Two men were called on, in a large classroom, to recite Psalm 23. One was an orator trained in speech technique and drama. He repeated the psalm in a powerful way. When he finished, the audience cheered and asked for an encore. Then the other man repeated the same words but when he finished, no sound came from the class. Then the first man said “The difference my friend and I: I know the Psalm, but my friend knows the Shepherd.”
This is the point I want to make; to have the life that Jesus offers we must get to know the Shepherd.
John 10 says “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (NIV)
This verse shows a contrast between “the thief,” the destroyer; and Jesus, the life-giver. This shows the thieves wanted to exploit the sheep, whereas Jesus was prepared to die defending his sheep.
But who is the thief? And what does it mean that the thief “comes only to steal and kill and destroy”?
To answer this, we need to look back to John chapter 9. Jesus had healed a man born blind. The man was taken to the Pharisees, who investigated the healing but refused to acknowledge Jesus as the healer; in fact, they kicked the man out for trusting Jesus. When Jesus heard, what happened, He went to the previously blind man, revealed Himself as the Son of Man, and accepted the man’s worship of Him. Then Jesus said, the blind will see and those who see will become blind” Some Pharisees overheard this and, taking offense, asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep”
Jesus uses this scene to demonstrate how He is Israel’s true Shepherd, and how the Pharisees are the “thieves and robbers”. They do not dare present themselves to the doorkeeper, because he will know them for what they are, and will not grant them access to the sheep. If they are to gain entrance they must climb over the wall. The true shepherd enters the sheepfold in a way that demonstrates his claim to his sheep is legitimate. He comes to the doorkeeper, who recognizes him and grants him access through the door to the sheep.
Anyone who claims a way of salvation other than Jesus is “robbing” the people of truth and stealing their ability to see the true means of salvation. They don’t come via Jesus or by divine commission but they come to invade and seize Jesus’s followers away from him.
False teacher may claim to offer salvation, but their intentions are not good. Jesus said in 8:44, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies”. Ultimately, these false teachers/thieves are carrying out Satan’s intentions. Rather than bring life, they bring death. Rather than give, they steal. Rather than build up, they destroy.
They do not care about the sheep, nor do they care for the sheep. They come for personal gain, at the expense of the sheep. They may claim to love the sheep but the actions do not reflect that. In contrast the true shepherd came and laid his life down for his sheep.
You would think that with knowing that one would be able to tell when the thief is coming to them right?! It’s harder than you think! You only have to look at the world around us to see how many religions and cults there are which claim to offer salvation, some of which look remarkably to close Christianity. However, it is essential that we do because if we do not, instead of living in the life that Jesus give us, we will experience destruction.
Jim Jones was a cult leaders in the 1970s, setting up the people’s temple, In 1978 he and all of his followers moved to ‘Jonestown’ a town they had created. It was then investigated after suspicion of human rights abuses, that same day, Jones ordered a mass- murder-suicide.
So How do we defend against the thieves?
900 people died because they were taken in by Jim Jones’ claim for salvation. Just like in the story of the two men reciting psalm 23, the students were drawn into the man’s eloquent and power version, they missed the fact that he knew nothing about the true Shepard.
So how do we avoid getting taken in? We find the answer in verse 27 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. We avoid being taken in by doing 2 things; by knowing the voice of our Shepheard and Obeying the call of our shepherd.
1. Know the voice of your shepherd
When fraud experts are being trained to discern whether money is fraudulent, they are not taught what fraudulent money looks like but what real money looks like. They will spend a long long time, knowing exactly what it looks and feels like so as soon as they encounter fraudulent money, they instantly know it’s wrong.
This is how we are to live. We need to get to know God’s voice so well that when the thieves and robbers come, we can instantly discern they are not from God and turn to Jesus.
2. Obey the call of your shepherd
There was a case in America many years ago where a man claimed that another man had stolen some of his sheep. They brought one of the sheep into court and told each man to call the sheep to him. The defendant went first and called to the sheep. The sheep looked frightened and backed off. When the other man called the sheep, using a unique call, the sheep ran straight to him.
It is by knowing and responding to our Shepherd’s voice, that we defend against the deceptions of those who would seek to steal, kill, and destroy. Just like the sheep in the story let us run straight to our shepherd as soon as we hear his voice for life is in Him alone.
John 10:10 shows us that the true shepherd comes to bring life in all it’s fullness. It shows us that we need to hear and obey the shepherd’s voice because only then can the blessings of God flow in our lives, only then can we accomplish the things that we are ordained to accomplish, only then can we experience true joy, contentment and fulfilment. Only then can we experience the everlasting life that Jesus offers.
May I encourage to get to know the Shephard. Spend time with him in his word, in prayer in worship in fellowship and obey all that he tells you so you can live in the abundant life he has given you.