Mar 282014

The-Good-ShepherdLast week we looked at Jesus’ declaration that He was the Door of the Sheep.

If you have spent much time reading the bible you will see references to sheep and shepherds everywhere. One of the most famous Psalms starts “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1),

Sheep were a source of livelihood throughout bible times and were also used extensively in the sacrificial systems of the temple. Shepherds were the first group to receive the good news of the birth of Jesus and one of Israel’s greatest leaders, King David, started out life as a shepherd boy.

Jesus declares Himself as the Good Shepherd twice, which comes just after calling Himself ‘The Door of the Sheep.’

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) and…

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.” (John 10:14)

Jesus has already had a number of run-ins with the religious leaders of the day, such as the Pharisees, the self-proclaimed shepherds of Israel. But as we saw last week, Jesus said they have come to steal, kill and destroy. Rather than look after the sheep they weighed them down with unnecessary burdens and led them away from the safety of the truth.

To counteract their falsehood Jesus declares Himself as the GOOD shepherd in fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy:

Behold, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:10-11)

We see two important truths in our two verses today:

(1) The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

There was a huge difference between a good shepherd and a hireling who would run away at the slightest sign of trouble. As soon as he heard a wolf’s howl or encountered a big burly robber, a hireling would be on his bike. Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for His sheep because He cared for us so much; He didn’t abandon us to our own devices but went all the way to the cross to save us.

(2) I know my own and my own know me.

It says also in this passage:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28).

It is Jesus who gives us eternal life and has called us to know Him. It is clear that if we know Him, He has us securely and will never let us go. The best way to know His voice is to spend time with Him. We do this by spending time in His presence, reading and meditating on His word, the bible. If you don’t do this you will not hear His voice and could wander into danger.

Do you know this good shepherd? Do you know His voice? If you’re not sure, the way is always open for you to come into the fold. Surrender your life into His arms now and let Him lead you. I have found Him to be very good and you can too.

 March 28, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus 1 Response »
Mar 212014

sheep_penSince the beginning of the year we have been looking at the ‘names of Jesus’ and within this subject we are currently going through the ‘I am’ statements of Jesus, all having different aspects of Jesus’ character. We have already looked at “Jesus – the bread of life” and how this bread satisfies every need. And then last week we looked at Jesus being ‘the light of the world’, seeing that those who walk in His light will never walk in darkness.

This week we turn to Jesus as “the door of the sheep” (in some versions “gate”). The passage is in John chapter 10:

“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. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and 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”. (John 10:1-10).

The context is as follows: in the previous chapter the religious leaders have put out of the synagogue the blind man who Jesus healed, they have continued to link Jesus’ works with Satan and to lead the people astray. Following the arrogance and false teaching of the hard hearted religious leaders, it is time for Jesus to bring judgement and reveal them as those thieves who have come to steal, kill and destroy.

As a background to shepherding in Jesus’ time: sheep were people’s livelihood but they were hard to look after. Sheep would be prone to wander off and get lost; to getting hurt in the harsh environment; in danger of being stolen by thieves or eaten by wild animals.

At night they were especially vulnerable. The shepherd would either use a ready-made enclosure if he was near a village, or in the wilderness he would have built his own shelter, the only way out (or in) would be past him.

Sheep knew the shepherd, they knew his voice. I’m sure you’re seeing the connection by now!

Jesus wasn’t just saying he was the guard to the door, but the very door itself. Jesus is the only way that His sheep can enter. In fact the early church was called ‘the way’ because of this passage.

Whilst writing this blog I couldn’t help but think of the story of when Moses was leading the people out of Egypt, in particular when he was told to sprinkle blood on the door posts in Exodus 12: “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.” (v7). If the blood was found on the door, the angel of death would pass by. The bible is full of wonderful images like this that point to our saviour.

So is your trust fully in Jesus? Have you entered the ‘narrow’ door through Him? He is the only way we can enter, but once we are in, He is the one who protects us from anyone else getting to us. What a wonderful protector He is!

 March 21, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus No Responses »
Mar 142014

light of the worldWe continue looking at the ‘I am’ statements of Jesus with His famous declaration in John 8:12

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

It feels very apt to be writing this now as my whole life has a lot more light in it. I know some readers are overseas so I’ll explain that we have just had a very dark wet winter, the wettest winter since records began. It was dark when I got up in the morning and dark when I left work to come home and when it was supposed to be light in the daytime, that light wasn’t very strong either. I don’t fully suffer from SAD (Seasonal affective disorder) but I’m sure I do a little bit, we probably all do to a degree. Darkness is just kind of depressing.

At the time of writing this blog it is sunny outside, it feels like spring is on the way. It’s light when I wake up and it’s light when I drive back home after work. I feel a bit more cheerful, it’s wonderful what a bit of light can do.

Jesus came into a very dark world and proclaimed He was the light of the world but also demonstrated it in His actions. He was a bit in disguise as He couldn’t fully show how light He was, He only revealed a fuller extent of His light on a few occasions. One is called the transfiguration where He went up on a mountain with Peter, James and John and they met Moses and Elijah and His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.(Matthew 17:2)

But when Jesus declared Himself as the light of the world it was more than just His glory.

Light can have quite an effect on us. I want you to imagine that you have been in the deepest darkest dungeon for a very long time. Suddenly the door flings open and the noon day sun streams in and shines directly onto your face. The first thing you are going to do is cover your eyes. This light can be too much for some people and actually be quite repulsive. The Pharisee’s were like that, they thought they were walking in the light but they were actually stumbling around in the darkness. Does that sound familiar to people you know?

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (John 3:19-20)

Another aspect of light is that it reveals truth, for instance when we want to discover something we use the phrase “let’s shed some light on this” In Psalm 119:105 it says; Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. The famous account of the 2 men walking with Jesus on the Emmaus road is a good example. Jesus is opening up the scriptures and explaining how the bible is all about Him and eventually when they break bread their eyes are opened. The word of God brings light to us and revelation.

The last aspect of light I’m going to look at is the fact that it causes growth. Another glorious aspect of spring time is all the flower shoots start emerging; beautiful daffodils and primroses and very soon the striking trees laden with blossom. If we spend any time with Jesus a natural reaction is that we will automatically grow, we can’t help it.

Can I encourage you to spend more time with ‘The light’? Jesus said

While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light (John 12:36)

And the Apostle John says in 1 john 1:5-7

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Just to finish I’ll share this lovely song “light of the world” enjoy!

 March 14, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus 1 Response »
Mar 072014

Bread of lifeLast week we looked at a statement Jesus used rather a lot in the gospel of John: ‘I am’. This statement He used to point to the fact that He is God. Today we are going to look at the first of seven famous ‘I am’s’ that Jesus used in the rest of John’s gospel: ‘I am the bread of life’. Here is the passage:

26 “Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on Him God the Father has set His seal.” 28 Then they said to Him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” 30 So they said to Him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to Him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:26-35).

This conversation with the crowd happens the very next day after Jesus has fed the 5000 men (plus women and children).

Bread is readily available today and we can quite easily survive without it, but in Jesus’ time it was the basic part of the diet. For some of the poor it was the only thing they had to eat.

Jesus often used everyday items to make a spiritual point; the problem was that most people took Him literally and missed the point. They followed Him around because they were hoping Jesus would supply their physical needs. They wanted a continuous supply of bread, much like the manna that God gave to the Israelites whilst in the desert in the days of Moses. They had mistakenly believed that it was Moses who supplied the manna. However Jesus sets them straight, reminding them that actually it was God’s provision. Jesus now states that He is the bread that God the father supplies. He is the spiritual bread, who now satisfies for all time.

Coming to Jesus is not like going to a shop for a daily supply of bread. He is the one we come to and believe in to find salvation and eternal life. He doesn’t say “come to church”, “help the poor” or even “believe in God”. He wants us to come to Him as the source of our sustenance and complete satisfaction. He is the focus and the point of it all.

It’s not specifically mentioned in this passage, but feeding on Jesus echoes the ‘Lord’s supper’ where we remember what Jesus has done for us as we feast on His body.

How about you? Do you mostly think about the material side of life; money, possessions etc? Or do you look beyond this life to the treasures you can store up in heaven? It’s good to regularly check ourselves- it is so easy to revert to thinking about the “here and now” as we get wrapped up in the distractions of our busy lives. We need to remind ourselves that the “here and now” is just a brief sneeze compared to eternity which is, well, forever!

 March 7, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus No Responses »