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Let me try this again

By Charles Qualls

When have you needed to hear something twice, in order to get it right once? There’s a reason that carpenters say, “Measure twice, cut once.” We just don’t always get things right the first time. This past Sunday was “Good Shepherd” Sunday across the world in Christendom.

In John 10: 1-10, we are reminded that sometimes it doesn’t matter how good the teacher is. If the students aren’t getting the point, they aren’t getting the point. Here in this story, we see one of the most blatant instances of Jesus’ followers failing to understand. So much so that in the middle of the story, our Lord starts over and simplifies his message.

Legend holds that on his first day as coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi held a football in his hands as an illustration. He said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” This to a team of professionals, albeit one that he judged to be badly in need of reintroduction to the basics.

In chapter 9, the man born blind had just received his sight. Jesus debriefs the irony of how this man was blind and yet could see spiritually, while some church leaders were “sighted” conventionally, but were spiritually blind. Now in chapter 10, he is moving on in his teaching. He is still incredulous at the spiritual blindness that has been on display with how they treated the man whom he had just healed. So, he is going to teach with a parable. His famous “I Am the Good Shepherd” lesson.

We should hear what Jesus’ audience was supposed to hear. They would have recalled for instance the Psalms. There, the image of God as a “shepherd” was familiar. Now, Jesus is using that metaphor to communicate several things. Then, as today, there had been false prophets or “thieves” who would have stolen his followers. Instead, he will guard and take care of them.

I could wish I knew how Jesus sensed they weren’t connecting. Then, as now, church life gives us plenty of instances where we can hear plenty of Jesus and still miss the message. The person is at church all the time and hears a sermon every week, but they also get caught stealing from their company. They’ve missed the message. A person is generous with the church, but is nasty for everyone around them to deal with in every facet of their life. They’ve missed the message. A person is active in the faith, but it’s a poorly kept secret that they mistreat their spouse and kids horribly. They’ve missed the message. A person talks incessantly about their faith, but doesn’t have an ounce of detectable Jesus in their living. They’re just not getting it.

Here is what Jesus’ followers had missed: he was offering them life. He would lead them. He would care for them. He would train or shape them. He promised he would nurture and protect them. That probably wasn’t what they were looking for.

Well, why does any of this matter? Because if we miss what Jesus was really talking about, we might also miss the biggest point of all. He said, “I have come that they might have life … and have it abundantly.” Not just salvation for someday, but life right now. That’s what Jesus came offering to all who would follow.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t find life in my things. I love them, but I actually give up life to have them. My money is necessary. It is. I have to pay the bills. But money doesn’t give me life. My standing or position will not give me life. These days of the coronavirus have reminded us that a little, invisible bug has no respect for what standing, status, position or power you have. If it has your name on it, you are going to get it. It’s been humbling.

Life. That’s what Jesus wants to offer us. But are we listening? How many times will Jesus have to say to me, “Let me try this again” in order for me to finally hear him?

The REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is the pastor of Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.