Monday, June 27, 2011

The True Shepherd and The Robber (Jn. 10:1-6)

This is a personal summary of the preaching of Rev Dr Stephen Tong on 19 June 2011 in True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 10:1-6

It is an irony that while religious leaders were most knowledgeable in the Law of Moses, when the Messiah came they were the most resistant. The blind beggar was healed, physically and spiritually, but the Pharisees were learned in the law of God well was blind spiritually. Jesus said He came to the world so that the blind would see and those who see become blind. It a religious paradox. Those who think they know actually do not know, those who think they see actually do not see. The Pharisees despised the blind beggar as uneducated, poor and of low social status. We should not despise the poor and uneducated because some of them had treasures within them that influence many generations to come. We need to honour people of lowly social status. John 9 exposes human weakness and social ills in this respect. It has not changed much for 2000 years. Some Christians behave worse than non-Christians. Some pastors are more evil than those who do not have religious education.

John 10 speaks of Jesus as the good Shepherd and the gate to the sheep. It does not seem connected to the previous chapter. But the Bible was not revealed and arranged in a systematic manner. It is the word of life, the expression of the truth, not formed by systematic teaching, but by organic principles of life.

Systematic theology categorises everything in a logical manner. It is insufficient to teach the Bible. The methodology to put everything in a logical system comes from the Enlightenment Age. The word “systematic theology” is the literary product of the Enlightenment. It is good to study systematic theology as a start but we should not stop there. We need to go in depth to let our study form organic relationship with our life. We need to influence others with our life and character. The relationship between life and the word of God is organic. Three great theologians, Augustine, John Calvin and Karl Barth would not use the term systematic theology.

In John 10, the relationship between Jesus and His church is described as the Shepherd and the sheep. There are five illustrations of the relationship between Christ and His church. Firstly, it is like the relationship between husband and wife, bridegroom and bride. Christ love His church and give His life for His church like a husband loves his wife. The Church ought to submit to Christ as a wife submits to her husband. Secondly, Christ is the foundation and the Church is the house. The house dose not support the foundation, but is supported by the foundation. Christ is the foundation of our spirituality. That’s how the church can stand firm.

Thirdly, Jesus is the Head, the Church is His body. The body is directed by the head, not the other way round. The church needs to be submissive to her Head, Christ, just as Christ submits to God the Father. Here we see the hierarchy of power. Forthly, as illustrated in John 10, Christ is the Shepherd and and the Church is His flock and His sheep recognise his voice. Finally, Christ is the vine and we are the branches. Out of the 5 illustrations, only one relationship is not organic, i.e the house and its foundation. Other illustrations are life relationships or organic relationships.

How then is John 10 related to John 9? The Pharisees studied the Law so carefully but could not believe in Christ, so Jesus said they are not His sheep. The blind beggar was uneducated but believe in Christ, so he is His sheep.

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.” (Jn. 10:1-2)

Who is the robber and who is the shepherd? Some church leaders are robbers. A true shepherd will give of his life for his flock. He loves his flock and care about their safety. The thief and the robber does not care about the sheep and will instead takes away their peace and your possessions for himself.

There are two kinds of leaders and preachers in church. One is the true shepherd who is self-sacrificial and give his life to the flock of God. The other is the thief and robber who take advantage of the congregation and cheat their money. He uses church offerings to enrich himself and support his luxurious lifestyle.

These robbers did not come in by the door but climed in by an illegitimate way. They entered the church by the wrong way, not by the proper gate. They are false prophets and false apostles who cheat the church. A lot of people work hard and give their offerings to false prophets. False prophets speak things people like to hear and naïve Christians often believe.

Jesus said He is the gate. He is the good Shepherd. Why is Jesus so stern to refer to other religious leaders as robbers? He was not willing that people just follow anybody in confusion. We need to discern. Many people give offerings to the wrong place.

Jesus said He came to give life but the robber comes to take life away. His sheep hears His voice and follow Him. He said sheep will never follow a stranger for they do not recognise his voice. They could feel the love of the Shepherd. Many people leave churches because they cannot recognise a true shepherd hear in their pastors who act more like hired men. They are disappointed. The true shepherd sacrifices himself, loves the flock and never tries to get something from the flock. The sheep will recognise that this is God’s shepherd.

Yet some of us cannot recognise voices and follow the kidnappers. We need to be trained to recognise the voice of the Lord because His sheep hears His voice and follow Him.


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