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Jesus said to the Pharisees: ‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’
Jesus said to the Pharisees: ‘… anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit.’
We all do it! We know the rules and procedures but, if we see those rules and procedures as being inconvenient, we look for a different, an easier way. As humanity and civilisations have evolved over many thousands of years, so systems of rules and procedures have evolved. If we stop to think we know that these codes of practice, which we might call laws, have been codified for the benefit of society at large. Throughout scripture we see the lives of human beings being regulated, first by God and then by those who become our leaders. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were given an instruction, but the temptation to break that one simple instruction proved too strong. Later we read of the giving of the ten commandments. Then, time and time again we read of God’s displeasure and dismay at humanity’s inability to remain faithful to his law, to his plan for us to achieve the maximum benefit from this life in order that we might enter into an eternal relationship with him in the eternity that follows our short mortal existence.
The challenge in today’s reading comes from Jesus to the Pharisees, those experts in Jewish tradition who were most frightened by Jesus’ earthly mission and ministry. Jesus warns the Pharisees, just as he is warning us, that we should not try to find a different, an easier way around. The path of the true Christian is not easy. That path is narrow and makes many self-sacrificial demands. That path invites us to remain steadfast as we journey on in faith; it invites us to set self to one side in order that we might help those who are struggling.
But, are we strong enough to heed Jesus’ words? Can we set aside our instinct to seek the short-cut that will make the journey easier? Are we determined in our faith in order that we might heed Jesus’ words and not put ourselves in the company of the thief and the bandit who will not be saved?