All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate.
Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.
The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.
My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:8-10)
Relate: Fake sheep follow thieves. That thought came to me as I was reading these verses from John. Yes, I know the statement sounds a bit ludicrous. It sounds like something straight out of Monty Python. “Look, that rabbit’s got a vicious streak a mile wide!” When when we read what Jesus says here, my thought, as weird as it might sound, is the logical conclusion. Fake sheep follow thieves. Think about it. Jesus says, that all who came before Him were thieves and robbers. His very next statement was, “True sheep did not listen to them.” Well, if nobody listened to these thieves, there would have been no need for Him to say, “true sheep”. Obviously, there were some people who did listen to these thieves and robbers, and these followers were fake sheep.
I don’t want to be a fake sheep. Sheep aren’t all that great to begin with, but if I have to be one, I’d like to at least be real about it. So who are these thieves I shouldn’t be following? I’ve always associated Jesus’ description with the devil and there are legitimate reasons for doing so, but Jesus is actually referring to historical fact. There actually were men, false Messiahs and rebel leaders, who came before Him who actually did come to steal, kill, and destroy. There would be many, many more to come in the short years to follow as religion and patriotism were blended and Jesus was warning His followers to stay away from this.
He wants His followers to stay away from men like Judas of Gamla who came to steal. We don’t know much about his rebellion except that it was triggered by a taxation (which took place around 6-7AD while Quirinius was governor of Syria). He targeted tax collectors and rich Jewish loyalists, and the Romans put his rebellion down swiftly and brutally. If you want to mess with a big government’s cash flow… they will be coming after you fast and hard. Jesus wanted His followers to stay away from men like Jesus Barabbas who came to kill. Tony Campolo has a great book called Which Jesus showing how the Barabbas Pilate let go was a leader among the men who would come to be called the sicarii, a group of extremists and zealots most famous for their assassinations. It is argued by some that Judas Iscariot was also one of these and part of the reason he betrayed Jesus was disillusionment that Jesus wasn’t the militant type of Messiah he had been expecting. Jesus also wanted His followers to stay away from men like Simon of Peraea who came to destroy. Simon was a former slave of Herod who rebelled and set himself up as king. He had a bit of a bitter streak and before he was put down in 4BC what he was most famous for was trying to burn down all of Herod’s estates and homes including the palace in Jericho.
React: Jesus warned against false leaders who would lead false sheep away and His warning is just as valid today as it was nearly two thousand years ago. There are still leaders, and movements that are out to steal kill and destroy and there are still those who fully believe they are sheep that follow. False sheep are still following those who would try steal their loyalty away from Christ to put it on a country, culture, or community instead. There are still those who claim to be Christians that are out to kill. They want to kill criminals, babies, baby killers, and others. War or rebellion is their default setting every time their country or people group doesn’t get their way. And there are those who claim to be Christians but what they really want is to destroy. They claim they are about defending pure doctrine but really they are only out to criticize and destroy any “wretched” individual who doesn’t agree with their narrow minded views.
So the question I have to ask myself is, “Am I a true sheep?” Does the Jesus I am following lead me and those I influence towards a rich and satisfying life or is the Christianity I claim to have really about stealing, killing, and destroying? There are lots of false sheep who don’t even know it. They will be surprised when Jesus says to them, “Get out of here. I never knew you.” Dear God, don’t let me be one of them.
Jesus, You came that we might have life and that to the fullest. Help me to be life giving. In my thoughts, in my speech, in my actions, help me to speak life to those around me. Keep from my tongue those words that would kill and destroy. Keep from my thoughts and attitudes any attempt to steal Your glory for myself. Help me to stay away from those movements and types of people who are only about destruction and please help me avoid the trap of trying to do to them exactly what they do to others. Help my every moment be honoring to You and uplifting of others. Through my words receive glory and through my life… bring life.