During this fast season we are exploring - through what we read in a chapter a day of the Bible - who God is and what He is like.
1. Pray and read - preferably together
2. Pray and share
What image do we have of a good shepherd? A friendly and caring person? A brave defender of the sheep?
Jesus seems to use the images of a shepherd and the door to the sheepfold in ways that confuse some of His hearers, delight some who draw close and enrage others who keep their distance.
What was it that caused such division? The Good Shepherd is not emphasising His own goodness but the evil intentions of those who are thieves, robbers and strangers.
Again it is a matter of where authority comes from. The human authorities, the religious and political leaders, are challenged over their intentions.
In contrast, Jesus the Good Shepherd is recognised by true disciples and they naturally follow Him. Those who respond to Jesus, even without understanding much of who He is and what He says, know that His intentions are loving and that He carries true authority.
Behind the human authorities are wicked spiritual authorities. Some take the references to a thief as references to Satan and others as references to human religious and political leaders who exploit the sheep. The best commentators take these references as both! For the reality is that we see human authorities with our physical and mental eyes but we see the demonic powers behind them with spiritual eyes.
But we can only see if we come to Jesus to receive life (verse 10).
When we do come to Jesus and receive life we find we recognise His voice as loving and authoritative. The reason is that Jesus and our heavenly Father and are one and the same. Theologians in the three or four centuries after the New Testament was written came to understand and write about the fact that we worship one God but He is three Persons. This truth is all over the Bible but we have to piece together the different insights and statements in scripture to see the picture because it is a mystery.
This passage is one of the keys. “I and the Father are one!” Jesus says in verse 30.
The religious leaders try to stone Him and arrest Him but without success on this occasion. They were horrified by His blasphemy, claiming to be God. A human cannot be God - He is too holy and separate! It seems impossible! But God did the impossible when Mary conceived a baby by the Holy Spirit. He does the impossible today when we receive revelation and respond to Jesus and receive the Spirit. We can be born again and have God as our Father.
Another theme in this chapter that caused concern to the religious leaders is that Jesus spoke of one flock made up of people from this fold and from outside (verse 16). The religious leaders could not contemplate any enemies being included in Gods people: they would pollute the people! But we know His heart and intention was always to include all who wish to respond to Him and to have a people made up of Jews and Gentiles.
The Old Testament people of God were identified as an ethnic group but the New Testament people of God is identified by the presence of the Holy Spirit, who gives us real, eternal life
3. Pray and act
Lord, fill us with your life so that we can bless others with life and draw them into your presence. Help us to be good shepherds, loving and caring for all those we we can influence.