“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’]
GEORGE and GILL STEWART