One of the hardest parts of being a pastor is having to cut out talking about something you’re really excited to talk about. I had to do that this past Easter. So, I thought I would share part of it with you on this Wednesday. Maybe to serve a reminder of Easter, or what we talked about this past Sunday. Or maybe to just encourage you in the middle of your week. Here you are, trying to live for Christ, Sunday seems like a long time ago…this Sunday is still a ways away.
The weeks leading up to Easter, I was enthralled with this section of John chapter 10. Jesus calls himself the good shepherd.
John 10:7a, 9-11
7 Therefore Jesus said again, …. 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.”
Living on a farm is interesting. The cattle know my uncle’s voice. When he calls them, they will usually come. That is, as long as there isn’t something more enticing in front of them.
A couple of times a year, while my uncle is out of town, the kids and I will take on feeding my uncles cattle. We will use my old Massey Ferguson 65 tractor and a trailer, that way all the kids can participate. That old tractor has a unique sound. The newer tractors on the farm sound different. It’s got an old sputtering kind of a sound to it. It’s pretty cool.
A while ago, we fed the cows for about a week. We used that tractor twice a day, morning and evening to feed. After a couple of days, once the cows figured it out, the cows we start coming towards the barn when they would hear me fire up the 65. Often times, they would come from a far off place in a rush to get what we were feeding them, only for us to take them right back to that same place. They would even be slobbering all over themselves, because they knew what was coming.
Well, a couple weeks after we had done that, I had to pull out my tractor and use it for something. What do you think happened? The cows came running. Only to be disappointed. I had nothing to offer them. It was only a deception.
This reminded me of Jesus talking about himself as THE good shepherd. There is only one good shepherd. Jesus not only refers to himself as the Good Shepherd, but as the gate. The only way to be saved is to enter through him. He also calls himself the way, the truth the life. No one can come to the Father without going through Jesus. There is only one good shepherd.
However, we tend to think there are others.
Jesus says: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.”
The promise of following Jesus is that we will find pasture. If you don’t know anything about sheep or cattle, you might pass over this. I’ve learned a few things over the past couple of years.
Two summers ago, we had a very dry summer. All the pasture dried up. There wasn’t anything for the cows to eat. When they didn’t have food, they would get “adventurous” and start finding ways out of the safety of the fenced in pasture to go find greener food. They were willing to endure the shock of the electric fence to find better food.
They may find some greener food, but they may also find trouble. There are a lot of other dangers outside those fences. They may wander off and never find their way back to their shepherd.
What Jesus is saying here is that those who enter through him will come in and go out and find pasture. They will have what they need. They will have peace. They will not have to worry about their needs being met. There will be comfort.
But, we tend to still think there are others…
Just like the Israelites grumbled and complained about the manna and quail, we want more. So, we start looking for someone who will give us what we want instead of trusting the one who has already given us everything we need.
It doesn’t take long. “The thief comes, only to steal, kill and destroy.”
We think the main tactic of the thief is to come and snatch sheep out of the pen when no one is looking. I suppose that could be. But really, I think it works in many different ways.
One of those, is that the thief will come along and give us what we think we want.
There might be green pasture all around us, but “what’s that sound?” “Oh hey, there’s something to eat coming toward me.” A little time might pass…then we hear it again. The old 65 is firing up again. “The last time I heard that sound, I got to eat something different.” Before too long, we find ourselves salivating once we hear the sound of the 65.
And we’re getting what we want.
For a time.
But, what we don’t realize, is that the thief has no interest in feeding us and taking care of us. No interest in protecting us or providing for us. The only aim of the thief is to get us away from the good shepherd. Once we’re off on our own, we’re easy prey.
You may find yourself being lured into things that having nothing to do with the kingdom of God. But remember, often, what we think we want is not what we really need. The good shepherd knows what we really need. We may think we want what’s outside the pasture we have been led to, but we may not realize there are things mixed in with that “greener pasture” that will kill us.
Have you been lured away by the sound of the thief? Are you listening to a voice that isn’t there to care for you, but only to destroy you? Maybe it’s time to start listening for the voice of the good shepherd.
12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.
The Shepherd is calling out for you. Do you hear his voice? Will you listen to it?
Or will you keep chasing the old 65?