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John’s gospel post 50: The Voice

January 5, 2014

“The sheep remain inside their pen until the shepherd leads his flock away” – Genesis – Firth of fifth (from the album ‘Selling England by the pound)

John 10:1 – 10

Hey I’ve made it to my 50th post. A half century is something most of the current England cricket team could only dream of!

And with the 50th post, we make it into double figures – chapter 10. Still I’m struck by how much talking there has been. Even when Jesus produces a knockout miracle of giving sight to the blind, all people seem to want to do is talk about it.

Anyway, we’re back to talking again. Time to listen to Jesus again. We’ve heard him described as light and life, the word. He’s talked of living water and truth. Now he introduces a new description for himself, taking an environment that would have been familiar to people and which was also used by the Old Testament prophets.

Time to consider the man with a crook, tweed jacket, flat cap and collie dog. It’s the shepherd. Wrong culture, wrong era. Sorry.

And he’s talking to those people the Pharisees again. The sheep folds of the day had a gate, and the standard way in was through the gate. If someone was trying to climb over the side it was generally not a good sign. The only people who did that we’re trying to steal the sheep.

The shepherd goes in through the gate, speaks to his sheep individually and leads them out. They follow him because they actually know his voice.

Sheep don’t have the best reputation, you know all that stuff about wandering off, and following each other thoughtlessly. Actually we give them a bad press.

All this stuff about the relationship between sheep and shepherd. Could it really be true? Last year my family and I spent some time holidaying in mid Wales. Having been born in South Wales I never really understood all the cliches about the number of sheep in the country. In mid Wales I saw sheep in numbers that were frankly mind boggling. I wouldn’t have been surprised to have one serve me in paper shop!

So I decided to test a little. Entering a field. Let’s call the sheep over. My voice is as good as anyone else to a sheep. As soon as I got through the gate and opened my mouth, a remarkable thing happened. The sheep legged it!

In fact I didn’t even have to speak. As I approached any sheep they would get up and go. Even when I told them not to get up they got up. When I opened a gate for a sheep who was in the wrong field, he was having none of it. He did not trust me one bit.

So there is that relationship between sheep and shepherd, which obviously works much better than sheep and lawyer. Perhaps they thought I was going to fleece them!

Anyway, interesting stuff from Jesus, but we are told that the Pharisees had not the foggiest clue what he was talking about.

Jesus explains. “I am the gate of the sheep”. No the sheep’s gate was not ornate wrought iron. The shepherd actually used to lie across the entrance to the sheep fold. So he stopped the sheep getting out and the robber going in.

“Those who come through me”, says Jesus, “will be saved. You’re safe with me. Safe inside. But safe when I lead you outside as well”. Jesus’ followers are not just stuck within stone walls, but they come out too (just in case any Christians see Jesus as some way of escaping real life).

The thief comes to kill and destroy, but Jesus had come so that his listeners could have life and have it in all it’s fullness.

Jesus offers a full life. Life as it is meant to be. Abundant life.

As we have already said, while many see the Christian life as a restrictive, narrow minded, thou shalt not enjoy thyself, empty semi-existence! Jesus offers so much more – full life.

As his church we may need to hang our heads if we have displayed a life following Jesus as a joyless deprived one.

Maybe for the first time as you read, you will hear the shepherd’s life giving voice. This one is the real thing. Don’t run, but turn to him.

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