John 10:1-18 (NRSV)
“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…”

Devotion
I admit, I’m not of fan of gatekeepers. The checkpoint where fans get scanned before entering a baseball game; parking lot attendants; security and customs agents at the airport. With each gatekeeper, you have to show proof that you qualify to enter past them. Most, however, are pleasant, with the exception of airport gatekeepers. You know…the way they look at you! Yet, these guards and security staff serve a legitimate purpose. They help to maintain order and only allow qualified individuals through their gates.

In this passage of John, Jesus is a gatekeeper of greater significance. Unlike gaining access to a parking lot, or an airport, he is the passage point to an abundant life. Count me in! But what verifications do I need?

To explain, Jesus describes himself as a shepherd of his people. We need no special documents or tickets. He calls us by name and even ventures beyond to gather others outside who do not belong to his fold. Our only “proof of entry” is to respond to his voice. We can hear his voice through the Word of God, written in the Bible and spoken in sermons. Some of us may even hear him speak directly to us.

But there’s a catch. What exactly is this abundant life? It is not the path to care-free living with material prosperity, and little responsibility. Rather, it is to live like Christ – to show compassion and seek justice in today’s world. And in doing so, our lives will be abundant!

Prayer
Dear Lord, we yearn to live life abundantly. Keep us attuned to your voice each day so we may be your servants and thus experience this fullness of life.  Amen.

Jack Hess