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Song of the week
Sermon of the week
Why not join us for 8pm prayer? We are encouraging everyone in their homes to pray at the same time each day....'And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.' Ephesians 6:18
'Jesus is there. He has made a way for man to go to God. He gave His blood that men might worship God the New Way. The blood of Jesus tells of better things than that which Abel used..'
Sermon Preached 28th June 2020
I recently watched a film about cave divers…. The only way to freedom was through one gateway to the sea. There was even a point at which a father and son could see a huge opening to daylight above them but it could not be reached. They had to push on to find the real gateway to safety. Sadly all but one young man died as they did not trust outside of their own instincts to find safety. The real route was brought with difficulties, sometimes dead ends and perilous drops.
Main Reading - John 10:1-10
If we really want to deal with this passage we need some context. There can be a confusion because Jesus goes on in V11 to say - I am the Good Shepherd which we have already dealt with a couple of weeks ago. To receive our context today we need to go back to John 9 [Read latter stages] and the healing of a young blind man, who having testified that Jesus is sent by God, is thrown out of the synagogue by the Pharisees.
The young blind man is encountered by Jesus as Jesus is leaving the temple courts under the threat of being stoned to death. The overwhelming belief of the Jews was that to be born with a disability was either caused by the sin of the parents of a person, or the person themselves..
(FF Bruce) said
We often suspect that where there is a more than ordinary sufferer, there is a more than ordinary sinner. The disciples believed this so much so that they wondered if this man had actually sinned before he was born, causing his blind condition. “In their thinking about divine retribution they had not advanced far beyond the position of Job’s friends.”
[ Rev DR Marcus Dods 19th C ] suggested five possible reasons behind their question.
· Some of the Jews of that time believed in the pre-existence of souls, and the possibility that those pre-existent souls could sin.
· Some of the Jews at that time believed in some kind of reincarnation, and perhaps the man sinned in a previous existence.
· Some of the Jews at that time believed that a baby might sin in the womb.
· They thought the punishment was for a sin the man would later commit.
· They were so bewildered that they threw out a wild possibility without thinking it through.
Psalms 89:33 is often cited to justify a wrong conclusion
"I will visit their transgressions with the rod [of punishment], and their iniquity with stripes”
THE POINT OF ALL OF THIS IS THAT THE RELIGIOUS HAD SUCH A WRONGLY ASSEMBLED SET OF BELIEFS - THAT THEY ALWAYS SEEMED TO MISS THE REALITY OF TRUTH BEFORE THEM
Exegesis - ‘I tell you the truth’
The truth is the foundation of life and we are told that The truth of Jesus will set us free
‘ To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
In fact the bible tells us that the ‘truth’ in us is manifest when we are able to positively acknowledge that we are sinners, and by definition in need of a saviour.
‘If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.’ 1 John 1:8
‘I am the gate for the sheep’
Here Jesus says ‘I am the gate. Not I am the custodian of, not I am the operator of, not even, I have the authority to open the gate - but ‘I am the gate’
William Barclay explains - ‘when the sheep were out on the hills in the warm season and did not return at night to the village at all, they were collected into sheep-folds on the hillside. These hillside sheep-folds were just open spaces enclosed by a wall. In them there was an opening by which the sheep came in and went out; but there was no door of any kind. What happened was that at night the shepherd himself lay down across the opening and no sheep could get out or in except over his body. In the most literal sense the shepherd was the door.’
That is what Jesus was thinking of when he said: "I am the door." Through him, and through him alone, men find access to God. "Through him," said Paul, "we have access to the Father" Ephesians 2:18.
‘All who came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them’
Jesus is saying: "There have been men who claimed that they were leaders sent to you from God. They believed in war, murder, assassination. Their way only leads for ever farther and farther away from God. My way is the way of peace and love and life; and if you will only take it, it leads ever closer and closer to God."
Titus Flavius Josephus wrote that there were 10,000 leaders and revolts to overthrow the Romans in first century Palestine. [J was born and raised in Jerusalem, a Roman Jew who became advisor and historian to The Son of Vespasian and eventual Emperor of Rome, Titus.]
‘I am the gate, whoever enters through me will be saved’
Jesus is absolutely clear ‘I am the Gate’ There is no other gate through which you may enter. The failure of the world today to recognise this is because we, the church, are failing at every opportunity to declare this truth. Sure, we may say ‘Jesus is the way’, and ‘follow Jesus’ but the church abdicates its responsibility when it comes to telling the world just how that is achieved.
Instead we latch onto false teachers who would tell us lies that sound like a truth that our ears not only might not be offended but actually ‘tickled’ ‘For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,’ 2 Tim 4:3
‘He will come in and go out, and find pasture’
Echoes of Psalm 23 abound as we are allowed to pass through into green pastures and cool ourselves beside still waters.
Coming in and going out was a well known expression to the Jew of peace and stability
‘You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out'. Deuteronomy 28:6
‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy’
Jesus said that the thief will take away from you the truth of your faith by any means. If he succeeds then death awaits.
‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full [or abundantly]’
This is not some Joel Osteen ‘best life now’ speech, but is a truth of ‘Life in its fullest’ The fullness of life is to know Christ, that the fulness of God’s spirit is in you. This means you live your life in its abundance both now and in paradise for you you have been declared not guilty. No longer a prisoner of sin but set free in Christ that sin no longer holds or imprisons you.
When Jesus says ‘I am the gate’ we need to consider carefully what alternative gateways we have sought and might be looking for into the future. The current COVID pandemic is an example of something that we mere mortals cannot control, at least for now. It shows us that the fall of man and its consequences can consume us in an instant. Sickness and death are constant shadows over us; the lack of control we have when we lose our job, when business fails, when we cannot see a way out of difficult circumstances; these are all things that are always looming for all of us and yet Jesus tells us clearly - I am the door to the abundant life. In me you will find your rest, your assurances, your peace, your self control. He tells us the thief cannot steal the fulness of life from us; it is an abundance that is available only by passing through the door that guards it.
To be truly born again is to have life in abundance and cast off the shadow of death