thieves, thieves, tramps and thieves | John 10.7-10
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. John 10.7-10 | ESV
Fast forward, just a bit. Jesus at it again, re-painting the same verbal picture:
“I’m pulling out the stops for you, using the broadest, most emphatic strokes: I am the door for the sheep, the way in and the way out. Everyone else on the scene is up to no good – a thief, a bandit at best. And though they made a fuss, the sheep didn’t follow them – they weren’t fooled a bit. I. Am. The. Door. It’s through me – I’m the passageway to true safety and security inside the keep for anyone who wants it – the way in to safety, the way out to supply, to pasture. The poser thief has one purpose only: to steal, to slaughter, to plunder and waste. But life is my business, that’s why I’m here – and not just bare existence either. Full, brimming-over-the-top life.” MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
Today’s pasture: excerpts from the other Old Testament “Shepherd’s song.”
Less well known, but too frequently experienced at the hands of bad human shepherds;
too often still how we see the Good Shepherd himself.
All the commentary we need on today’s reading in John.
Doom to you shepherds of Israel, feeding your own mouths!
Aren’t shepherds supposed to feed sheep?
You drink the milk, you make clothes from the wool, you roast the lambs,
but you don’t feed the sheep.
You don’t build up the weak ones,
don’t heal the sick,
don’t doctor the injured,
don’t go after the strays,
don’t look for the lost.
You bully and badger them.
And now they’re scattered every which way because there was no shepherd—scattered and easy pickings for wolves and coyotes.
Scattered—my sheep!—exposed and vulnerable across mountains and hills.
My sheep scattered all over the world, and no one out looking for them!
“Therefore, shepherds, listen to the Message of God:
As sure as I am the living God—Decree of God, the Master—
because my sheep have been turned into mere prey,
into easy meals for wolves because you shepherds ignored them and only fed yourselves,
listen to what God has to say:
I’m coming down on the shepherds and taking my sheep back.
They’re fired as shepherds of my sheep.
No more shepherds who just feed themselves!
I’ll rescue my sheep from their greed.
They’re not going to feed off my sheep any longer!
God, the Master, says:
From now on, I myself am the shepherd.
I’m going looking for them.
As shepherds go after their flocks when they get scattered, I’m going after my sheep.
I’ll rescue them from all the places they’ve been scattered to in the storms.
I’ll bring them back from foreign peoples, gather them from foreign countries, and bring them back to their home country.
I’ll feed them on the mountains of Israel, along the streams, among their own people.
I’ll lead them into lush pasture so they can roam the mountain pastures of Israel, graze at leisure,
feed in the rich pastures on the mountains of Israel.
And I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep.
I myself will make sure they get plenty of rest.
I’ll go after the lost,
I’ll collect the strays,
I’ll doctor the injured,
I’ll build up the weak ones and oversee the strong ones so they’re not exploited.”
When have you suffered at the hands of a bad “shepherd” in your life? How can we help ensure that we ourselves are not “bad shepherds” for others – in our homes, with our friends, at work, at school?
Good Shepherd, let me hear today your passion for me, to rescue me from bad shepherds – personally, politically, religiously – and let me join you in that passion, that I may be a giver of life to others, not a giver of more abuse and exploitation. Through Jesus.