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Words and Misunderstandings

“Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.” (John 10:6, NRSV)

This week I’m preaching from John 10:1-10, and I’ll be focusing on two metaphors found in the text—gates and shepherds. On the surface, these two metaphors seem somewhat disconnected. The first one is a mechanical system, while the second one is a role or job taken on by a person. But Jesus makes the connection quite well. So it’s puzzling that John, the writer of this gospel, notes in verse six that the disciples did not understand what he meant. When the Bible references someone’

s inability to comprehend, it’s a signal that understanding is essential. The point Jesus was making in John 10 was meant to provide vital insights about who Jesus is as an expression of the heart of God. The disciples would need this knowledge down the road as they carried forth the Good News into the world. If you read on through the rest of chapter 10, John never indicates whether the disciples ever grasped Jesus’ meaning; however, the religious leaders were listening in on his teaching, and, depending on their prejudices, they thought they exactly knew what Jesus was about.

“Again, the Jews were divided because of these words. Many of them were saying, ‘He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?’ Others were saying, ‘These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’” (John 10:19-21, NRSV) Words, whether spoken or written, have always been loaded with multiple meanings. The same words, used by different people, are judged as truthful or untruthful depending on the perspective of the listener. None of us likes to be misunderstood or to be judged by those who misunderstand us. And yet, we must continue to risk speaking our truth despite those who misconstrue or misinterpret our intentions. Words are one of the primary ways we reveal our Selves to the world. Although people often misunderstood Jesus, he continued to show himself to the world by speaking words of love and grace. Why is it so hard for some to hear these words? Why is it so difficult for some to grasp God’s nature as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ? My preaching aims to help people discover that the God of all creation loves them and is pulling for them to find the best life possible. That was the main point Jesus was making in John 10:10:

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10b, NRSV) Join us on Facebook Live for worship at 10:45 am this Sunday. I hope to see you there!

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