Daily Devotional: John 10:1–21

1 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen 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 recognize 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 sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life — only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
19 The Jews who heard these words were again divided. 20 Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”
21 But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Jn 10:1–21.

You know, I’ve never noticed before that, verse 10, the thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy, is probably not Satan.

In the context of the whole thing, the idea is about the leadership of the people of God, both those currently in Israel and those from outside the sheep pen that Jesus will bring in. The Good Shepherd (Jesus) is the one who entered by the gate, at the permission of the gatekeeper (God the Father.) Anyone else who attempts to climb in any other way (verse 1) is labeled a thief and a robber, specifically directed at the Pharisees, who were doing everything they could to deny that Jesus was in fact the Good Shepherd.

The thief that comes to steal, kill, and destroy, is not Satan, I think. It’s probably Jesus’ broad description of what the Pharisees are actually up to in this moment.

Which makes sense, given the whole flow of what’s been happening here in John. The Pharisees are hellbent on protecting their status as the arbiters of right relationship with God, and will do so at the cost of denying who Jesus really is, even when He plainly performs a miracle in front of them.

And so, flatly — any teacher that aims to hinder your ability and prerogative to come to Jesus and find abundant life in Him is, by Jesus’ own judgment, a thief who has come to steal, kill, and destroy.

I mean, these are the same folks that Jesus asserts it would be better for them to tie a rock around their necks and go for a very brisk swim at the bottom of the sea than to hinder people coming to Him.

This is a revelation and directive that, I am realizing these days, cuts in every direction.

Of course it cuts towards the fundamentalist/religious zealot, who asserts that you can’t come to Jesus if you’re queer/black/wearing skinny jeans/don’t sing hymnals/smoke a cigarette/drink beer. That’s a thief right there.

But, to be fair, it also cuts towards the emergent relativist, who has so watered down who Jesus is that their modern conception of Him bears zero resemblance to the one this particular Gospel pays excruciatingly detailed witness to. That’s a thief as well, disguising himself as thief-catcher, wanting to disarm everyone’s preconceived religious notions of Jesus.

At the end of the day, John shows us who this Jesus really is, and though He may say some things that are cutting, stinging, and downright uncomfortable at times, let’s not forget: Jesus is, fundamentally, the Good Shepherd, who has definitively come so that we may have life and life abundant.

A life short of the real, revealed Christ of Scripture is, by definition, not the fullest and most abundant life available to you.

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