In-person worship services will be held as scheduled this Sunday. Please use discretion when determining whether roads are safe for your personal travel.
If you are unable to travel, consider joining worship online HERE at 7:30, 9, 11 or 5pm, on-demand at Resurrection’s YouTube channel, or on TV at KMCI 38 at 8am or 11am.
We are watching the weather and at this time the Car Show is still on as scheduled for the public, open from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm. We will keep you updated as conditions change.
7 So Jesus spoke again, “I assure you that I am the gate of the sheep. 8 All who came before me were thieves and outlaws, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief enters only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.
14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I give up my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that don’t belong to this sheep pen. I must lead them too. They will listen to my voice and there will be one flock, with one shepherd.
Shepherds fell on one of the lowest Israelite social rungs in Jesus’ day. Jesus chose a rather bold metaphor when he called himself “the good shepherd.” But his words drew deeply from those of the prophet Ezekiel (cf. Ezekiel 34:1-16) in which God promised Israel that he would shepherd them himself. Jesus came as “the good shepherd” who would safely guide and protect all who trusted him. He offered them (and the “other sheep” who still needed to join the flock) “life to the fullest.”
Dear Jesus, I choose to trust you to be my shepherd. Shelter me, care for me, and guide me to the truly good life—a life lived by your direction and in your love. Amen.
There’s a Bible study technique I learned in college that can be used with any of Jesus’ parables, but applies especially well for this one. Read through the parable and identify the characters. In this parable, there are a lot of characters: the sheep in the pen, thieves and outlaws, the gate, the good shepherd, and the sheep outside that sheep pen—maybe even some sheep that don’t belong to any pen. Like many of Jesus’ parables, this one works on several levels.
There’s a general level of understanding where the sheep represent Christians and the thieves and outlaws represent people who would want to hurt us. Jesus protects us from harm and keeps the bad folks away from us. But this one also works on a personal level. On this level, each of us is not necessarily a sheep in the pen—we can also be the sheep outside the pen, or even the thieves and outlaws. In that reading, things can shift and we can often find ourselves playing roles we never thought we would.
Life is pretty great when we’re the sheep in the pen. We’re safe, we get to hang out with other sheep, we have ample space and sustenance. Things get a little harder when we’re a sheep outside of the pen. Maybe we’re in a different, smaller pen, still safe, but separated from the larger pen. Maybe we’re in a larger field, not quite as safe, but still among other sheep and within the range of our shepherd. Maybe we’re a lost sheep, completely cut off from other sheep and at a distance where we think the good shepherd cannot hear our cries.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we may find times in our lives when we’re also the thieves and outlaws—hanging around the sheep pen waiting for a chance to use the sheep for other purposes. The point of the story is not to be the thieves and outlaws, of course; but to do that, you have to be willing to accept that this is a role we can all fall into. It can easily happen when we come to the sheep pens not for safety and community, but to make our truth known—or when we want to find a sheep for our own selfish desires rather than do our part to look after other sheep.
It can be easy to look at these stories in terms of absolutes: this person hurt me because I am a sheep and they are a thief and outlaw. There’s a deeper level of understanding that comes when we realize that some of these roles can be chosen by people every day: this person was a thief and outlaw when they chose to hurt me, but they may be a lost sheep when they go back to their home. When thinking about this story, resist the urge to put people in forever-boxes. Instead, ask which of these characters you most relate to, and which of them you want to relate to. The answers, and the differences between them, may be enlightening.
* William Barclay, The Gospel of John—Volume 2 Chapters 8–21 (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1976, p. 60.