Full Life (John 10:7-10)
The poor bloke in the jump suit ahead was hanging from the airplane’s wing strut some fifteen hundred feet above ground. He had taken the ground school. He had learned how to land with a roll, parachute trailing behind him. He had even learned how to step out of the safety of the plane’s mid-air fuselage, one foot on the landing gear, hands on the cold wing strut and push off for the static line jump. But when the time came to obey the jump instructor’s command, his feet obeyed but his fingers would not let go. So there he hung mid-air, dangling.
Some choices in life are like that. We call them benign, a word which is sometimes good, but not always. When we think about life experiences, though, some choices leave us hanging between doing nothing, and experiencing real significant purpose.
Some choices in life seem, on the surface to be benign, yet go on to be revealed as causing great loss. Do you remember the philosopher Nietzsche a hundred or more years ago who had some interesting thoughts on ideals for humanity? He said, God doesn’t exist, so let’s design the perfect man and leave objective values out of it. Seems benign enough. But when Adolph Hitler grasped those thoughts and chose to put them into practice, institutionalized eugenics ravaged Europe annihilating some millions of people. That choice was significant for many.
Jesus says, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
The enemy of mankind is a thief. He wants to take away the full, abundant life God designed for every one of us. Let’s face it. He wants to steal hope. He wants to kill any possibility of us having a relationship with Jesus; he wants to destroy life and love, freedom and joy. We can fairly safely call that malevolence. He likes tempting us to make choices that seem benign.
But in the metaphor of the shepherd, sheep, and thief, there is only one gate. There is only one authentic access point for full, abundant life. The thief is a liar, and speaks with a glittering forked tongue. He wants to make sheep believe the shepherd’s pasture either doesn’t exist, or is extremely bland, mundane, and irksome. He uses every trick in the book to keep the sheep from even approaching the gate. He says there is no Shepherd. He says the pasture is his way, the exciting back way out and over the wall. He dulls the sound of the pasture’s quiet waters with his raucous laughter.
But the thief’s manipulations do not change the gate or the pasture. They are truer than any reality the sheep will ever know. Those sheep that have chosen to go the gate way have found the pasture more satisfying than the thief’s paltry offerings. The pasture is life-giving, and the Shepherd’s presence gives a peace that is beyond comparison.
Of course we are more than sheep. We have minds that can wrestle with deep issues, solve extensive problems, and imagine great wonders. How do we take this analogy and really live in it? How do we enter the pasture? How do we come and go from sheep pen to pasture and back?
Start with a prayer. Address Jesus. Speak to Him your questions; open your heart to Him. Ask Him to lead you every step of the way. Ask Him to protect you from the lies of the thief. Voice to Him your commitment to avoid the thief’s lures, and be willing to take the gateway, narrow as it may seem. Read the Bible like it is your only hope for finding pasture. Then find others on the same path with Jesus and live life in community with them. Commit to living life this way every day, and see if the metaphor is true.