Monday, October 22, 2007

Thieves and killers in shepherd's clothing

Here is my introduction from yesterday morning's sermon on John 10:1-21 plus some comments from Calvin that I found helpful in my preparation:

When are you likely to meet the most dangerous people in Deeside? The kind that you really wouldn't want to bump into in a dark alley. It will not be late on a Friday or Saturday night, after the pubs close, but on a Sunday morning.

The most dangerous people in Deeside probably don't have criminal records, the police are not keeping a watchful eye on them, they will never be seen on Crimewatch. And yet they are guilty of theft, murder and the willful destruction of human life. They are intruders intent on harm and they brutalize their victims.

They go by the titles of reverend, vicar, father, minister, elder and pastor. They are motivated by self interest, gain, and reputation. But they hate the truth, and oppose the Good Shepherd who has come to bring salvation and to call his sheep to follow him. Religious leaders whose job it is to teach the Bible, but who oppose Jesus, are the most dangerous people in Deeside.

Do you agree with me? Are my comments a little far fetched and implausible? Have I taken leave of my senses? Well that is exactly the kind of reaction that Jesus received when he said the same things to the religious leaders of Israel in John 10. Jesus is gathering his flock, including the blind man that he healed in the previous chapter who was harshly treated and cast out by the shepherd leaders of Israel. Jesus does not hold back on the gravity of their actions or the truth about their true identity. They are thieves and robbers (10:1, 8), and they come to steal, kill and destroy (10:10).

And here are some helpful words from Calvin on John 10:
The mark to distinguish lawful shepherds fom the reprobate, and true sheep from the false, is if He himself is the object and beginning and end of all. (p. 258)

Christ likens the Church to a sheepfold in which God assembles His people, and compares Himself to the door, since He is the only entrance into the Church. It follows from this that they alone are good shepherds who lead men straight to Christ; and that they are truly gathered into God's fold and reckoned His flock who give themselves up to Christ alone. (p. 259) is a great comfort and ground of confidence when we know that Christ has always guarded his sheep under his faithful protection, amid the manifold attacks and devices of wolves and robbers, so that none should leave Him. (p. 261)
Calvin's New Testament Commentaries: vol. 4, John 1-10