“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” John 10:10-13, NIV
In last week’s post I mentioned how, as a society, we are suspicious. Sadly, in the area of religion, we have good grounds to be.
Over the years there have been many who have made holy-sounding claims in the name of religion, but who have actually been chasing money, power or prestige. This was true of some of the religious leaders of Jesus’ own day, but is also true now. It may be the founder of a religion, the cult leader or the TV preacher whose show always ends with an 0800 number so that you can pledge your generous donations to their “ministry”.
All are immensely damaging: as Jesus says, “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”
All of which raises the question: how do we know the true from the false? Indeed, when we think of Jesus himself, how do we know that he’s not a charlatan and impostor, in it for his personal gain?
One of the answers to that question is right here in John 10. He speaks of himself as the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for his sheep, because he is their owner. The contrast is with the hired hand: when trouble comes, he scarpers, because he is not the owner and has no vested interest in their wellbeing.
He is looking ahead to the cross, where he lays down his life for his people. Who would care that much for them, but their real owner?
It reminds me of the famous story of King Solomon’s ruling (1 Kings 3) in which two women claim the same baby as theirs. By threatening to chop it in half, he reveals who really cares for the child – that’s the real mother!
In his laying down his life for the sheep, Jesus shows he’s our real owner. He’s the one who really cares.
So when he says, “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full”, he speaks as the one whose motives really are pure, and the one who has power to give it: our real owner.
On Sundays at 5pm we are looking at more of his claims, and more of what he offers.