Dear friend in Christ!
May the Peace of God that surpasses all human reason and understanding be yours through Jesus Christ, the revelation of God in the last times. Amen.
Our text of meditation today is found in John's Gospel in the 10th chapter and is part of a long teaching by our Lord which began already back in the 8th chapter with these words:
KJV John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
How many of us would ask a physically blind person, who has never seen with natural vision to describe that the beauties of nature? Of course, we would not do that, for one who has been blind has no reality to relate to the things that we physically see and enjoy. Jesus here is beginning a long discussion about what reality is, spiritually speaking, pointing to Himself as the One who gives "sight" to the "blind." He essentially is saying that only through Him is one able to see what is real or what is Truth.
He then uses a man blind from birth to illustrate what "seeing' is, by, restoring the sight to the blind man and then in the latter part of chapter 9 "restoring' his spiritual sight. The no longer man (physically as well as spiritually) in response to Jesus' question as to whether he believes, simply said, "I believe."
Jesus then spoke to those who thought that they see, but were yet blind as to His being their Saviour. making this statement:
KJV John 9:39 And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.
40 And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.(The state of blindness in this sense would mean that we can't see of ourselves, and that we need His Light to be able to see reality of who we are without Him and who He is for us and in us in His completed work of redemption).
The Pharisees who asked Jesus as to whether they were blind also (according to the Greek construction) expected to hear Jesus say that they were not blind, but as usual Jesus made a statement that descended beyond the surface by going into their hearts so that they would consider the question within themselves. Jesus assists them by then speaking in a figure of speech or a parable in the 10th chapter. Through this parable He was inviting them to place them selves in the parable and in the end make the correct deduction as to how well they were really "seeing." May we do the same.
KJV John 10:1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
6 This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.
7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
19 There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings.
20 And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?
21 Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?
22 And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.
23 And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch.
24 Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.
25 Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me.
26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
30 I and my Father are one.
I will make just a few points on this text, as it is very easy to follow in light of its context. Jesus is firstly speaking in response to the Pharisee's question about blindness, He gives them the contrast between a shepherd and a hireling, then points to Himself as both the entry to the sheepfold (kingdom) and as the Good Shepherd who gives his life for the sheep. The key verse seems to be verse 27 in which He says "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me. To those He goes onto give great assurance as we read in verses 28 and 29. He gives eternal life to us, we shall never perish and no one is able to pluck them out of his hand or from His father's hand, for He and His Father are one.
Wow, what words of assurance, which we as well as many others in need of often times in these struggles of life on our way to heaven together. Our Psalm reading today was from the most oft read and most quoted Psalm 22 and in order to bring this message closer to us I would like to share a bit on that wonderful psalm.
KJV Psalm 23:1 <A Psalm of David.> The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I
will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
The most often prayed psalm begins with the most important truth for life, that Jesus is our Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep (that is us guys), and we have been rescued from curse of death and hell which ultimately is the darkest and most horrible alone place we could ever imagine being. We not only have been rescued from death and eternal torment, but we are assured that through believing and trusting in Jesus, we have life in abundance and we live and will live in the house of the Lord (where He is) forever and forever.
The guy who wrote the psalm was a sheep herder, so he learned about himself as a sheep by watching the sheep and how the sheep depended entirely upon their shepherd to provide water and grass for them, to lift them up when they fell into a hole, to lead them in the good ways of life, and through the tunnels of life in which everything is dark, He assures us that we are walking through the tunnel and not into a dead end black passageway with no light at the end.
For with His rod and staff He comforts, guides and protects us, with the rod and staff being compared to His Word and His Spirit. Even in the presence of enemies, He has there prepared a table for the sheep (again, this is us guys) to eat and to drink of that which our Good Shepherd supplies for us according to His promises and which we receive by faith. He pours the oil of the Holy Spirit of grace and love upon our head and into our minds so that we maintain an upward look to God and not downward to the pessimism that pervades our minds and hearts at times. It is only through trusting God when we cannot see the end of things that our heart is filled with hope of the future, which at times seems pretty hopeless and impossible to see any good in it.
John Bunyan in His classic Pilgrim's Progress has a scene that will illustrate this very well.
26. A Fire Burning Against the Wall
Then I saw in my dream, that the Interpreter took Christian by the hand, and led him into a place where was a Fire burning against the wall, and one standing by it, always casting much water upon it, to quench it; yet did the Fire burn higher and hotter.
Then said Christian, What means this?
The Interpreter answered, This Fire is the Work of Grace that is wrought in the heart; he that casts water upon it, to extinguish and put it out, is the Devil: But in that you see the Fire notwithstanding burn higher and hotter, you will also see the reason of that. So he had him about to the backside of the wall, where he saw a Man with a Vessel of Oil in his hand, of which, he did also continually cast (but secretly) into the Fire.
Then said Christian, What means this?
The Interpreter answered, This is Christ, who continually with the Oil of His Grace maintains the work already begun in the heart: By the means of which, notwithstanding what the Devil can do, the souls of His peo
ple prove gracious still. And in that you saw, that the Man stood behind the wall to maintain the Fire; this is to teach you, That it is hard for the Tempted to see how this Work of Grace is maintained in the soul.
The most difficult part of this psalm is when it says, “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,” when we are in a valley of pain or gloom or even despair and we wonder, ‘how can this be your goodness, Lord, that I am suffering all this pain as a result of what happened a number of years ago?” As a pastor I am very careful to not explain this verse away and to say something that is wrong or even misleading.
What I do attempt to help people in these situations to understand is that we only see our life from an earthly perspective for the most part and we only see our past and what is before us in this day. And we tend to predict the future from looking back at our past and present situations. But God sees all, past, present and future and He wants that all people would realize that He wants to bring blessing out of bad situations and bad circumstances. The devil would like us to reject God when life doesn’t go well and to despise God by blaming Him for all our bad circumstances. But God wants that we would not leave Him, but even in our lack of understanding what is going on, that we would all the more lean on Him for help, help which no one else is able to give.
My wife has a good word picture concerning how this is for us. She says it like this: Trying to understand God in the difficult times of life can be compared to a child who is getting a painful shot, who is looking at his mother who is holding him, and is wondering as to why mom is letting the doctor do this painful thing to him. Both the doctor and the mom know that the shot is needful and necessary, and as a result the child experiences the pain in order to get the benefit of the shot. But all the child knows is the pain of the shot, not understanding that his mom loves him and is doing what is best for the child. There are no words that the mother could say that would help the child to understand as to the whats and whys of what is happening.
In our pain, we often will wonder what God is doing, and we long to hear an explanation of the why's in our life. May by faith we hear the words of Psalm 23 in a very personal way, and especially hear our Father's gracious and soothing voice, experience the gentle pressure of His arms of embracement around us and above all be so close to our Good Shepherd, that we feel His heart throbbing with love for us as He whispers to us
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life: and you
will dwell in my house for ever.
God’s Peace to you!