Called Out

Good Shepherd

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.


Jesus is the good shepherd! We can say that again, Jesus IS the Good Shepherd!! But The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. Who is this thief? The devil of course!! But Jesus is speaking of specific works of the devil. There is an historical context in what Jesus is teaching here. But, what is the context??

Look at what precedes his declaration of the thief and his intentions. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. Who, exactly, are these thieves and robbers Jesus is speaking of? Is he speaking about Abraham? Is he calling Moses a thief and a robber? Maybe King David? Solomon? All the prophets, maybe Isaiah or Elijah?
No, Jesus is not calling patriarchs and prophets of God from the Old Testament thieves and robbers. But in the first century, the Jewish people, occupied and dominated by the Roman armies for so long, were longing for a Messiah, a savior. There was no shortage of would-be Messiahs who tried to fill that role, and the first century listeners of Jesus knew who they were.

good shepherd 2
Athronges the Shepherd was one. He was known as “the shepherd of Israel“. When Jesus says he is the good shepherd it is in contrast to Athronges, who was not a good shepherd but a very bad shepherd. Athronges was actually crowned “King of the Jews”. He was exactly the kind of warrior Messiah the people were looking for (then and now). Athronges used guerilla warfare tactics quite successfully for a time against both the Roman and Herodian armies. He was known quite well for how many people he was able to kill. Until, of course, both he and almost all of his followers were killed themselves.
You could say this bad shepherd came to kill.

guerrilla warfare
Judas Bar-Hezekiah was another “messiah”. He was from Sepphoris, which was a large city 4 miles from Nazareth where Jesus grew up. It was the big city of Jesus’ world, and he likely had heard stories of this particular character growing up. Judas Bar-Hezekiah came to fame as a revolutionary who would rob Romans, even once attacking and robbing the royal palace in Sepphoris, making off with all the weapons and money that had been stored there. He was something of a folk hero, but unfortunately it all went downhill from there. Judas went from targeting Roman to going after wealthy Jews. Eventually he would rob just about anyone, becoming a menace and danger to all.
You could say Judas Bar-Hezekiah came to steal.

Simon of Peraea was a Jewish slave in Herod’s palace. This slave eventually escaped, amassed a following, called himself messiah, and was crowned king of the Jews. But his biggest claim to fame was that he burned down Herod’s palace in Jericho, as well as smaller houses of the king in other parts of the country.
You could say Simon came to destroy.

palace burning
There were others. Theudas is mentioned in the book of acts by Gamaliel. Theudas claimed to be the new Joshua, and was going to prove it by parting the Jordan River. Unfortunately, the Romans heard about and showed up, killing all of his followers. Of course, Theudas fled.

tax revolt
Judas the Galilean was an intellectual rabbi who started a group called the zealots, who violently resisted paying taxes to the Romans. He also is mentioned by Gamaliel in the book of acts when some of the disciples were imprisoned and the council was trying to decide what to do about “the way” they followed. This is what Gamaliel had to say about Theudas and Judas the Galilean – “But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice,” Acts‬ ‭5:34-39‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

red sea
So when Jesus makes reference to thieves who come steal, kill, and destroy, he was referring to Jewish Messiahs before him who were just tools of the devil. They were nothing more than thieves, robbers, and killers. They tried to change the world by the means of death. But in the end, they only led their followers to more death. They were bad shepherds.
But Jesus says I am the good shepherd.
He followed a parade of Messiahs, the most notable of whom actually called himself “The Shepherd“. But all these Messiahs only led their followers to more death. They all gathered their following around the energy of hate. As occupied people subject to a foreign superpower, it was (and is) easy to hate those who are occupying you. All these Messiahs thought they could bring the Kingdom of God through hate and violence.

terrror problem
If you were a Roman citizen hearing the news reports coming out of Judea, you just might say to yourself “wow, they really have a problem with terrorists out there!” If you’re a Jew living in Judea during this time, you might call these so-called terrorists freedom fighters. You might believe in their cause. These freedom fighters, these Messiahs, could gather a following like they did because there are always people who believe in the ways and means of death. There are always people who think, “If we can just kill the right people, things will get better.” “If we can just kill those bad guys, everything will be alright.

freedom fighters

Jesus tells us regarding these would be Messiahs, though, but the sheep did not listen to them. The sheep did not listen, but who did? The goats…

The goats who believe in the way of hate will always follow their false Messiahs, then and now. But the sheep know there must be a better way. The way of life, peace, and mercy. The sheep will hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.

hear his voice
But, then and now, the goats always get a lot of attention. They make a lot of headlines, create a lot of noise. But there are always more sheep than we think. Jesus tells us “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” John‬ ‭10:16‬ ‭ESV

american goat

Sheep are quiet, goats make lots of noise. You can find the goats of hate in every nation and every religion. There are Iranian goats.  There are American goats. There are Muslim goats embracing the way of hate. There are Christian goats embracing the way of hate.
But – in the same way – in every nation and every religion, there are sheep who believe in the say of peace. They will listen to Jesus. They are drawn to Jesus. We might be quick to yell “That’s not true!!”, but it is.

leads them out
They may not call themselves Christians (yet). They may still identify as Muslim (or an other religion). That is all they’ve ever known. But there are those around the world, regardless of the tags or titles, who will follow Jesus.

sheep led out
Jesus does not pick sides in our conflicts. We must stop using Jesus to justify hating our enemies. “Love your enemy” is the way that leads to life. “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.” ‭‭John‬ ‭10:2-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬. The sheep will hear his voice, and the Good Shepherd leads them to life.
Know that when Jesus talks about enemy love, he’s talking about the ISIS of his day. We can hate ISIS as structure of evil spreading the hate, death, and the destruction of Satan. But must love every Abdul, Achmed and Mohammed.

But to kill ISIS, we have to send in the B1 bombers don’t we? Ok, but that’s the way of Cain and not Jesus, just know which spirit it is we are following when we do that.

Remember, always, that Jesus calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. The Beast wants to give you a number, remember? Jesus calls you out by name.

abundant life
What is Jesus calling you out of? Is he calling you out of hate? Anger? Regret? Maybe he calling you out of some kind of pain. Maybe it’s no fault of your own. But the Good Shepherd still calls you out of that pain and into His eternal kingdom.
He’s calling each one of us by our own name. Do you hear the Good Shepherd calling? He’s calling you out of all that belongs to death. Hate, fear, pain, depression, rage, and anger all belong to death.  Jesus calls us out of all of all of that, so that they may have life and have it abundantly.

lays down his life
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. But the Good Shepherd has laid down his life for the sheep. And only he has the authority to take it back up again!! The Good Shepherd laid down his life, but he is alive today!!

broken body
He offered up his own body and blood that we might live. “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭22:19‬ ‭ESV


“So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and 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. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

‭‭John‬ ‭10:7-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

John Lewis

2 thoughts on “Called Out

    1. I hear what you are saying, but I don’t think I would qualify it in that way. While we do recognize the inconsistency of claiming Christ as savior while also professing hate for entire groups of people, we also have recognize that this situation has existed far too often in our history to let ourselves off the hook in that way. That has been the case in far too many cases throughout church history. I’m think crusades, burning heretics at the stake (endorsed by no less than John Calvin), our friends at Westboro Baptist today. It’s just too easy to let ourselves off the hook. It’s real, and it is a real issue, historically and right up to this day.

      Liked by 1 person

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