The Gate

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     Do you think his parents prayed for a healthy baby? Do you think they asked God to heal their baby’s eyes when they realized he was blind? I do. But the answer they wanted didn’t come…until it was God’s perfect time to say “yes.”
     Yes, because of God’s compassion and love, Jesus healed the blind man but the story didn’t end with the miracle. It never does. When miracles occur, they will allow a glimpse into God’s vast character. But they also have the potential to transform and teach. They have the power to draw people to God.
     We can learn more by listening to His lecture to the religious leaders, the Pharisees, when He likened them to thieves and robbers (John 10).  They were guilty of using intimidation, manipulation and threats to control their “flock.” They were not truly devoted to those entrusted to their care. They were more interested in selfish ambition.
     And the blind man had been one of their “sheep.”
     But into his life stepped the true Shepherd, Jesus, whose ways of tending His flock are different. His ways include love, compassion, mercy and sacrifice. He watches over and guards His flock.
     Today, we must be wary of the wrong kind of ambition within our churches…the kind that is more interested in power and fame. That wasn’t Jesus’ style. And we must know Scripture we’ll enough to catch anyone trying to convince us of ways contrary to His teaching.
     The Pharisees didn’t understand the word picture that Jesus used, so He explained, “I am the gate, whoever enters through me will be saved.” The gate. Jesus is the entry to God’s kingdom, providing a relationship with our holy God. Sin cannot enter. Evil is barred access. Yet, Jesus says whoever (inclusive) is willing to enter through Him (exclusively) can be saved from eternal separation from our Creator.
     To understand Jesus’ symbolism, we can study the culture of that time.  Shepherding was a 24 hour a day job. At night, sheep were kept in a communal corral. There was no physical door because timber was in short supply. So shepherds took turns lying in the entry. The sheep couldn’t leave and predators couldn’t enter. The flocks were safe and secure.
     In the morning, sheep would only respond to the voice they recognized as their shepherd’s when he called them to leave the corral. They would then follow as he led them to find pasture.
     The shepherd knew his sheep intimately, usually naming them. He recognized their unique markings and scars from any past wounds.
     In the same way, Jesus knows us. He knows our unique talents, skills, strengths and interests. He knows our past with its pain, disappointments and failures. And He knows our present, including our struggles, hopes and dreams. He knows us better than we know ourselves.
     Jesus warned us in verse 10 that the Enemy intends to steal, kill and destroy. He is after our faith. He is after our image made in God’s likeness. He wants to steal our joy, passion and power given to make a difference in this world. He wants to discredit and destroy our testimonies of God’s goodness and faithfulness. He wants death.
     However, Jesus assures us that He came so we would have life and have it to the full.  He doesn’t promise a long, comfortable, easy life without trials and tribulations on this earth. Ask the persecuted. But He is promising every spiritual blessing. He is promising a life saturated in God’s grace so that we may overcome difficulties and suffering. Again, ask the persecuted.
     Our ears must tune out the thief’s lies, threats and false promises. He preys on our insecurities and weaknesses. He will lead us to despair and destruction.
     In contrast, we can listen to the good Shepherd who speaks truth and encouragement. His voice is gentle and kind, sometimes convicting but never condemning. In Him, we discover our value and strength. He leads us to sacred spaces. He guards our eternity.
     I’m following Him!
     Questions to ponder:
Do I listen for the true Shepherd’s voice?
Do I recognize the fullness of life Jesus promises?

 

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