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Intro

Good morning! If you haven’t been with us over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been going through the I AM statements in the Gospel of John. We’ve looked at what Jesus meant when he said “I am the bread of Life, and I Am the light of the world,” and I’ve been arguing that in each of these 7 statements, Jesus is making it known that he is God, he is the I AM, and his making God present in the here and in the now, and he is ultimately communicating to us that he is what we need. So, unsurprisingly, today’s passage communicates the same thing. And, I’ve said this in most of my sermons, but the only way any of us will be truly happy, the only way any of us will be truly satisfied, the only way that any of us will have any purpose, any meaning, and any value in this life, is if we follow Jesus.
But the problem is, there are so many things in our lives, in our everyday contexts, in our everyday interactions with people, so many things that promise us happiness. So many things that promise to give us meaning. They promise us that if we follow them, if we participate in certain things, if we follow certain people or certain ideologies, we’ll find happiness, value, and belonging. And so we go after these things, and I’ll try to define things in a minute, but we go after these things and instead of finding life, we find pain, we find loneliness, we find anger, bitterness, rejection, disappointment. The things that promised us so much ended up leaving us empty and broken. And, most of us in this room have grown up in church, and so we’ve heard over and over again that Jesus is the only way, Jesus is our only hope, Jesus gives everlasting life; we’ve heard this so much, that we’re numb to it, and we’re not even sure that we believe in it any more. And so, all of these other things are much more appealing to us now that we’re older than this Jesus guy is. So, let open up our bibles to
John 10:1–10 ESV
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and 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.
This is the world of the Lord.
Prayer

Context/Exposition

Something that we have to keep in mind anytime we read scripture is that it was written for us but not to us. What I mean by that is, the words and stories and teachings written in this book are meant for us to study and to treasure and to follow, but they were written to a specific group of people in a specific culture and during a specific time period. And, to fully understand what the text is saying, we need to understand the people and the context which it was written in.
And this text is a good example of this. I doubt any of us have any experience with sheep. Maybe you’ve petted one or seen one, but I doubt you have any real experience with them. This passage is full of language that deals with raising sheep, herding sheep, guarding sheep, etc. And the language is familiar to those who this was written for. Even so, Jesus’ words, even though they were in a language the the people understood — they understood the wording Jesus chose — but they couldn’t grasp the metaphor. So, us today in 2019 need to do a little bit more work to understand what Jesus is saying. The overarching point, as I’ve said, is that Jesus is what we truly need, but how does this truth show itself in this passage? So, let’s walk through this passage together.

The Sheepfold

Verse 1 opens up with “truly, truly,” and anytime this is used in the gospel of John, it’s to draw attention that what is about to follow is extremely important. It says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.” Now, in ancient culture, and even today, sheep are the most helpless animals. They aren’t very smart, they have no ability to defend themselves, they spend most of their day wandering around a pasture eating grass, and they get lost easily. They’ll walk around with their heads down, never looking up, and then they get lost. And sheep, unlike other animals, have no ability to find their way back home. Once they’re lost, or once they lose site of their sheepfold, they’re screwed until the shepherd comes and finds them. So, sheep are pretty helpless, and by nature, they’re followers. They follow so well that if a lead sheep walks off of a cliff, all of the others will also walk off of the cliff.
Sheep also get hurt pretty easily, and they’re vulnerable to being attacked by wolves. They do not have any ability to defend themselves, and they’ll often huddle together when something dangerous enters their pen. So, all of this to say that sheep were totally, fully, completely dependent on their shepherd. A good shepherd was always with his sheep. He protected the sheep, and was the sheep’s closest companion. And, shepherd often had cute little names for their sheep, and they knew each one, and knew anytime one was missing. The average flock of sheep was anywhere between 20-100, so for a shepherd to have a name for each sheep, and to know what each sheep looked like is pretty incredible. But, the bond between shepherd and sheep was so close, that the sheep recognized their shepherd’s voice — Shepherds had a unique call they would use to call their sheep — but, they knew their shepherd’s voice so well that when two or three herds of sheep would get mixed together, the shepherds could call their sheep, and the sheep would know who to go to.
The closest thing I can think of to this is my granddad and his cows. When he gets in his truck and drives out to the pasture to check on them, they all run towards him. As a kid, my brother and I would ride in the back of our granddad’s truck, and we’d pet the cows as they came up to us.
But, when night came, the shepherd would lead the sheep into their sheepfold. There were two kinds of sheepfolds or pens. One kind was a public sheepfold found in the cities and villages. It would be large enough to hold several flocks of sheep. This sheep pen would be in the care of a doorkeeper, whose duty it was to guard the door to the sheep pen during the night and to admit the shepherds in the morning. The shepherds would call their sheep, each of which knew its own shepherd’s voice, and would lead them out to pasture.
The second kind of sheep pen was in the countryside, where the shepherds would keep their flocks in good weather. This type of sheep pen was nothing more than a rough circle of rocks piled into a wall with a small open space to enter. Through it the shepherd would drive the sheep at nightfall. Since there was no gate to close—just an opening—the shepherd would keep the sheep in and wild animals out by lying across the opening. He would sleep there, in this case literally becoming the door to the sheep.

Thieves and Robbers

And so, the shepherd protected the sheep. But what from? As the text says, there are thieves and robbers. This part of the metaphor is pretty simple to grasp. People would often break into the sheepfold and they would hurt the sheep, kill the sheep, or they would try and lead the sheep astray. But, sheep who knew their shepherd’s voice would never follow a thief or robber. Not because they were smart enough not to, but because they only knew one shepherd. They only knew one voice which they could follows. There wasn’t room in their minds for there to be a competing voice. And, in this context, the thieves and robbers that Jesus was speaking of were the religious leaders of the day. They didn’t care about the people, they only cared about themselves. And they refused to view Jesus as the messiah. And so, he calls them thieves and robbers, because they are leading the people the wrong way. Look at verse 3. It says “To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” I read this, and I thought, okay, the shepherd is leading the sheep out of the sheepfold and into the pasture, and they follow him because they know his voice, but what is Jesus, who is the shepherd and the door in this passage, what is he leading the people out of? And, in the context of who Jesus was speaking to, he was leading them out of Judaism. He was leading them out of the old religion that said do all of these things, make all of these sacrifices, follow all of these commands, and all of these laws, he was leading them out of that and he was leading them into the freedom that comes from following Christ. He was leading them out of the oppressiveness of the judaism that was being taught, and into the freedom that comes from a shepherd who will later lay down his life for the sheep. We’ll talk more about this next week.
And then it says in verse 4, once he has brought out his own, he goes before them. The shepherd goes before them, leading the way, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They don’t follow a stranger, they don’t know a stranger’s voice, in fact, as verse five say, they flee from it! They flee from the stranger trying to lead them astray.

6-10

So Jesus said all of this in the first five verses, but apparently the people he was speaking to didn’t understand him. So, because they missed the point, he gets super specific and in verses 7-10 he says ““Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and 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.”
And so here Jesus says he’s a door, and that’s kind of strange, what do you mean you’re a door Jesus? And the thieves and robbers are mentioned again, what is going on? Remember, he’s talking mainly to the pharisees and to a crowd of people, trying to help them understand who he is, and he’s calling the pharisees and the religios leaders thieves and robbers. And so he says, all who came before him were thieves and robbers. Before Jesus came, a lot of people came and claimed to be the messiah, and they promised they would bring a rebellion, and they would over throw Rome. Every single one of these failed. And So Jesus says, all of those guys were thieves and robbers. Their way was not the way to the kingdom, but my way is. And so Jesus says “I am the door of the sheep.” Only through me, only through what I am doing, only through following me and entering through me can you come into the kingdom, only through this can you come into eternal and abundant life. There isn’t any other way. There isn’t any other leader. There isn’t any other political system that will get you to true abundant life. He’s saying that all of them have placed their hope in something that is never going to happen, but Jesus himself is right there and he is the only way. Not only this, but every other way that was promised, it really only steals, and kills, and destroys. In the end, every other way that promises the kingdom and promises life ends in death.

Application

And so for us, there are so many thieves and robbers that try to steal us away from following Jesus. People who don’t follow Jesus often criticize Jesus followers saying things like, oh you don’t have any fun, religion is just a bunch of rules, why don’t you just enjoy life? We’re told that to be happy, we need to seek pleasure for ourselves. Seek worldly pleasure. Do all things for the satisfaction of yourself go smoke, go drink, go party, go watch porn, go have sex. Christianity is just trying to keep you form living your fullest life. And so, many of us buy into that lie. That thief comes after us, and we follow it. You sleep with your girlfriend or boyfriend, and it’s fun and it’s not that bad, and you’re thinking “hmmm, this isn’t that big of deal after all.” But then you break up. You were extremely vulnerable with someone who’s now gone from your life. And you’re hurting because you believed a lie that told you this is what you have to do to be happy. You believed a lie that said “God is just trying to keep you from having fun.” No, God wants you to have full and abundant life. Every prohibition he gives us is so that we are protected and so that we can be happy. God says sex is between two people who have entered into a covenant of marriage because it’s an act of vulnerability and intimacy, and outside of that covenant it’s often used for power and control, not love. And so we follow after this life that seeks our own pleasure and we end up in a places of numbness, loneliness, addiction, trying to find that next thing that makes us feel something.
Maybe you’re more disciplined, and so you don’t follow the pleasure thief. Maybe you follow the thief of performance. If we can just perform more, perform at a higher capacity than our peers If I can just work harder and longer, then I’ll be satisfied. If I can just study more, if I can just get to the top of my class, then I’ll be happy. Then my life will be full. It’s still a lie.
Maybe it’s your possessions. You need the best phone, the best clothes, the best laptop, the best game system. Then, you’ll be happy. Right? Things make us happy, right? The more stuff we have, or if we have better stuff than our friends, then we’re happy? Right?
Or maybe it’s your popularity. You need to get at least 150 likes on instagram, or the it wasn’t worth posting. Your popularity, your position in your circle or in your school is sooo imporant. You need to be the most loved, the most liked, the most sought after, and then you’ll be happy. You need to be the top of your class, and the best at everything, because your position in life is so important and so tied to how you see yourself, that if it’s not where you want it to be, then your whole life crumbles, and everything’s a mess.
I could keep going, but the point is, there are so many thieves and robbers, so many things that call out to us saying “follow us, we’ll bring you happiness.” There’s so much of this, and so many voices screaming at us. But, there’s only one shepherd. There’s only one way to true, full, abundant life. And that’s Jesus. I truly truly, really, honestly believe that if you start following Jesus today, your life will be better for it. Jesus has come to rescue us from the crap that is pulling us into death and destruction. He’s come to rescue us from our idea of pleasure, he’s come to rescue us from performance, he’s come to rescue us from seeking posessions or popularity. He’s come to rescue us from all of that, because he knows that for all of human history, humans have sought after those things and have found themselves miserable, crying out for something more, something greater, something fulfilling. And Jesus came down and said “I am the door of the sheep, and I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” And so, that’s my prayer, and my plea fo us as a youth group. Jesus is what we need. If you don’t follow him, start now. I promise you, everything will be better because of it. Life is still hard, but now there’s hope, now there’s this promise of abundance, of eternity, there’s this promise of a better life. Following Jesus means we live differently, and we’ll get into what that looks like after this sermon series, but by living differently, by becoming better people, through following Jesus, our lives are fuller, richer, and abundant.
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