Fourth Sunday of Easter

by Crossings

John 10:1-10
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Analysis by Eric W. Evers

1 “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7 So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

DIAGNOSIS: Not [His] Sheep

Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem) – We Aren’t Stupid Sheep!
This pericope is sure to grate if you think about it enough. We’re sheep! Sheep? Smelly, dumb, helpless animals? Such a demeaning idea: we humans are somehow comparable to four-legged, bleating fluffballs who couldn’t find their way in and out of a pen without help! Surely we are independent, far-sighted, self-determining. That is our 21st-century western individualist dream, is it not?

Step 2: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem) – Wool Pulled Over Our Eyes
Alas, it is a lie. There is no autonomous self. We are always at the mercy of powers greater than and beyond us. You can view this sociologically, spiritually, economically, biologically, and likely in countless other ways. But Jesus views all would-be shepherds in a very particular way: these other powers are “thieves and bandits” (v. 8). Even as they try and convince us we are going it on our own, they are leading us on paths of their choosing, and not for our benefit.

Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem) – If We Don’t Know His Voice…
But it’s worse than that. While these idols dangle dazzling promises of freedom and fulfillment before our eyes with one hand, they are pick-pocketing our souls with the other. We become so enamored of them, so convinced of the right-ness of their siren song, that we no longer believe we are sheep at all. And so we no longer hear the voice of the One who would lead us into life. But Jesus said that his own would know his voice (v. 4). So that must mean we are no longer his! Following these bandits, we have exchanged our loving Maker for strangers. And there will be no finding pasture for such as these (v. 9).

PROGNOSIS: Led through the Gate

Step 4: Initial Prognosis (Eternal solution) – A Call with Power to Save
But as logical as the above is (law-speak does have its relentless logic), we have not yet considered the power of the voice of the One who speaks. This is the One who spoke, and the grave gave up Lazarus. This is the One who calls sinners righteous, and behold, that is what they are! And most importantly, this is the One who came not to speak condemnation, but salvation. He calls. He does not shout out like a beggar, grasping for our attention. He speaks with love, gentleness, and power. And his word for stray sheep is one of forgiveness, grace, and restoration into the fold. We may have wandered from him, but he does not wander from us.

Step 5: Advanced Prognosis (Internal Solution) – Wary of Strangers
And the more we hear this living Voice, the more we come to recognize its cadences, its tone and its content of faithful promises, the more we become attuned to the phoniness, the slickness, and the artificial charms of the bandits and thieves. The more we listen to the voice of Jesus, the more the rich life that echoes in his words fills our hearts, and we begin to resonate to him. And the idols and the strangers will begin to sound sour and out of tune. Compared to the beauty of Christ’s living song, their promises sound brash and hollow.

Step 6: Final Prognosis (External Solution) – Abundant Life
For just as the thieves and bandits grasp at our souls, the Savior pours life, real life, abundant life, even capital-L Life into us. We find rich pasture in him. We find freedom! Idols lose their grip. And since sheep tend to be “flock animals,” there’s a pretty good chance that the sheep around us may start tagging along as we go in and out, finding pasture. And that may just mean they follow us into earshot of the Savior. Being a sheep with this Shepherd isn’t so bad after all, is it?


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