Good Shepherd Lutheran

Confusing? Not really. (John 10:1-10)
John 10:6 says, “Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.”
Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever read the gospel and then asked yourself, “What exactly is Jesus talking about? How does this apply to my life?” The illustrations Jesus uses aren’t always easy to grasp when you first hear them; especially this one from John.
The sheep and the shepherd; the gate and the gatekeeper; thieves, bandits, voices, and abundant life. What does all that mean, and how can we apply it to our lives? The thing is, we can’t easily wrap all this stuff up in a neat package that makes any sense. There are just too many contradictions and mixed metaphors.
At the beginning of John 10:1-10 it sounds like Jesus is suggesting that he’s the shepherd who enters the gate, unlike the thieves and bandits who jump the fence. He tells us that the sheep listen to him and follow his voice but they’re smart enough to run from the voice of strangers. So far, so good. But then later Jesus says he’s the gate. So, is he the shepherd who enters the gate, or the gate the shepherd enters? That’s really confusing. And then, to top it all off, he says we can enter him as the gate to abundant life.
As I read today’s lesson, I wanted to tell Jesus, “Clear this up for me. Are you the shepherd or the gate?” But I think Jesus would just have laughed at that.
I say that because John is clearly telling us that Jesus was using a “figure of speech.” You can’t take it literally, or it makes no sense. A figure of isn’t literal. It points us toward something else and asks us to think, see, and listen differently.
So, what’s this figure of speech pointing to? Let’s start with abundant life. He said he came so that we could “have life and have it abundantly.” But what does that really mean? Abundance isn’t about having an abundance of “things”, it’s about a way of living and being.
Living an abundant life isn’t about quantity. In fact, it’s not really about any of the things we often think about when we hear the word abundance. How many times have you gotten the things you wanted, or even done the things that are rewarded by society only to discover it didn’t really make your life any better? If anything, you felt even emptier than before.
A truly abundant life is about touching the divine and living a life that reflects your divine connection. It’s about quality not quantity.
The abundant life not only adds richness to your life, it adds richness to the lives of others. The abundant life brings life. And isn’t that what we really want?
Jesus leads us to abundant life. Maybe it’s not that confusing after all.