Today, I am reading and commenting on John 10-11.
When Jesus uses the metaphor about the sheep and the shepherd here there are many layers to the message He is communicating. When Jesus first explains His metaphor He tells His listeners that He is the gate and any leader who does not come through Him is a thief and a robber. We can recognize false teachers and leaders because they do not direct us to and through Jesus. Once we have become a part of Jesus’ flock we will know the voices of those shepherds whom God has sent to lead us. There is another piece to this metaphor. If we make our decisions through the thought of what pleases Jesus we will find freedom and good pastures.
As I was writing the above I realized that it applies to conversations I have read today about response to the shooting in the church building in Texas on Sunday (November 5, 2017). Various people were asking what congregations were going to have to do in response to this shooting. Some suggested that they should hire armed security services. Others suggested that they encourage those members who hold concealed carry licenses to carry to the worship services. I am going to tell you that there is only one thing we as Christians need to do to ensure the safety of our meetings, pray that God’s will be done fervently and continuously. That prayer will not prevent shooters from coming into our meetings and killing people, but it will ensure that God’s will will be done. Safety is not one of the things which Jesus offered to us. At least, not safety as the world understands the term. There is something I have said before, but perhaps not in this forum.
If it is God’s will that I die today, there is nothing I can do to extend my life to tomorrow (and I should not desire to do so). If it is God’s will that I not die today, there is nothing you, or any other power anywhere, can do to end my life today.
This does not give us leeway to act recklessly (see Jesus’ response when He was tempted). If we are willing to put our faith in God, He will use us to frustrate the desires of those who wish only to steal and destroy.
Once Jesus had completed His explanation of the previous metaphor He used the context to shift the metaphor to another message we need to hear. This extension of the metaphor tells us that Jesus was willing to die for His flock. Further His death was not something He could not avoid, it was something He chose. He sacrificed His life so that we might live. He did not sacrifice His life just for the Jews, He did so for everyone else who was willing to accept His sacrifice on their behalf. In many ways we are called to follow Jesus’ example here as well. We should strive to care for the flock the same way that He does and not be like the hired hand to which He contrasts Himself. We should be willing to lay our lives down for others in the same way in which Jesus did. If we do so, we will experience the resurrection of Christ for ourselves. Related to what I said about our response to the shooting on Sunday, when Devin Kelley comes to our service, are we willing to lay down our lives for him?