Sunday

15 May 2011

"I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (v. 10)

Background

Within the Gospels, the shepherd's care for his sheep is a frequent theme and Jesus often shows compassion for the crowds that gather around him, likening them to sheep without a shepherd. He even warns that there are those who would deliberately try to cause harm by pretending to be sheep. Jesus describes God's love and care for all as that of a shepherd toward his sheep; a shepherd who is especially keen to find those who might be lost. In this passage however, the shepherd is not seeking that which is lost, but is keeping the sheep from all that is dangerous.

This passage has two parts to it - firstly (verses 1-6), it is about the sheepfold as a place of safety where all are known by the one who cares for them and in turn all know him, and secondly (verses 7-10) about Jesus himself being the gate, or the way in. Not only is Jesus the gate through which the shepherds have to go through in order to reach the sheep, but he is also the gate through which the sheep come and go to find pasture. The shepherds and the sheep know that the safest way in and out of the sheepfold is through the gate and anyone trying to get in by other means will cause harm and destruction.

The final sentence of that passage is the total gift to us all - "I come that they may have life, and have it abundantly". Even in a society where 'me, myself and I' seem to be the order of the day, where self-expression and individualised pathways to everything are frequently becoming enshrined in law and the rights of the individual are paramount, do we really know what it means to have life in abundance? Whilst it is easy to think of abundance as wealth, prosperity or plenteousness, abundance in the context of life does not mean being materially rich and nor does it mean having too much of whatever it is your heart desires. To live in abundance means to know deep in the very core of your being that you are both safe and loved; and that you are loved so much that everything else can be safely set aside to realise that love; that the gate through which you move in and out of your resting place to fresh pasture, new opportunities for growth and nourishment, is a safe gate and a gate by which all other things can be measured.

To Ponder

Where is your place of safety?

How is abundant living apparent in your life today?

How might the gate as a measure of what is life-giving rather than life-denying be used in your life and living?

Bible notes author: Deacon Sue Culver

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