15 September 2014

Encountering Jesus ~ Authority and Authorization

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them. (John 10.1-6)
There is no indication that at the beginning of this chapter, there is either a new audience or a new theme. Rather, it is a continuation of the discussion from the previous chapter, where not only did the Pharisees insist that their spiritual vision was 20/20, they also persisted in encouraging other Jews to follow them, confident that shepherding the people was their responsibility and that they were the infallible guides for an ignorant populace. The very ones who should have been the first to recognize the prophesied Messiah, welcomed Him as the Good Shepherd and then led others to follow Him - always decreasing so that He might increase (as John the Baptist said)??? ...they were the very ones seeking most emphatically to discredit Him and discourage others from seeing Him and seeking after God. Perhaps most serious of all, they presumptuously sought to exert control over the people of Israel.

In response, Jesus uses a triad of illustrations, ones with which his audience would be very familiar. Several prophets (Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Zechariah) used similar imagery to describe true and godly leaders verses false teachers, prophets and leaders. The prophets anticipated a future time when a good Shepherd would come, fulfilling all  that God expected and desired. Shepherds were common in the Jewish culture - think of all if the biblical accounts that include shepherds as part of the narrative. Think of all of the well-known shepherds in Israelite history - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his sons, Moses, David, the shepherds to whom the angels announced Jesus' arrival.

First, Jesus says the Good Shepherd will be identified by how He arrives. And that is through the gate. A thief or a robber will have to find some unauthorized way to sneak in. The genuine Good Shepherd will come with confidence - authority and authorization - and will seek entrance... or audience with the people... through only legitimate and straightforward, upfront means. 

I wonder if perhaps John the Baptist was an example of a gatekeeper?

The sheep hear and respond to the voice of their Good Shepherd because of trust, faith and a history of past experience where the One associated with that voice has cared for, provided for, led, protected... in other words, shepherded. I've heard it said that sheep need a leader, not because they are dumb - but rather because they understand that alone, they are weak. Their Shepherd is their benefactor. He also knows each one by name. Each member of the flock is unique and an individual to the Good Shepherd. That speaks to the intimacy with which the Good Shepherd knows each member of His flock.

Perhaps the most striking-for-me words in this particular passage are the words "he goes on ahead of them." While living in Niger, we saw flocks of sheep - every day. As my husband likes to point out, there were typically two kinds of shepherds: those who walked on ahead and the sheep followed willingly... or those who drove their sheep forward in front of them, often beating them with their staff to keep them moving. 

Jesus is a Shepherd to be followed. He goes before us - leading, providing, protecting. He is also our example. We who follow Him should tread in his steps: graciously, humbly, lovingly, patiently, teachably, sacrificially... yet confidently because when we hear His voice, we know it. We recognize Him, His majesty, His authority and His unchangingness.

He is the Good Shepherd. 

If only the Pharisees had understood. 

this week's gratitude list

(#'s 4820 - 4851)
Elsie Mae's is 8

and she's out of her booster seat

which makes her very, very happy

planning a birthday party

praying for a successful driving test for a driver in training this week

hearing about (and celebrating) the engagement of a very special young guy

youth group kick off

an early fall cold snap

goldenrod blooming gold along the side of the road, making me smile. I LOVE wildflowers!

family over for Sunday afternoon dinner

Anna and Elsa dolls

hearing my boy play his flute again, with the orchestra at church



being asked what "born again" means by some guys who really seemed to listen to the answer

challenging, provoking fb conversations

internet that is at least sort of working... even amid the frustrations of the ways it isn't working

a rootbeer float... because I haven't had one in such a long, long time

the end of a long week

meeting friends we've not seen in over 5 years last Monday night

watching my big girlies (the ones that remembered) hug that missionary aunt and uncle

finally figuring out where Elsie Mae's original Nigerien birth certificate is

renewed passports

homemade ice/gel packs (super easy and convenient, by the way!)

great initial meeting with a physical therapists - hopeful that there will soon be a full return to strength and movement without pain

friends who bring us dinner for no reason other than they want to love on us

great carnival weekend at our church

hot air balloons floating over our house

big girls going out with friends

watching others who are willing to learn and change as they invest in the lives of the international students attending Calvary

so many adults who've invested in and impacted my children... and hearing my biggers talk about what that means to them

realizing anew how overwhelming God's simple goodness to us can be

Ten most recent posts in this series: 
Click here for all of the titles and their corresponding links in the Encountering Jesus series.

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