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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Month

January 2020

John 10:11-18: The ‘beautiful’ shepherd.

John 10:11-18: The ‘beautiful’ shepherd.

11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.14 ‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.’ NIV

There are, apparently, at least two words for ”good” in the Greek language. One means aesthetically good/pleasing to the eye. The other means morally good, and there is the idea of ”beautiful”. Jesus is the ”beautiful” shepherd, and this is the beauty of holiness.

The beauty of Jesus shines through in His leadership. Goodness is attractive, and there will be a winsome radiance about any leader who comes anywhere close to Christ-likeness. Robert Murray McCheyne said, ”It is not great talents God blesses, but great likeness to Jesus.” Here is something to aspire to. Our world seems to prize the C.E.O model of leadership. This has also affected (infected?) the church. Senior leaders in business tend to sit atop a hierarchical structure, and are far removed from most of the people in the organisation. I know I generalise, but I believe this is often the case. They probably don’t know many employees by name. But in the Bible, kings were called shepherds too. The ideal ‘rule’ (leadership style) is one of servanthood, care and concern. As a leader, I want to be teachable; to be able to learn anything that is good and true and helpful from all types of leaders. But I must not lose sight of the particular kind of leadership I am called to in Scripture. It is exemplified in Jesus, and we are to follow the pattern.

In the Old Testament God is shown to be the shepherd of Israel. This is one of several portraits of Him. When He came into this world, incarnated in Jesus, He declared, ”I am the good shepherd” (11). Biblical leadership must be seen through this lens. It’s what leaders in the church are called to. It entails the laying down of our lives for the sake of others (11, 15, 17, 18), and there is more than one way to die. It is Christ-centred and therefore cross-centred. It’s a self-sacrificing way of life.

It involves caring for others at cost to yourself (12, 13). You don’t put your own convenience or safety first. Someone described Jesus as ”the Man for others.” Every leader in Christ’s church is called to be a man or woman ”for others”;
It involves knowing people and being known (14,15) – being available and accessible;
It has a missionary heart/an evangelistic heartbeat (16). ”I must…” There is a sense of urgency and compulsion. Jesus was speaking here about His mission to bring in the Gentiles.

Paradoxically (and the Christian faith is full of paradoxes) this way of dying is the way to life (17, 18). It is as we lose our lives that we find them. Try it and you’ll prove it’s true!

PRAYER: Lord make me like you.

John 10:1-10: The Shepherd who is the Gate.

John 10:1-10: The Shepherd who is the Gate.

‘Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold 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. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognise a stranger’s voice.’ Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.Therefore Jesus said again, ‘Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” NIV

Here are some simple thoughts from a well known passage. But it is one thing to know these truths and another to live them.

Come through the ”shepherd” (11). Jesus is both the ”shepherd” and the ”gate” (7). I understand that sometimes eastern shepherds would literally lie across the entrance to a sheepfold at night, thus acting as the door. It is vital that there should be a truly converted ministry (2). People who are to serve as ‘under-shepherds’ over Christ’s flock must first of all come to God through Jesus who is both ”the good shepherd” (11) and ”the gate” (7).
Listen to the shepherd (3-5). Eastern shepherds had a personal relationship with each animal in their flock. Often they had a different name for each one and, possibly, an individual call. If you have come to be part of Christ’s flock, you will surely recognise His voice. ”…a father or mother will recognise their child’s voice in a crowded room. But those of us who don’t have much to do with the bird and animal kingdoms on a daily basis are often startled at just how much animals can distinguish between different people as well as between other members of their own species. To this day, in the Middle East, a shepherd will go into a crowded sheepfold and call out his own sheep one by one, naming them. They will recognise his voice and come to him. The shepherd, after all, spends most hours of most days in their company. He knows their individual characters, markings, likes and dislikes. What’s more, they know him. They know his voice. Someone else can come to the sheepfold and they won’t go near him, even if he calls the right names. They are listening for the one voice that matters, the voice they trust.” Tom Wright: ‘John for everyone’, pp.147/148.
Follow the shepherd (3-5). He goes ahead of the flock. It is for us to keep our eyes on Him and follow where He leads. We follow ”the lamb” who is also the shepherd (Revelation 14:4). Our following must be to the extent of ”wherever he goes.” He is Lord.
Let the shepherd give you real life (10). Here’s a suggestion: read Psalm 23, and pray it through, giving thanks for this abundant life that is yours.

John 9:35-41: There are none so blind…

John 9:35-41: There are none so blind…

35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains. NIV

  1. Jesus comes to the persecuted with encouragement (35): This poor man had been ‘thrown out’ (excommunicated) because, unlike his cowardly parents, he dared to stand up for Jesus. Jesus came to him and spoke to him. As I read this passage I was forcibly reminded of my solemn responsibility and great privilege to remember in prayer all who have been thrown out; those who suffer oppression for their Christian faith (Hebrews 13:3). Jesus will come to them again and again in many ways, including in the prayers of His people.
  2. Jesus comes to the seeker with revelation (35-38): It is fascinating to witness, throughout this ninth chapter, the gradual opening of the man’s eyes to the truth of who Jesus is – right up to the point of worship. The blind man came to Jesus because Jesus came to him in the first place (1). He was a seeker because Jesus sought him. The initiative was with Christ, and whatever the Lord commences He sees through to culmination; He leads that process across the finish line. (Philippians 1:6). ”Suddenly the picture comes into complete focus for him, and he believes – one of many individuals, throughout John’s story, who make the final step which John wants every reader of his book to make (20.31).” Tom Wright: ‘John for everyone’, p.145.
  3. Jesus comes to the religious leaders with rebuke (39 – 41): Knowledge equals privilege, and accountability comes with it. There is an irony in these words because in one sense the Pharisees were not blind. They had the Old Testament and they taught it to others. They had spiritual knowledge. They had God’s Book. But they refused to let it lead them to Jesus (5:37-40). Tom Wright says that the Pharisees are ”sticking to their principles at the cost of the evidence…Not only are they wrong, but they have constructed a system in which they will never see that they are wrong. It is one thing to be genuinely mistaken, and to be open to new evidence, new arguments, new insights. It is another to create a closed world, like a sealed room, into which no light, no fresh air, can come from outside. That condition, in fact, is not far removed from that which Paul describes in the first chapter of Romans (1.32). There are some people who not only do the wrong thing but adjust their vision of the moral universe so that they can label evil as ‘good’ and good as ‘evil’. Once that has happened, such people have effectively struck a deal not only with evil but with death itself. They have turned away from the life-giving God and locked themselves into a way of thinking and living which systematically excludes him – and, with him, the prospect and possibility of rescue” (p.146).

John 9:24-34: Simple courage.

John 9:24-34: Simple courage.

24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind.33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out. NIV

The blind man’s parents passed the ball to him. Once he found it at his feet, he did not lack ideas for what to do with it. He showed considerable pluck, and took the clerics on – even toying with them it seems (27). They had no good arguments against his healing or against his words, so they did what people often do in such circumstances. They picked up mud and threw it. I pray that faced with hostile people, I will not hide, but stand up for Jesus, and offer my testimony. They may wipe their secularised boots all over it, but let them hear it.

Within this passage you can read the famous statement of (25): ”One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” This is the story of every Christian. Through the telling of this story we too are gradually being brought to see Jesus, who is ”the light” (5; see also 1:4,5). He is opening our blind eyes.

PRAYER: Lord, I know I can all too easily play the coward. So please give me the courage I will always need to stand up for you.

John 9:13-23: The cost of discipleship.

John 9:13-23: The cost of discipleship.

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”The man replied, “He is a prophet.”18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders,who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” NIV

Religious people can become so concerned about the meticulous observance of their self – made rules that they don’t care about people. Instead of rejoicing over a remarkable healing of a man with congenital blindness, the Pharisees pursed their lips, shook their heads, and got very angry with Jesus for doing this miracle on the Sabbath. With Jesus, there was a pattern of such happenings (see e.g. Chapter 5).He would not allow His compassion to be tied up by their rules. Jesus knew that at the heart of the Sabbath there lies God’s heart for saving people. He was clear in His thinking that it was a day for doing good to others. But religion stinks!

The healed man’s parents make a fascinating case study. They were not as supportive of their son as you might expect them to be. To be excommunicated from the synagogue would mean not only loss of status within the Jewish community but loss of many other privileges. They were probably fearful for their livelihoods, and even their lives. There is a cost involved in discipleship. Jesus urged people to count that cost before embarking on a course to follow Him. This pair took out their ready reckoners and decided it just wasn’t worth it. They couldn’t afford it. They were hardly lovingly supportive of their son. They pushed him to the front where he could take the flak and not them. Christianity costs!

Revelation is often progressive. It takes time. By the end of the chapter, this wonderfully healed man will come to a fuller understanding of who Christ is (35-38). But even here he is on his way (17b). It’s a beginning. His spiritual eyes are gradually opened.Let’s be patient. Give people time. Above all, give God time. ”When surrounded by fear and anger, the only way through is to glimpse whatever we can see of Jesus, and to follow him out of the dark and into the light.” Tom Wright: ‘John for everyone’, p.139. Jesus enlightens!

PRAYER: Lord God, I pray that no threat or fear will ever make me disloyal to you.

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