I was having a conversation with a friend the other day and he mentioned that he was contemplating the possibilities of jumping head first off a perfectly safe solid steel bridge 150 feet down towards a glacier fed icy cold river while attached to a massive elastic rope. Consider for a moment the faith and trust that you have to have in the one thing separating you from life and death… an elastic rope.
John, in chapter 15 of his gospel records the words of Jesus as he and his disciples begin their journey from the upper room where they shared their last meal together to the garden of Gethsemane. Along the way Jesus uses an illustration of the vine and the branches to describe their relationship with him and his father. He is the vine, we are the branches and his Father is the gardener. This illustration or allegory has some incredibly deep and profound truths that give us a glimpse into the Christian life. God, our father in heaven through his Son Jesus Christ plays an active role in our lives; “pruning” or acting on our behalf to lead and guide us through life so that we can continue to be used as his disciples to effectively carry on his mission to bring the good news of salvation to others.
Our world has many different “vines” to hold onto in life. Some hold onto the “vines” of selfishness, wealth, pride, stubbornness or false gods; and while the vine may continue to grow its roots have not been set firmly into the garden that our heavenly father first planted. Jesus tells us that he is the “true vine”, he is stronger than the “elastic rope”. He is our life-line that continues to give us strength today and until that day when he returns to be with us in eternity. Being attached to the true vine (through a personal relationship with Jesus) is to be under the care and love of the master gardener of life, God. Will you take a leap of faith and be one of the many who have put their hope and trust in the strength and power of the one true vine, Jesus Christ? It is not one that you will ever regret.
Our culture today is fascinated by the unbelievable and the virtually impossible. For example, Guinness Book of Records holds the record for being the book most often stolen from Public Libraries. Robert L. Ripley (Ripley’s Believe it or Not), a cartoonist, explorer, reporter, adventurer, and collector, traveled to 201 countries in 35 years seeking the odd, the unusual, and the unexplained.
Scripture makes some pretty incredible claims, some of which reach beyond the scope of our finite human minds. Jesus made a claim that no other being on earth could ever make, He said, “I am the resurrection and the life”. (John 11:25) This incredible statement is foundational to the faith that hundreds of millions of people like you and I have put our hope and trust in; centuries of time have passed before us having been shaped and influenced by this statement. Jesus makes the declaration that he is the source and the power that will bring all those who believe in Him into everlasting life in the presence of his father.
Consider for a moment the person that Jesus speaks these incredible words to; Martha of Bethany, sister to Lazarus, who was raised from the dead. Martha is not new to the life and work of Jesus, she has seen and experienced the life transforming power of Messiah. This is an incredible reminder to those who live to bring honour and glory to the name of Jesus to remain confident in His power to overcome sin and death. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” What is your answer? Can you and will you stand faithful in front of the supreme judge when he returns again and say to him, Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who has come to save the world.
To fully know what something is we must also understand what that something is not. The antithesis (a person or thing that is the direct opposite of someone or something else) helps us hone or sharpen our understanding of the subject. John records many of Jesus’s “I am” statements in his Gospel. In order to grasp Jesus’s claim to be our “shepherd” we can understand what he means by looking at what a shepherd is not. Ezekiel uses the metaphor of a shepherd in a way that helps us understand what role a shepherd is not. Here are some of the highlights.
They focus on their own gain, not the well-being of the flock. (34:1-3)
They ruled harshly and brutally. (34:4)
When the sheep were lost, no one searched or looked for them. (34:6)
There are many more examples in scripture that use this same metaphorical language of “shepherd” to describe who Jesus is. Isiah puts it beautifully with these words, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: “He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;” (40:11). Johns record of Jesus’s clear statement in chapter 10:11 says “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” The implications of what Jesus says with these words is beyond incredible. The role of the true shepherd in Ezekiel chapter 34 is described as fulfilled by God, Jesus makes the claim in John’s gospel that He (as God in flesh) is the one fulfilling this role.
Jesus came to care for his sheep and to lead them back into a relationship with His Father. His focus was not on himself but for the well-being of the people. He chose to seek out the lost, the broken and the hurting, to lead and guide them with love and compassion. Jesus willingly laid down his life for us as our shepherd, for the forgiveness of our sins. He came back to life and continues to lead and guide us through the work of the Holy Spirit, what an incredible gift. Who are you following? Are you trusting in Jesus as your shepherd? Have you experienced the life transforming power of the Holy Spirit in your life? Jesus, the Good Shepherd is calling out your name, he is your shepherd, take a moment to listen and follow his call.
If you are a photographer, light is a big deal. In order for a camera to record the perfect picture, the light has to be just right. Astronomers can find and focus in on a pinpoint of light from hundreds of thousands of miles away and discover the intense beauty if its origins. The soft glow of a night light can bring an incredible sense of comfort to a young child struggling to sleep in the middle of the night. Science has studied the effects of light on almost every aspect of life and continue to discover its incredible power. Simply put, light provides life.
In the Bible, light is synonymous with life, both in the physical and spiritual sense. From the very first verses in scripture, we see how God created light to pierce the formless and empty darkness. Throughout scripture, writers make use of this incredibly vivid image, to symbolize the contrast between good and evil. John records these words of Jesus in his gospel, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (8:12). It is important to take note of Jesus’ first statement, “I am the light of the world”. Jesus floods the darkness of our souls, our sinful nature with light that cannot be overcome. John 1:5 says “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This is a promise. As believers, when we walk in the light and life of Christ he has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Deut 31:6)
This symbolic statement used by Jesus himself contrasts the significance of life with Him and life without Him. Life in Christ equals light, (salvation and eternal life); life without Christ equals darkness or separation. John suggests in a matter of fact way that the solution to the problem of darkness is as plain as night and day. He uses the word or concept of light over twenty times in his gospel trying to make the point that Jesus is the light that guides our lives, both physically and spiritually.. When we walk in the footsteps of Jesus (the light of life) we can walk with the full assurance and promise of salvation from the darkness of this world. Are you wandering in the darkness? Step into the light, experience a transformed life today.