Posted by on May 3, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Shepherd and Gatekeeper

Our Grace and peace to you all! Have been wondering how you all are doing and I have been thinking a lot about you all and praying for you.

Let us pray!

Dear Lord….Thank you so much for the care and protection you give to all of us. Please be with those servants who are working in the hospitals and care centers. Be with and guard those policemen and EMS workers who also watch over us all. Thank you for strengthening your servants who are teachers and are working through an entirely new way of teaching our children. This isn’t easy for them, for the students or for the parents. We are so thankful we have your guidance and protection to maneuver through these strange, unfamiliar times in our lives. Thank you, Lord. Amen

Our gospel reading for the 4th Sunday of Easter is from John 10:1-10. This section is a very familiar passage to all of us. I’m using it this week as I discovered some very interesting aspects in the story. Some of these items I wasn’t totally familiar with so I learned something…another of Jesus’ revelations to me.

This passage is a parable Jesus told to define and explain a concept to all disciples that is often not considered in dealing with people. I know we have heard this before, but it is a reminder that Jesus used parables to tell a story that puts two opposing sides against each other in a very distinctive way. He tells these stories in such a way that it is not difficult to get the difference, but there is no direct criticism of either side, which would cause issues from the listeners. In this parable, Jesus reveals an important detail about His being with the people and why His Father sent him.

Jesus begins this parable by talking about the way the shepherds enter the sheepfold. I was curious about what a sheepfold looked like. My thought was always that the sheep were roaming around on the meadows and when the evening came, they were herded into a fenced in area or a barn. Well in looking up what a sheepfold looks like, I found that this place for sheep was a fairly high stone structure that had a small opening at which there was a gate. The picture I found had a person (a shepherd) sitting at the gate watching the sheep in the “fold”. The sheep were herded into the fold…and the gate was closed and the shepherd sat at the gate making sure the sheep were safe and would not escape. Doesn’t the concept of a stone fencing make us feel safer than just a fence?

In this parable, Jesus is comparing the true shepherd to false shepherds. Who were the false shepherds? They were the Pharisees. In the Old Testament the shepherd could also have referred to a king or “ideal” leader. However, Jesus was specifically referring to the Pharisees who claimed they were the way to God. Jesus was not referring to Satan in this parable…but to the false teachers. He was also equating false teachers to thieves and robbers who would steal the sheep any chance they had.

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The true shepherd enters the “fold” through the door. Jesus is specific in this parable that the flock of sheep represents those to recognize Jesus as the true shepherd and Israel is the sheepfold.

Notice in the reading that the shepherd (Jesus) leads the sheep. He doesn’t drive them toward the fold. The sheep will not follow a stranger, but because they know Jesus, the sheep follow Him. Also, the sheep know the voice of the “true” shepherd and will follow.

Interestingly enough, the Pharisees did not understand this parable. Also, implicit in this parable is that the relationship that the sheep have with the shepherd is one of truth, intimacy (he knows them completely), guidance and care. Jesus, the shepherd, leads the sheep out of the fold to feed and water them…give guidance and spiritual assistance.

Is this beginning to sound familiar? Jesus is the shepherd who guards the gate when the sheep are in the fold. His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. His sheep know the shepherd and have eternal life, which is the sheepfold. Believers have total security and protection in their Shepherd. Our Shepherd, Jesus, is the way to God’s pasture of salvation and life.

What does this mean for us today? We hear so many voices at this time, don’t we? How do we know what is the truth and what is spoken for personal notoriety or just publicity? How are we to know what the truth is and go from there. Jesus is asking us to follow him at this time. He is showing us the way and will lead us to the truth. Jesus is also asking us to help shepherd His people in whatever way we can. Phone calls? Letters? Prayers? What other ways can you name?

I found the following expansion of Psalm 23 that I thought was excellent for us for our situations right now as well as being a good visualization of what it means to be a follower of Jesus or one of God’s sheep. When I was praying about this sermon during the night one evening, I was moved to repeat this Psalm over and over. Here it is for you.

Psalm 23:
The Lord is My Shepherd – That’s relationship
I shall not want – That’s Supply!
He makes me to lie down in green pastures. That’s Rest!
He leads me beside the still waters – That’s Refreshment!
He restores my soul – That’s Healing!
He leads me in the paths of righteousness -That’s Guidance!
For His name sake – That’s purpose!
Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death – That’s Testing
I will fear no evil – That’s Protection!
For Thou art with me – That’s Faithfulness!
Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me – That’s Discipline!
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies – That’s Hope!
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You anoint my head with oil – That’s Consecration!
My cup runs over – That’s Abundance!
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life – That’s Blessing!
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord – That’s Security!
Forever – That’s Eternity!

Jesus has always been our shepherd. He will not let us go….He found us…He knows us inside and out….He loves us with a love that will NOT let us go. He guides us and guards us at the gate of the sheepfold of eternal life.

Thank you, O Lord, that you are our faithful shepherd. We know your voice…we know we are safe in your sheepfold as you have guided us. Thank you for your forgiveness of our short-comings. Help us to discern the truth in today’s world so that we may be your faithful disciples.
Help us to place faith over fear in our world. We trust you, our shepherd, that you will lead us in all ways.


May 2020


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