Fullness of life
By The Revd Robert Jordan MA
In the Gospel tension is rising. There is opposition and rejection to what Jesus is saying and doing. And Jesus feels the need to set matters clear, probably not for their "now and then" but definitely for the times that follow.
This passage today is an ever increasing tension, on one hand those Jesus calls "thieves and robbers", the ones that don't enter by the gate, the strangers that the sheep don't recognize, those from whom the sheep run away, the ones who in times of danger run away and leave the sheep alone" and on the other hand he describes himself as "the Shepherd for whom the gate is opened, the one whose voice the sheep recognize, the one that knows each sheep by name. He then adds that he is the gate, he is the good shepherd who does not run away rather gives his life for the sheep". It can't be expressed any clearer, can it?
This is not set out in a deep theological/philosophical manner which is hard to follow. It is set out in simple terms which make it openly clear. Jesus is offering life-giving proof of his dedication to the people. And the centre of the whole tension is expressed in verse 10: I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly. Not survival, not life...but life abundant.
If there is one Bible verse which has impacted my life it is this one (John 10:10). It marked a culmination in the process of maturing of my faith in a way I had never imagined possible. And it was such an impact that I can remember when and where I was when I first heard it being presented in all its strength: Vancouver, August 1983, Plenary Session of the VI Assembly of the World Council of Churches, presented by Alan Boessak. The impact was immense. It determined my ministry and my social commitment in a way that I never imagined.
Not only does Jesus say he stands for life, abundant life, for the whole flock, but he also adds that there are other sheep that do not belong to this fold, to whom he speaks as well. Jesus with the wider vision, that is inclusive beyond the accepted borders of the times. These "sheep" may not be part of the church but they certainly are God's. And when he says that he has come so that they may have life in abundance he is pointing out that THERE lies the difference: if he speaks of life abundant it also means that there is a life which is not abundant, which since then I refer to as existence. And sadly too many people in the world today barely exist, far away from life in abundance.
Jesus wants for his sheep/for his people more than existence, he has come so that there may be abundant life. In a time when life was threatened in so many ways, and in a time when life continues to be threatened in so many ways...Jesus presents his vision as one of life abundant. Pointing out that there is this tension that we are always faced with: those who are thieves and robbers (how many times is this mentioned in the reading?), those that abuse the flock, those that run away and leave the flock abandoned. And then there is the good shepherd, the one who knows the flock and cares for them. The one who lets them in and out, the one who reminds us that there are other sheep as well.
Jesus is challenging us not only to recognize his voice and identify with him, but also to be one of the life abundant for all team. Life abundant for all is against racism and discrimination, it is for equal recognition of women and the value of children, it is for economic justice, it is for ecological justice, it is for peace, it is in favour of refugees and immigrants - Jesus having been both, it is against famine, it is for truth in the midst of lies, it is for LIFE. Though in the Gospel of Luke it is how Jesus presents his ministry in chapter 4. This is the vision of the kingdom. This is what we are called to believe, to share, to proclaim, to live by. Amen.