Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
I have never seen myself as much of a follower. It rubs up against my self image as an independent thinker and someone who isn't afraid to go it alone. I would imagine many of you see yourselves in much the same way. However, there are times to follow and I am a follower of Jesus.
I like Jesus's metaphor of the sheep. He used it often in his ministry. A little later in John's Gospel, Jesus tells Peter to, “feed my sheep”. I would like to share a story I found on a website called Sermons that Work and the author of the story is Rev. Frank Hedegus. Before I write a sermon I usually read what this website has to offer and sometimes it is a catalyst for what I share with you. Sometimes not.
Here is the story that was embedded in this sermon. A wise man among the Indians was asked by his grandson about the conflict and discord in the world. The elder reflected for a moment and then replied, “My child, there are two dogs battling within my heart. One is full of anger, hatred, and rage. The other is full of love, forgiveness, and peace.” The old man paused, and he and his grandson sat for a moment in silence by the side of the stream. Finally, the boy spoke again, “Grandfather, which dog will win the battle in your heart? The one filled with hatred, or the one filled with love?” The old man looked at his grandson and replied, “The one I feed will win.”
We need to be careful who feeds us and where we look for food. So what kind of food is Jesus offering us, his followers, his sheep. His message of the importance of love is consistent throughout the new testament. Jesus gives us examples of who to love and how we show our love. He tells us to love each other and to love our God. He tells us that when we demonstrate acts of kindness to the least of our brethren we have shown it to him. Jesus has fed us with a clear message about how we should go about our lives.
And, like a good shepherd, when we sheep stray from the path we are to follow, Jesus guides us back and when we ask forgiveness, he forgives.