Pasture & Abundant Life

the sheep follow the shepherd.
the sheep follow the shepherd.

What is the abundant life?  Placed in its appropriate context, the discussion of John 10 takes place on the heels of a miraculous healing that Jesus performed on a guy who had been blind since birth.  The Pharisees (religious elite) were put out by Jesus over this whole thing, and couldn’t believe that such a thing could happen (understandably).  So Jesus’ teaching in chapter 10 is directed at holier-than-thou, “we’re the religious chosen ones” believers in God.  People who in actuality were NOT in the fold of God based on their hardness of heart and arrogant spirits, and that is clear in John 10.

The most amazing thought that came to me in preparation for this message was that of pasture.  On occasion, I drive the 40-minute trek up Colorado Hwy 36 to Estes Park, and use my annual pass to go up into Rocky Mountain National Park.  I am uplifted every time I go, without fail.  Something captivates me about not only the wide-open spaces, but the vast wilderness that is lush, cut by rivers and streams, teeming with life of beasts, birds, fish, and flowers, and surrounded by the majestic peaks of the Rockies.  When I think of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, I cannot help but envision the sheep following him through those fields and open spaces, and they find pasture.

In pasture, the sheep can frolic and play.  They can graze and feed, drink a fresh drink from the clean mountain streams, and they have the protection of their shepherd.  He protects from the beasts; primarily wolves and coyotes, bears and mountain lions, but anything else that might come about looking for them.  Dangers are unpredictable, so the shepherd must be well prepared and sufficient to protect, which Jesus completely does.

And then he says, “I lay down my life for the sheep.”  And he says, “I have authority to lay down my life, and take it up again.”  And the Good Shepherd does more than contain us in a pen.  The Good Shepherd does more than contain us in buildings.  The Good Shepherd leads us to pasture.  He came that the sheep might have “life, and have it more abundantly.” 

And then there’s that… abundant life.  Abundant life has nothing to do with STUFF.  Nothing to do with wealth, or riches; cars, houses or clothes.  Abundant life means having relationships whose value surpasses the wealth of kings.  It means having peace in your heart from following in faith – in pasture.  Abundant life is a faith-filled existence that values trust in God more than financial stability, more than your own pride, or even our own accomplishments.  Abundant life might mean one thing to one believer, and another to me.  But I know this:  it means more than coming to church on Sundays; more than singing songs, bowing for prayers, and eating communion.  It means living every day with a definitive purpose to reflect God’s holiness, and to live life to the fullest, all-the-while looking over our shoulder to make sure the Shepherd is still there.  He will protect us.  His direction is what guides us.

It’s ironic that the pasture provides nourishment.  In John 4, and in John 6, Jesus teaches both an individual, life-is-a-mess woman and also a group of Jews who were following him for food.  He taught that HE provides the living water, and his flesh and blood provide REAL sustenance.  Metaphors aside, I pray that you will meditate today on what it means to partake of Jesus’ living water, of his flesh and blood, and what nourishment HE provides.

pasture
pasture

“I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly.”  Are you living an abundant life?  Another great passage of scripture yields light on this concept:  Romans 8:6-11.

6 “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

Quit living your own way.  Life for pasture.  It’s the only way to achieve peace.

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