How do we become part of Christ’s flock and what does He do with His sheep?
Let’s realize that Jesus brings His sheep together.
Let’s look at John 10:1-10 and see how baptism makes us part of the faith community.
John 10:1 The Sheepfold
We can learn a lot about Christianity from a “sheepfold.” Sheep are very social, flock together and readily follow a lead sheep. Healthy lambs feed frequently. A lamb that bleats all the time is probably hungry. Lambs remain close to their mothers but curiosity can get them into trouble. Sheep are generally docile, but rams can be aggressive during breeding season, headbutting to dominate. Ewes may become aggressive to protect their young. Sheep have excellent memories and trust a shepherd who handles them gently. Shepherds can train sheep by voice command. Like shepherds, churches use various group assemblies to tend God’s sheep. Sheep instinctively know that they are better off together.
John 10:4 They Know His Voice
Is the voice of Jesus harsh and authoritarian, or soft and effeminate? The Bible gives us a picture of Jesus’ voice: the sheep hear it. People listen to all kinds of voices. Yet the sheep listen to His. All other voices are potential robbers. Just as in a real flock of sheep, where each can be taught its name, so too does the voice Jesus call each by name. It is a personal relationship. Jesus’ sheep “follow him, for they know his voice.” They will never follow another. In fact, they go the other way from the un-recognized voice of a stranger. We can learn to recognize the voice of Jesus.
John 10:5 Following a Stranger
Jesus said that His sheep “will by no means follow a stranger.” The idea of “dumb sheep” is a myth. Sheep are very intelligent animals. They remember up to fifty other sheep and ten humans. They find their way out of mazes quickly and are smarter than humans in being able to find the plants they need for herbal cures. In England they taught themselves to roll across cattle grids to feed on neighboring pastures. After meeting a group of people, sheep remember who brought the food. They know by instinct that togetherness is the best defense against a predator. They flock together and gladly follow a shepherd that they trust.
John 10:6 Parable of the Sheep Gate
When “Jesus used this illustration” or parable of being the gate for the sheep he was not speaking literally but figuratively. Parables use hyperbolic language not literal. Let’s not pride ourselves on always taking the Bible literally, when an overly literal interpretation often misses what God intended. Let’s not be thieves and robbers entering a church to steal the peace, kill the joy and destroy the unity. The more we listen to Jesus, the more we find spiritual pasture that feeds our souls. Our lives become more fulfilled now as we experience paradise on earth in a manner not available to those who never come to church, to the sheep fold.
John 10:7 When a Gate is a Gate
Why did Jesus say, “I am the door of the sheep?” Picture a shepherd sitting or sleeping at the entrance to a sheep pen. There is no wooden gate. He is the gate. Even a pastor or shepherd who does not enter by the legitimate gate is a thief and a robber. The only legitimate way to enter the true Church is via Jesus. He is the gate. We do not enter the sheepfold via Moses, Paul, the Ecumenical Patriarch, Pope, Luther, Calvin or Wesley. The best servants of God are not the gate. Only Jesus is the gate. So, when is a gate a gate? When that gate is Jesus.
John 10:8 Thieves and Robbers
Jesus said, “All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers.” Is a particular church the door? Claims of who is one true church are everywhere, but they can’t all be right. Are all who claim to be the door into the sheepfold, except Jesus himself, thieves and robbers? When humans compete for sheep, where do we hear Jesus’ voice? Is it the loud and wealthy televangelist? Is it soft words of someone letting their light shine in good works? Is it the encouraging words of an elderly Christian? Are sermons preaching the words of denominational division or of the Great Shepherd who has come that we may have life?
John 10:9 Who is the Gate
Jesus said, “I am the door of the sheep.” He is the gateway or gatekeeper for the sheepfold. Listen to the voice of the gatekeeper. He will lead us out to safety. Ignore his voice and we may romp in the green grass at the wrong time, headed into danger. If we enter into safety through the gatekeeper, then we know that he will be watching. It is important for us to be following the right voice, the voice of the gatekeeper, Jesus. Inside the gate is freedom from harm, because the gatekeeper guards us. Outside the gate is freedom to run and frolic with protection, because the gatekeeper leads us.
John 10:10 Life to the Full
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” This is contrasted with the thief who enters the church “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” We have slowly drifted away from Jesus Christ and substituted material abundance for the abundant life in Christ. Heretical Gospels that emphasize self-indulgence are popular. The delusion of materialism has brought spiritual and family destruction. Divorce and crime are direct results of our hedonistic rush for power and wealth. The thief has come and stolen and killed and destroyed us. Will we return to the one who can give us life to the full?
Let us learn to recognize the voice of the Great Shepherd. He sits at the door as gatekeeper to the sheepfold. As we come in and go out through him we find spiritual pasture and life to the full.