role as disciple-makers, in what way are we shepherds to our sheep? Do we protect them and guide them to a place of safety? Are we willing to “lay down our life for them,” perhaps not literally, but willing to sacrifice for them because they are dear to us? And finally, can our voice be trusted? Do they know us well enough…and know that they can trust when we speak into their lives?
Those are my thoughts…and that’s just in the first half of the chapter. How about yours?