Day 19 (Wednesday, March 27, 2019)

Throughout the ages there has been the rise and fall of political activists who have achieved their ends through deception and, once in power, through physical force – as we see, for example, in the histories of Russia under Stalin, Germany under Hitler, China under Mao, and Cambodia under Pol Pot. It is an often overlooked or simply unknown fact today, that many millions died in the 20th century under the brutal rule of these dictators who each claimed that their respective ideology would facilitate the materialist dream of prosperity and peace.

In John 10:1 we read Jesus’ warning against false messiahs: “…Anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit,” he says.

Commentators usually understand thieves and bandits as a reference to the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. However his words, “all who came before me…” suggest that he is speaking of another group – the self-styled messiahs between the Old and the New Testaments who claimed they would overthrow the power of Rome and provide liberty for the Jewish people, and so bring in the kingdom of God. But Jesus warns, ‘No. Don’t be fooled. God has a bigger and an everlasting plan. Don’t be duped by short-term goals – goals that will only be achieved through a disregard of personal property and personal freedom. They come to steal and to terrorize’.


 John 10:1-11

“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. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7 So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”


Shepherds were an important part of the Jewish people’s story for they symbolized God’s relationship with his people. David, the greatest of Israel’s kings, had been brought from shepherding sheep to shepherd Israel. It was he who said of God, The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want… (Psalm 23).

Israel’s leaders, be they kings, religious leaders or prophets were called shepherds. Yet Ezekiel 34 tells us that one way or another they abused their position and failed in their duty. So he says that God himself would shepherd his people and that he would do this through his servant David (Ezekiel 34:23-24). God did not want his people to be sheep without a shepherd (1 Kings 22:17).

Against this background, Jesus spoke of himself as the good shepherd. Whereas the Pharisees of Jesus’ day had ejected the formerly blind beggar, Jesus had not only restored the man’s sight, but had reached out to him. As the good shepherd, Jesus calls his sheep and knows each by name. In the same way that Jesus and God the Father know one another, so Jesus knows each one of us who belongs to him. Furthermore, he is the truly best of shepherds in that he was willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice by laying down his life on behalf of the sheep (10:11). The word for indicates that Jesus died instead of, or in the place of, the sheep so that we might have life, and have it abundantly (10:10).


Almighty God, the protector of all who put their trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: increase and multiply your mercy upon us, so that with you as our shepherd, ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal that we finally lose not the things eternal: grant this, heavenly Father, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. (BCP, Trinity 4 – adapted)

Daily Reading Plan

Read John 10:1-21