Follow the Shepherd

WORK: BIBLE ARCHAEOLOGY: young boy shepherd with flock

This Sunday we’ll read another set of Jesus’ statements of “I Am” – in this case, “I Am the door” and “I am the Good Shepherd”. We’ll be reading John 10:1-21 where Jesus gives a discourse that provides a contrast to the corrupted religious system that had just rejected the formerly blind man, and Messiah who went to find him.

The story is the closest thing to a parable that we find in John’s gospel, and it uses imagery that would have been familiar to the first hearers but which is almost totally foreign to us.

He describes a practice of shepherding where there appeared to be a common sheep pen used by multiple shepherds. This pen would likely be a circular stone walled enclosure with one gap which would be guarded to ensure the security of the sheep. The shepherds would be known by the gatekeeper, and their sheep would follow them by the sound of their unique call, or whistle, or a tune played on a flute.

This good and proper practice is contrasted with sheep rustlers who sneak over the fence to steal sheep – forcing them to go with them.

Then Jesus changes the metaphor, where HE is a door for the sheep. This still stays within the shepherd mold as well. Shepherds would sometimes sleep in the gap of the enclosure, as the first line of defense against robbers or predators that might threaten the sheep. He would literally become a door to the pen.

He talks about motives – the motives of hired hands and the motives of a good and true shepherd.

All of this is meant to contrast the values and purpose of the kingdom of God over against a religious system. As you read this description by Jesus,what are the main characteristics of his relationship to his followers? In what ways can a religious system manifest the characteristics of the robbers Jesus described?

Jesus seems to be trying to encourage people like the formerly blind man that religion may reject them, but it doesn’t really matter. Following Jesus is where real life is found. But this begs the question…how do we KNOW we’re following Jesus and not a religious system? How can we discern what or who we’re following by the clues Jesus gives us in this story?

This is an important issue to consider. I’m looking forward to digging into this on Sunday – hope to see you there!

One response to “Follow the Shepherd”

  1. This is such beautiful imagery of our shepherd… The main characteristics of His relationship to his followers seems to be intimacy, familiarity, protection and self sacrifice. He knows them by name (personally) they know Him, His voice. They trust His care, protection and leading. He directs their path by going before them and they follow Him. They do not recognize and refuse to follow strangers because they have become accustomed to and learned to discern His voice. Religion can manifest the characteristics of the thieves or robbers when those in leadership value their position above the people in their care. When preserving social status, reputation or appearance precedes passion for people, priorities have become twisted..
    How do we know we are following Jesus and not a religious system? The text here points to relationship, knowing Him, hearing Him, following Him…He says here, if we come to Him we will go in and out and find pasture, (peace, sustenance, freedom). He says with Him we will have abundant, (satisfying, purposeful lives). As we look at our lives are we experiencing those things in our walk with Jesus? Are we growing in our relationship with Him, hearing His voice through His word? Do we sense Him leading us in any particular direction? Do we have His peace or are we anxious and stressed? Are we spending time seeking His face, sitting at His feet or are we just busy doing “stuff” for Him. The Martha/Mary example comes to mind when pondering this question. Remember Martha invited Jesus into her home and then she got upset because Mary wasn’t helping her in the kitchen but rather had chosen to “sit at Jesus’ feet, hearing His word”. He told Martha that Mary had chosen that good part which would not be taken away from her… Unless we are at His feet receiving His love, His words and His peace we will not be able to truly reflect His character to those around us. We will end up pointing our finger at others like Martha wondering why they are not towing the line like we are. Our relationship with Jesus births peace and wholeness. Pursuits born out of our passion for Him truly make a difference in the lives of those around us and even fill us with a since of joy and fullness. Religious rule following and even deeds done out of duty or guilt or motivated by the approval of people are draining, lifeless and limited. The notes in my bible say it pretty eloquently …It is possible to allow even genuine good works to distract from whole hearted devotion to Him. Devotion is a matter of developing an intimate relationship with a living God, learning the warmth of a life that draws near to His Father-heart. Doesn’t that sound inviting!! Lets choose devotion over duty and embrace passion rather than piety!

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