I am the Sheep
The world says the pasture restricts. Jesus said the pasture restores.
The last identity statement we covered in this series was:
I am the Bride, He is the Groom.
It was a beautiful look at the depth of the love Christ has for us. The study of the identity statement "I am the sheep, He is the Good Shepherd" shows me how the call to abide in Christ is a result of that love.
In John 10, Jesus uses the analogy of a sheep and a shepherd to paint the picture of His relationship with those who follow Him in a way that displays His protective, perfectly-intentioned character.
To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. - John 10:3-4
A shepherd's role and responsibility was to protect and tend to his sheep. Their lives were his responsibility. To protect them, a shepherd would keep his sheep within a gated pasture for two reason...one was to prevent them wandering while the other was to prevent what was beyond the gate from getting in. Why? Because, often times, what sat beyond the gate only sought to destroy his sheep for its own gain. (i.e. 1 Peter 5:8).
In Luke 15, we see the shepherd's willingness to pursue his wandering sheep should they leave the flock. It says he would leave the 99 to go find the one, to bring them back to the flock where they are safe.
Later He says:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. - John 10:11-12
That word "good" is important. Contrary to what the world says, and what we can be prone to believe, to be good is not to do good. We all know plenty of people who do good on the surface and yet do not mean well to people. In fact, the Bible tells us that no man is good - only One; only the perfect One. The verses above explain this within the illustration Jesus is using with His disciples in this passage...
The one is who hired to be a shepherd - he looks and behaves like a shepherd - will flee when real danger presents itself. His intentions as a shepherd are to earn a living; he is not motivated by his love for the sheep. This is what makes Jesus the Good Shepherd. He is willing to lay down his life for His sheep because what drives Him - His intentions - are not to gain but to give and protect what He loves.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He is perfectly-intentioned, protective and willing to pursue even wandering sheep. While the world tells us the lie that these gated pastures are intended to restrict, John 10:10 tells me they are intended to give me a truly abundant life.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
As the sheep of this Good Shepherd, Jesus calls us to abide in His pastures. To abide means to live in accordance with. We are called to live in accordance with His Word, not to restrict us, but to guide us to an abundant life.
Anyone who has ever wandered into the world knows, first-hand, there is no abundance found in it; just emptiness that leaves us wounded. In John 21, when Peter wandered back into the world Jesus called him out of, what happened when Jesus called him back to shore? He restored him. He found this wandering man and guided him back to the pasture.
The Word of God is the pasture we are led to dwell in by our Good Shepherd, and it is the very place we find life and restoration beyond what we could imagine.
This part of our identity is a deeply profound part of what separates us from the world, and allows us to experience the abundant life Jesus came, died and resurrected to give us.