I go into the world this morning wondering whose voice those around me hear when I speak. When I come to the gate and call, is it the voice of a thief and a brigand? Am I really committed to the life and the health of God's people?
If I live the Christian life, I want to speak Jesus, act Jesus, live Jesus. It's the only thing that makes sense, if he is who he is to me.
I want everyone to hear a voice of love, to encounter an embrace of mercy, to feel a touch of love. The Resurrection of Christ has made this real in my life, and furthermore has made it possible for me to be a part of making it real in the lives of others.
So, it is possible for others to be healed by Christ's power through me. It is possible to encounter mercy, guidance, protection, if I accept the Spirit of the Father and of the Son in my heart.
But I know it does not always happen. I am still looking for the fleshly easy way, in spite of God's patient grace for me. I still put myself first, sometimes willfully, sometimes without even noticing it.
What will others hear from me if I'm trying to make my self more important, more in charge, more satisfied?
What will they hear from my selfish self but words of coercion, manipulation, shame? If I serve myself, how can I not live as a thief and a brigand to others?
When I do not speak mercy, when I strive to control, I only come to steal, to kill, to destroy.
This week, I want Christ to be heard in my voice. I want those around me to receive the message of the Good Shepherd, to come and go freely, to find good pasture.
When I speak words of mercy, of compassion, of healing, and when I speak from within the heart of the Good Shepherd who loves me, they will recognize his voice, even if they cannot name it.
May I only ever enter the lives of others through the gate, may all those I meet only ever be safe.
John 10:1-10 ©
‘I tell you most solemnly, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but gets in some other way is a thief and a brigand. The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice. They never follow a stranger but run away from him: they do not recognise the voice of strangers.’
Jesus told them this parable but they failed to understand what he meant by telling it to them.
So Jesus spoke to them again: ‘I tell you most solemnly, I am the gate of the sheepfold. All others who have come are thieves and brigands; but the sheep took no notice of them. I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe: he will go freely in and out
and be sure of finding pasture. The thief comes
only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come
so that they may have life and have it to the full.’
I've been working on my historical-critical method for the past bit now, and I've still reached the startling conclusion.
It does not make sense for the Resurrection not to have happened.
There's lots of reasons why. I'm going to stick with just the witness argument: how else can a reasonable historian explain why hundreds of backwoods peasants traveled thousands of miles to give testimony on pain of humiliating and painful death, except that they had really seen a dead body come to life in a glorified way? Even more convincing for me is that these witnesses, with no textual, physical, or authoritative evidence but their own word, managed to convince peoples throughout the Ancient Mediterranean, just by their own testimony. Before the Gospels were written, philosophers and slaves and merchants and military believed that the God of all creation - the only god, mind you - came as a human being to... What? Get nailed naked to wood as a disgusting billboard of brutal Imperial violence? What a ridiculous story! Imagine hearing it for the first time, maybe having seen crucified bodies on your way into town. What could have possibly convinced you that it were true, to such a point that you'd die rather than deny it?
Almost every year of my teaching career, I have opened up the Parable of the Prodigal Son - or, since the original meaning of "prodigal" is "lavish", the Prodigal Father - to my classes. With limited time, and limited exposure to Scripture, no other passage conveys the scandalous abundance of God's love better. This year, the meaningful celebration of Father's Day, the gospel reading for this Sunday, and the busy hectic June, combined with my reflection to reveal the Prodigal's impact on each one of us, in every moment.
My first task in conveying God's mercy is establishing that the younger brother and the elder brother commit the same sin. This isn't easy. I'd have to unscientifically guesstimate that at least 95% of those studying with me are solidly on the elder brother's side in approaching the parable. What. A. Rip. Off.
Let's recall just how bad a jerk this younger brother is: first off, he comes up to his father, whom he should honour above all earthly things, and asks for his inheritance. That is, he is essentially saying to his father, "It'd be better for me if you were dead. Can you pretend to be dead so I can get what I want from you?"
The positive response of his father is in itself, scandalous to Jesus's audience. The younger son then distances himself from his father so as to completely control that wealth which is properly his fathers. Finally, after wasting his money on dissolute living ("sex, drugs and rock'n roll" to my students) he finds himself completely isolated and starving.
At this point in the story, I imagine the Pharisees and the scribes leaning back, perhaps smoking on their pipes if they have them, and muttering to each other, "That was a good story. I thought the father was a little bit of a putz, but at least the younger son got what was coming to him. Good story."
But Jesus isn't done yet. He continues with the younger son returning to a powerfully emotional welcome from his father, an acknowledgement on his lips: "I have behaved like no son of yours."
The father restores his sonship to the highest honour: sandals, the best cloak, a signet ring. The younger son still smells of pig poop. One only "kills the fatted calf" once in a lifetime.
Early in the morning, first chance they get, the women bring spices and ointment prepared for the dead body of Jesus. They went straight to the place where they saw it buried. And then things got interesting.
For forty days we have journeyed to the cross, and along the way we have stopped and prayed at the Stations of the Cross.
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Ryan LeBlanc, B.A., B.Ed., M.A, is a career classroom teacher, learning leader, and workshop facilitator. Now, his cutting-edge educational methods and years of practical experience with thousands of learners is available through his comprehensive online courses.