“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” - John 10:1-4
Several years ago while visiting my sister in Atlanta, we stopped by a boutique, an Etsy-sort of storefront. So many trinkets to look at but soon my eyes fell upon some unique silver- and gold-toned bracelets with small crosses attached. They came in multiple sizes and colors too—all the better to accessorize with my wardrobe! They weren’t expensive so I purchased several and began to immediately wear them almost daily. Little did I know that these bracelets would become a personal ministry.
One day at the funeral of the mother of one of my daughter’s friends, I was able to give this friend a bracelet when she asked me about the red cross on my wrist. With tears in her eyes, she took it from me with a hug and replied that it was even her mom’s favorite color. This has happened enough times now for me to realize that Jesus has given me a small but important opportunity to share these small tokens of God’s love with folks who crave and welcome Him.
When I read my assigned scripture for this devotion from the book of John, I wondered how this small ministry of mine could be used to illustrate my gratitude for God’s gift of Jesus. The scripture here not only tells us about the Good Shepherd who takes perfect care of his sheep but that He is also the Gatekeeper, the one who guards the pen so that only the sheep can go in and out and no one else. (The Message Bible says, “A thief is there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have…more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” ) I remembered from a Sunday School lesson long ago that sheep are among the most helpless of all domesticated animals. They graze, never looking up, wander from place to place and easily become lost. They are also defenseless against predators and can only huddle together for protection and are easily slaughtered. If not for the voice of their caring Shepherd, these creatures would stay lost, become easy prey and never find their way back to the safety of their pen.
We are like those aimless sheep, attempting to dodge troubles and deception at all turns. Lucky for us, Jesus is our caring Shepherd, gently leading and protecting us always. But John also tells us that Jesus, the Gatekeeper, is the only door to Salvation and eternal life! We can never be good enough… our salvation is not based on our goodness but on the goodness of our Lord, a precious gift which is totally unearned!
So how can we but take every opportunity to return that Wondrous Love by opening our hearts and being a blessing to all we meet, whether it be the gift of an inexpensive cross-laden bracelet, a homemade meal for a family in need, a visit to an isolated shut-in, or a gift of money to our many local and global missions? We are Beloved beyond measure…Amazing Grace!
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun. Amen