Dealing with Mistakes | James Stevenson
The good shepherd and his sheep
1 ‘Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 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 listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognise a stranger’s voice.’ 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
7 Therefore Jesus said again, ‘Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 ‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
Dealing with Mistakes
Twice Jesus repeats words which indicate that what follows is very significant. It is as though he is pleading for people to listen to what he is saying. So are we listening?
He says ‘I am the gate’ and also ‘I am the good shepherd’. Using the term ‘I am’, Jesus repeats how God introduced himself to Moses at the burning bush. Jesus is placing himself in God – so when we listen to him, we hear God speaking, and when he describes himself, he is describing the nature of God.
He says ‘the gate’, not ‘a gate’. With the sheepfold as an image for the Church ie the people of God and the population of heaven, Jesus is saying that he is the only way into that people group. He is the one who saves; the Lord of life and of eternity.
It is wonderful to hear that the good shepherd delights in leading us, that he knows us by name and that we know his voice. We can be told stories of a God who punishes, but Jesus tells us that God is good and wants to help us when we fail, not punish us.
Sometimes it might seem like God isn’t speaking to us, but in fact he always speaks. Maybe something is stopping us hearing him, or perhaps we don’t like what he is telling us so we stop ourselves hearing it. But when we listen we are drawn to his purposes for us.
Jesus speaks of giving his people life ‘to the full’ or ‘in abundance’, depending on the translation. We need to realise that the word for ‘life’ here is ‘eternal life’ rather than ‘biological life’. Jesus offers us that eternal life here and now. It’s the life that is bigger than anything else, life ‘to the full’ and it transforms our own mundane lives.
When we start listening to what God might be saying, we sometimes realise that we need to stop a certain activity or let go of something we thought was important. There will also be new paths, new doors opening that have more to do with God’s leading us than just our own bright ideas. We will often need to listen and wait for a while – like the sheep Jesus talked about, we need to recognise the shepherd’s voice in the midst of all the loud voices around us.
God wants to bring you his life and lead you into his wholeness. He offers you eternal life starting now. So will you listen to him?