Alright, having shared some of my study process here in this week’s prep for preaching on John 10:1-18, here’s some thoughts related to the sermon.
When I was young–in elementary school or younger–I had a goldfish named “Joe.” He was named after the dad of some family friends growing up. One day during a nap, my mother spotted Joe belly-up in the fish bowl. Wanting to spare me from the harsh realities of death at such a tender age, she went to the pet store while I lay sleeping (yes, Dad was home) and bought a new fish–you can just feel the plot unfolding, can you not? She got back in time to drop him in the bowl before I woke from my nap. Of course, when I did wake up, I looked at the fish bowl and immediately asked, “Where’s Joe?”
“What do you mean?” This is a good response for people who are still interested in maintaining the rouse but who rightly have an aversion to verbalizing lies to their children.
I share this story to say that Jesus’ teaching in John 10:1-18 has much to do with the difference between the real thing and counterfeits. Jesus talks about sheep and a shepherd and a gate and a gatekeeper and the voice the sheep will follow and thieves and strangers and the point of it all seems to be something like this: “I am the real deal–the Gate (protection), the Good Shepherd (genuine love & care), and the voice to which the sheep respond. The others–thieves, robbers, strangers, hired hands–they’re all counterfeits.”
So it would seem that these verses are inviting us to hear them and live their story by learning to spot counterfeits (a host of “isms,” addictions, and false pursuits in our society today) primarily by learning the real deal so well that, like a young child spotting a fishy imposter, we will know Christ as the Gate, the Good Shepherd, and recognize his voice speaking to us amid the cacophony of other voices clammering for our attention and among the many counterfeits seeking influence over the destiny of the sheep.
One more thing. About the business of the “other sheep who are not of this sheep pen” who Jesus says he must go get and bring back so that it will be one flock and one shepherd. This seems to me one more teaching in the Gospels that rearranges how we reckon distinctions like “friend” and “enemy.” Once again God is reminding us that the calling and blessing of Abraham, Israel, Christ, and the Church is not to stop with us, but extends to all the world. Everyone we would call “enemy” is one for whom Christ lived, died, and was raised, that they might become a part of this flock. If this doesn’t radically reorient how we interpret our world, I’m not sure what will do the trick.
After all, I’m not here if not for someone taking this passage seriously…