May 3, 2020 – Easter 4
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
“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. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.”
Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
The Gospel of John loves to record the
I Am statements made by Jesus.
I Am the Bread of Life (6:35)
… the Light of the World (8:12)
… the Door, or Gate, as we read today (10:9)
… the Good Shepherd (10:11, 14)
… the Resurrection and the Life (11:25)
… the Way, the Truth, and the Life (14:6)
… and the Vine. (15:1,5)
In John’s final Revelation, Jesus speaks in the twenty-second chapter
“It is I, Jesus … I Am the root of the descendant of David,
The Bright and Morning Star.”
The Greek Ego Eimi
Is an echo from our sacred Old Testament, Hebrew text,
Meaning “I am, I exist, to be”.
(Interlinear Greek – English New Testament)
We hear God thunder to Abram
the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans.” (Genesis 15:7)
And to Moses
who I Am.” (Exodus 3:14)
What is apparent to me is
There are many ways to speak reverently of God,
And many ways God uses to self-identify.
One isn’t wrong to consider alternatives just as Jesus did.
Consider tender passages of scripture
And think of God as a loving, nurturing mother, or,
Passages of scripture revealing power and strength, and
think of God as a heavenly father.
It’s all good.
There is enough of God to go around …
Today, Jesus self-identifies as a Gate
Protecting the entrance of a sheepfold.
The Gospel today is a continuation of
The narrative of Jesus healing a man born blind.
The newly sighted man gives testimony to the Pharisees who investigate his healing of what Jesus had done, and
That Jesus was from God.
They drove him out of their flock
Right into Jesus’ flock.
Jesus asks him if he believed in the Son of Man.
“The one speaking with you is he,” Jesus confirmed. (9:37)
Add “I Am the Son of Man” to the list.
A sheepfold is an enclosure made of stone walls, topped with briars.
A sheepfold has only one entrance, which also served as an exit.
Its purpose was to provide sanctuary for the flock at night,
Safe from thieves and bandits.
Bandits, implied by the usage of the Greek, maraud and destroy.
Bandits avoid the gate and attempt to go over the wall.
Bandits could be roving guerrillas involved in insurrection,
Garden variety evil people, or
Even religious authorities of the day.
Thieves and bandits threaten the Shepherd and his flock.
“I Am the Gate,” Jesus proclaims.
Sheep are gathered in the sanctuary of the sheepfold,
Like Christians gathered for worship on Sunday.
But when the Sabbath is over and
The sun rises,
The flock isn’t allowed to stay in the sheepfold.
They are driven through the gate and
Led to green pastures and still waters,
Where life is abundant.
Jesus’ disciples were a bunch of old fishermen.
It isn’t surprising they didn’t understand an agricultural metaphor.
So Jesus makes plain his instruction.
“I Am the Gate.”
Sheep that hear my voice know me,
Like the previously blind man who knew Jesus by his voice and
Followed his command to wash in the pool of Siloam.
Sheep know the voice of their shepherd
And follow him.
Sheep may hear the voice of others;
Thieves, bandits, preachers of other faiths, false messiahs, snake oil salesmen, every politician with a promise, and the like.
Sheep don’t follow them.
Sheep stick to the familiar,
Who knows them,
Who protects them,
Who leads them to abundant pastures and still water.
“I Am the gate.”
“Whoever enters (or exits) by me will be saved,” Jesus promised.
Salvation is taking part in the ebb and flow of the flock;
Of coming in and going out.
Life, or Zoen, in the Greek means
Eternal life. (Ibid.)
Abundant, or Pi-erisson, in the Greek means
More than enough or necessary,
Life in the flock of Christian disciples
Is this rhythmic tidal surge between
The sanctuary of the sheepfold and abundant life found in green pastures.
It is in the green pastures that sheep get down to work and demonstrate their value.
With pastors serving like sheep dogs working to keep the flock together,
It is in the pasture where the Shepherd shears the sheep of their wool.
They are not harmed.
Their sacrifice is for the benefit of the Shepherd.
Without pushing the “I Am” metaphor too far,
I think the green pastures and still waters of the world
Is were God is calling us to be the greatest benefit to God’s kingdom.
As Church, as a flock, we love the Lord in our worship gathered in the sheepfold.
As Church, as a flock, we love our neighbors in the green pastures of life,
In the community, near and abroad.
Living this life is living abundantly,
Claiming God’s gift of grace and salvation.
How do we apply this text to our life?
- Come to Jesus.
Right here, right now.
If you’re not a member of his flock,
He is waiting for you with a hearty “Welcome!”
Come into the fold.
- Make a commitment to Jesus.
Learn his voice.
Learn his methods.
Learn his ways.
Get to know him.
Get intimate with him.
- Don’t listen to other shepherds.
This flock has one – Jesus Christ.
Tune out and turn off the promises of a better deal.
Know that Jesus laid down his life for you;
That’s how much he loves you.
No one else even comes close.
- Abundant life can only be found in the flock led by Jesus.
Christianity is a team sport.
Get on the team and don’t ever quit.
In the unlikely event you have a bad religious experience and do find yourself lost,
Jesus is never going to stop searching for you.
Jesus desperately longs for you to return to the flock.
- Pastors will push you through the gate and
Do our best to keep the flock together.
Know that, while sometimes irritating, it’s for our own good.
Pastors are not the Divine Shepherd.
Pastors come and go.
Christians only follow Jesus.
- Leave the sheepfold and get to work in the mission field
Loving and serving our neighbors, near and far.
Give up your wool.
Give all your love away.
Like hair on a bald head; it will grow back.
When it does, you can give it up all over again!
- Life is good in the flock.
There is more than enough to go around.
There is more than enough than our mortal bodies can even imagine.
- Are you saved?
Of course, you are.
Salvation comes when we take our place in the flock.
If you’re in, you’re in for good.
Stop obsessing about it.
Roll up your sleeves and get to work!