John 10 contains one of the most quoted verses in the whole of the Bible: "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (10:10). Every one wants some of that. A full life of abundance and blessing. But in the immediate context, Jesus is talking about sheep. Sheep that have entered the fold (or pen) through the right gate, the only gate that leads to life; namely the gate called Jesus.
Jesus has already tried to explain this to his listeners, but they didn't get it. Most of us find it hard to get our heads around the whole sheep and shepherding analogies in the Bible. Unless you were bought up on a sheep farm or have worked on one, it can be tricky to fully grasp what Jesus was trying to teach.
But that's ok. Because in verse 6 of chapter 10, Jesus' audience didn't get it either, 'they did not understand what he was telling them'. Sound familiar? So Jesus explained a bit more, with less metaphor and more straight talking; 'Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate: whoever enters through me will be saved' (10:7-9).
That's better - straight talking. Jesus is the gate. And the gate that leads to salvation and safety. Jesus himself said “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
That's better - straight talking. Jesus is the gate. And the gate that leads to salvation and safety.
Many of us today know he's the gate, and we believe he's the gate, and we even tell others he's the gate. But it doesn't stop us from trying to get through some other gates from time to time.
There’s lots of gates that look like they might lead us to safety and the full life beyond that. One of them is called comfort. We get into our rhythm, we enjoy the lifestyle, we tend to our own world and live off the nine/five. The holidays come round, we gather more stuff, we keep Jesus to an hour and a half on Sunday and gently swing on the gate of comfort as the world passes us by. Jesus didn’t die on a cross and promise us an abundant life of comfort. He calls us to radically lay down our lives of ease and to take up our cross daily. There is great comfort and ease in following Jesus; but it doesn't look like our ease. His ease is lying low, being less, serving more and giving of ourselves.
Jesus didn’t die on a cross and promise us an abundant life of comfort.
Or perhaps the gate we've been pushing against is the gate of 'doing our best' or ‘achievement’. Surely, if we live well, make some really good choices, behave ourselves and help planet earth become a much better place, then we can squeeze through that gate. The problem with that is that eventually, we'll mess up. You might not think it, but you will. We all have. And even if you don't, there's your past and that thing called sin that you were born with. This gate wont eradicate that. You need the gate that's covered with the blood of Jesus that washes us and cleanses us from all of our sin.
Maybe we just don't want to push any gate ourselves, but we'd rather piggy-back someone else and go through the gate with them? Maybe our parents are really-really Godly, and you just want to go though the gate with them instead; or your partner, they really pray and seeks God for 'the both of you' so if you stick with them, you'll be ok. Jesus said 'if anyone enters by me he will be saved' (10:9). He calls us to make our choice as individuals. What about you?
So Jesus says quite categorically that He is the only way to God, the only way to salvation and safety. But he doesn't leave it there. What about the abundant living part? Safety is only half the message. Jesus doesn't save us so that we can hang on and hold out until heaven. He promises so much more, 'I came that they may have life and have it abundantly' (10:10). There's our verse, our promise, our hope - abundant life!
Jesus doesn't save us so that we can hang on and hold out until heaven.
So what does that look like? John Piper says this: “Abundant life is not about having stuff. It’s about having peace. Having Joy. Having God. Protection and Plenty. Solid safety and deep soul satisfaction”.
This life of fullness is not really at all about anything we can own or do. The Greek word for abundant is ‘perisso’ meaning “exceedingly, very highly, beyond measure, more, superfluous, a quantity so abundant as to be considerably more than what one would expect or anticipate.” Using that definition, there’s really not a lot of ‘stuff’ this side of heaven that translates therefore as abundant!
But the life Jesus offers us, the abundant life for followers of Christ, is one of deep satisfaction (Psalm 90:14), peace (Philippians 4:7), joy (Romans 14:17) and contentment (Philippians 4:11) to name a few. It doesn't really look like stuff; but it does look like substance.
His life in us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, releases us to live our lives for the glory of the Father, investing in His Kingdom not our own, and living and experiencing the reality of ‘it being more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35).
If like me there are times when you feel that there must be more than this, then know that there is. God has designed us to long for more, more of Him! At the feet of Jesus, there are deeper, more soul satisfying riches than anything this world can offer. There's more to life than playing it safe. Step out today, through Jesus, into the abundance he has for you.
Questions for reflection:
- Am I really trusting in Jesus as the gateway to my salvation? If so, how do that look in my life? If not, what do I need to do to make sure my faith and trust is in Jesus alone?
- Where in my life am I lacking ‘abundance’? What can I do about that? What would Jesus do?
- Where am I playing it safe where God is calling me to step out into fullness?