“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.
Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
[John 10:1-5 NKJV]
At first reading, it is a little difficult to identify who is what and what is what in this parable. No wonder verse 6 says ‘they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.’ Some images are clear immediately — the shepherd is Jesus Himself — but who is the doorkeeper?
Well, the doorkeeper seems to allude to the church. If that is so, then the rest of the message makes sense, because ‘to Him the doorkeeper opens’, although Him is shown as him. Even so, some of the words do not make sense to the rational mind of today. Sheepfolds have gates not doors (although gate would translate readily), and why would you need to ‘climb up’ to the door whether you be a robber or a saint ... or a sheep, come to that?
I confess that I have no ready answer to this conundrum, except to say that thieves and robbers will always have to climb up out of the pit to gain anything, and that whether the sheepfold has a gate or a door, our Lord leads His captive flock to freedom in Him. Hallelujah!
What is clear from this is that with the Holy Spirit, we will without fail recognise our Lord and Master — the Shepherd of the Sheep; for we know that ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’.
The look of Jesus will mean a heart broken forever from allegiance to any other person or thing.
Has Jesus ever looked at you?
The look of Jesus transforms and transfixes. Where you are ‘soft’ with God is where the Lord has looked at you. If you are hard and vindictive, insistent on your own way, certain that the other person is more likely to be in the wrong than you are, it is an indication that there are whole tracts of your nature that have never been transformed by His gaze.
[from ‘Called of God’]
In noticing that Jesus was awake while the disciples slept in Gethsemane, we should also consider that — as we sleep — Jesus Himself is in the most fervent prayer with the Father. The heavenly messengers — the Angels — are working overtime while we rest.
Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.
Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.
[Matthew 26:45-46 NKJV]
Jesus needs His disciples to sleep, to rest and recover, so that He can speak to the deepest parts of us. He knows that the purpose of sleep is that we are prepared; strengthened for what is ahead. We cannot merely sit meekly doing nothing. He speaks to us, ‘Rise, let us be going.’
He gives us the free will choice of going with Him; joining Him wherever it will lead, but with the caveat, ‘See, My betrayer is at hand.’ It is not the easy road. The choice is clear, either go with Him to and through the Cross to new life — resurrection life — or go with the betrayer and side with the sinners. ‘Choose whom you will serve’; that is the reality of the agony in Gethsemane.
Gethsemane is ‘the oil press’, where the anointing of the Holy Spirit is worked in us, concentrated by His prayer to keep us following Him. Only by travelling that way with Him do see the glory, or we can turn back to the darkness we knew before.
Jesus already knows your answer, but His prayer is always that you turn your eyes upon Him.
The joy of Jesus was the absolute Self-surrender and Self-sacrifice of Himself to the will of His Father, the joy of doing exactly what the Father sent Him to do, and He prays that His disciples may have this same joy fulfilled in themselves.
[from ‘Bringing Sons Into Glory’]
I was reading — listening (it was an audiobook) — to a story by Ellis Peters in her ‘Brother Cadfael’ series of novels, and Brother Cadfael was ministering to a poor individual in much distress. His comment “Sleep easy, God is awake” struck me immediately as a wonderful phrase, and a great evocation of faith.
In the last couple of days, since listening to this, I have discovered that variations on this expression are well-known, even if not by me. My first thought was of the gospel story known as ‘The Agony in the Garden.’
Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour?
Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.”
And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.
So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
[Matthew 26:40-44 NKJV]
The disciples slept, while Jesus was awake, watching and in prayer. He returned to the disciples three times.
We can sleep — be at rest in Jesus — while He watches and prays, vigilant and protecting His flock (see John 17:6-19).
While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.
[John 17:12-13 NKJV]
There is no joy in a personality unless it can create. The joy of an artist is not in the fame which his pictures bring him, but that the work is the creation of his personality. The work of Jesus is the creation of saints.
He can take the worst, the most misshapen material, and make a saint.
The fullest meaning of sanctification is that Jesus Christ created in us what He is Himself.
The apostle Paul alludes to the joy of creating when he says, ‘For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of glorying? ... For You are our glory and our joy.’
[from ‘Bringing Sons Into Glory’]
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
[Hebrews 11:6 NKJV]
‘To have faith, you must have faith.’ This was a remark that, as a smart-alec teenager, I had once interjected into a debate on religion ... probably at secondary school, but I now forget where; maybe just in my head. In reality there is truth in it; you cannot manufacture faith; if you did, it would not be faith.
What I failed to realise in my youthful arrogance, was that faith is a gift. If we are God’s chosen from before time began, then it is a gift that lies waiting at the heavenly sorting office for us to pick up, unwrap and try on for size. It will fit perfectly, of course.
This sounds simple and straightforward — it is anything but. If your experience is anything like mine, collecting God’s gift of faith follows many years of tripping up, stumbling and false trails, knowing that there is something that awaits you, even if you do not know what that something might be.
Those lucky enough to have the discovery spelt out for them from an early age, are often somewhat intolerant of those of us who search; maybe because we never really know what we seek until we find. The Lord is faithful and knows what each one needs to be drawn into His gathering of the Saints.
When we find; we know, and can really believe that He is.
‘The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit’ [Psalm 51:17] — that of a spirit God has made glad by a great forgiveness. The sign of this kind of broken heart is that the saint is untroubled by storms, and undismayed by bereavement because he is confident in God.
[from ‘Notes on Jeremiah’]
Now it happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples. And He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.” And they launched out.
But as they sailed He fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy.
And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm.
But He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and marvelled, saying to one another, “Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!”
[Luke 8:22-25 NKJV]
... and there was a calm
As is always the case when Jesus is awakened by us, - when we look to Him in faith for help in the midst of the storm - there is immediate calm; raging replaced with peace. We often get in such a panic when situations get out of hand and threaten to engulf us. We quickly learn to rely on Jesus Christ to bring calm to the crisis and save us once again. We need His presence because He is 'in the same boat'. The danger is that we come to believe that He is ours to command.
'Where is your faith?'
However, instead of saying 'That's the storm sorted,' Jesus questions the disciples about their faith. They become afraid again because Jesus did not react in the way they would have expected. They did not understand Him; 'Are we not to call on You in our time of need? Who can this be? This is not the Jesus we know.'
So what did Jesus mean? Jesus took His disciples on a perilous journey and 'He fell asleep'; He was at rest amid the storm, completely at peace because He is peace, and He expects us to be filled with His peace also, when we know His presence. We must be in that place of rest with Him.
Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.
For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.
There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.
For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.
[Hebrews 4:1-2,9-10 NKJV]
Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847) (adapted) Based on Psalm 103
‘If you obey Jesus you will have a life of joy and delight.’ Well, it is not true. Jesus said to the disciples, “Let us go to the other side of the lake,” and they were plunged into the biggest storm that they had ever known.
You say, ‘If I had not obeyed Jesus I should not have got into this complication.’ Exactly. The temptation is to say, ‘God could never have told me to go there, if He had done so this would never have happened.’ We discover then whether we are going to trust God’s integrity or listen to our own expressed skepticism.
[from ‘He Shall Glorify Me’]
Jesus heard that they had cast [the man who was born blind] out; and when He had found him, He said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”
He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”
And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.”
Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him.
And Jesus said, “For judgement I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”
Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?”
Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.
[John 9:35-41 NKJV]
‘You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you’.
These two witnessing elements are the key to believing in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, for when we are ‘born again’ we see Him, and when we are touched by the Holy Spirit, He talks with us. The third and God-completing factor is that we believe and do nothing else but worship Him. Hallelujah!
Only the Son of God can reach us in this way, and He does so by anointing us — not with oil — but with potters clay, the dust of the earth made moist from His own mouth. In other words, He makes us anew by mixing heaven and earth to create new life.
‘For judgement I have come into this world.’
We can often think of judgement as condemnation or punishment, and it can be used in the context of sentencing a law-breaker, and the word has that meaning. However, it also carries the idea of objective assessment and discernment. It can be positive as well as negative, depending on our disposition.
If we are ‘abiding in Him’ we have nothing to fear from His judgement. Jesus, in revealing that His judgement was ‘that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind’, turns our preconceived notions upside down, or inside out.
It is clear that Jesus always upsets the natural viewpoint of man, whether it be rational or irrational, for the simple reason that we are the creature not the creator. We cannot understand the mind of God unless it is put into us by the Holy Spirit. God — through Jesus Christ — changes our disposition and brings us back into intimate communication with our Creator, so that, if blind we may finally see and understand.
Never assume anything that has not been made yours by faith and the experience of life; it is presumptuous to do so. On the other hand, be ready to be considered foolish for proclaiming to others what is really yours.
[from ‘Disciples Indeed’]
But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and received his sight, until they called the parents of him who had received his sight.
And they asked them, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”
His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind;
but by what means he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know. He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself.”
[John 9:18-21 NKJV]
The predominant themes in John 9 are belief (faith), seeing (understanding) and the nature of sin. The verses above reveal more about the Pharisees attitude to this healing of the blind man. Their belief was a construct, a fantasy, and had more to do with their own pride than seeking the truth of their faith.
‘Ask and you shall receive’. They were twice told by the blind man’s parents to ‘Ask him.’ When the answer was not what they wanted, the (formerly) blind man was cast out. We see a similar thing happening today in many areas of life. We all look for confirmation of what we already understand and believe, but we must constantly be on our guard against wrong teaching, or persuasive ideas that come from the world and not from The Lord. Jesus Christ is ‘of age’ and we can ask Him for His help; His clarity and life to overcome all difficulty.
In recent times there has been the worrying rise of a number of prominent people — leaders and outspoken men and women in their countries — who spout verifiable falsehoods and continue to promote such blatant lies until many come to believe them, and indeed will rally round their cause, against the evidence of their own eyes and experience. We must be ‘watchmen on the walls’.
Set up the standard on the walls of Babylon; make the guard strong, set up the watchmen, prepare the ambushes. For the LORD has both devised and done what He spoke against the inhabitants of Babylon.
[Jeremiah 51:12 NKJV]
One thing we must be clear about, is that our Lord remains in control of all things and we need not fear. The following passage (from ‘The Message’) makes clear that God will not strive with those who consistently refuse Him ...
The Anarchist's coming is all Satan's work. All his power and signs and miracles are fake, evil sleight of hand that plays to the gallery of those who hate the truth that could save them. And since they're so obsessed with evil, God rubs their noses in it—gives them what they want. Since they refuse to trust truth, they're banished to their chosen world of lies and illusions.
[2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 MSG]
It is the same today as it was 2000 years ago, and so we should not be surprised when we look around us and see unbelief and many lost in ‘lies and illusions’; or as the NKJV has it, taking ‘pleasure in unrighteousness.‘
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help keep our eyes focussed on you, and let us not be drawn away by lies, fantasy and illusions. Keep us grounded in Your truth, watchmen against the troubles from Babylon, O Lord, in Jesus’ name we pray.
Some of us are no good unless we are kept in the circumstances in which our convictions were formed, but God is constantly stirring up our nests so we may learn that a relationship with Christ is not altered in any circumstance.
Logic or a vivid past experience can never take the place of personal faith in a personal God.
It is easier to be true to a conviction formed in a vivid religious experience than to be true to Christ, because if I am true to Christ, my convictions will have to be altered.
They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees.
Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.
Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”
Therefore some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them.
[John 9:13-16 NKJV]
We see that he (whom Jesus healed) had been born blind and was no longer so, having been transformed by his encounter with Jesus. His inquisitors — again looking for reasons to denounce Jesus — asked that he explain his receiving of sight, and concluded that it could not be a God-given miracle because it happened on the day of rest.
But even among these religiously dogmatic men there was division — at least some of them realised that this conclusion did not make sense. How could someone who broke the law and healed a blind man on the Sabbath — and therefore was a sinner — perform a miracle of healing?
If a sinner then He could not heal on the Sabbath? If from God then surely He would keep the Sabbath and would not heal on that day? Their religious zeal made them blind to the truth, something the blind man had now been gifted and had understood.
Again, we see that a rigid adherence to religious form can blind us to the same truth we purport to seek and believe.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Lord keep us hearing from Your Holy Spirit, that Your truth may be forever a part of us.
Asking in prayer is at once the test of three things — simplicity, stupidity, and certainty of God.
[from ‘Disciples Indeed’]
Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.
And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.
I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.
As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
[John 9:1-5 NKJV]
This story which opens John chapter 9 is one of only seven miracles Jesus brought that John relates. They were obviously chosen by John to reveal specific aspects of The Saviour’s earthly ministry. This is not something I have considered looking at up until now, but now that I have seen it, I feel that I must search out the matter.
For now I shall confine today’s meditation to the passage noted above. The central theme is the nature of sin, and Jesus’ assertion that not all sin is the same. The disciples obviously held to the view that blindness — or any infirmity — occurred as a result of sinful behaviour.
‘Not so,’ says Jesus. In this case the man was blind (since birth) so ‘that the works of God should be revealed in Him’. This statement makes out that the man was created blind by God, so that His power to recreate and make whole (make perfect) could be revealed. Thus, this is not a matter of sin.
It also shows something which continues to be a misunderstanding for Christians today — the difference between sin and sins. Jesus was made to be ‘sin’ to recreate our disposition to sin, not to remove our ‘sins’, our natural character.
‘For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.’ [2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV]
We can see in verse 6, a description of how Jesus made the change in the man who was blind — it is an act of re-creation — of re-forming the man anew.
‘When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.’
The cure of uncertainty is a new note of intercession prayer. The reason for perplexity in meeting the actual occurrences of life is because we are losing face-to-face contact with Jesus Christ through His Cross. We must get back to the place where we are concerned only about facing our own inner souls with Jesus Christ who searches us right down to the inmost recesses.
[from ‘The Place Of Help’]
GEORGE and GILL STEWART