the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Year A - Easter 4

John 10:1-10

"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. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers." 6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7 So again Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

This pericope follows immediately upon the story of the man born blind in chapter 9. In fact, it may even be a continuation of the same story since the dialogue between the Pharisees in chapter 9 continues into chapter 10.

Brackets for this pericope are: Chapter 9, verses 39-41 precede the first verses of this chapter:

Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We
see,’ your sin remains.

Verse 10:21 reflects back to the healing of the blind man.

Others said, “These are not the sayings of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of a blind man?This pericope continues the context of the man born blind.

This pericope continues the context of the man born blind.
Two Metaphors:

1. The Shepherd and the Sheep
2. The Gate and the Sheep

Jesus tells the first discourse using the first metaphor. When the Pharisees fail to understand, he switches to the second metaphor. They still do not understand.

In the first discourse

Jesus = Shepherd
God = Gatekeeper
People = Sheep
Stranger = False Prophets

In the second discourse

Jesus = Gate
People = Sheep
Thief = False Prophets

The shepherd calls his sheep by name.
The Pharisees are compared to the Stranger, Thief, False Prophets.
Verse 10 is the central theme.
Life centered in Christ is more abundant than life centered in any other medium.


    1. What is the significance of the sheepfold?
    2. In the first parable what is the significance of the gate?
    3. What does it mean to have life more abundantly?

In the context of the story of the man born blind, Jesus is conversing {debating?} with the Pharisees about their own blindness. The motif is competing teachers, or teachings. The competition is for the sheep {the people}. The first paragraph is about who is the legitimate teacher (shepherd).

William Loader envisions a large communal pen {sheepfold} where many shepherds bring their flock at night for security from thieves and wolves. In the morning each shepherd comes and calls his sheep, who recognize his voice and follow the right shepherd. This analogy is somewhat lacking in that in the text there is only one shepherd and the gatekeeper {God} only opens the gate for the right shepherd. All others, who climb over the fence, are thieves and robbers {false teachers, prophets}.

Already, in the time of John, divisions had grown up in the church. Teachers in different parts of the Empire were interpreting the message of Jesus the Christ in different ways. Now, some 2000 years later, the church is split into more factions and denominations than one can imagine. In the old days, they were called heresies, today we are more benevolent and call them denominations.

Brian P. Stoffregen sees different layers of meanings to the Thieves and Bandits:

  1. Jesus is continuing his attack against the blind Pharisees from 9:41. So the "thieves and bandits" could refer to them.

  2. Another answer might be that they are disruptive, sneaky people within the community.

  3. It also may be a polemic against the more zealot leaders in John's church.

  4. In a general sense the phrase may refer to any deceptive leaders or people -- people with hidden agendas.
    What about "hidden agendas" of members at council or congregational meetings? That is, greater concern for themselves than for the group. Thieves and bandits are people who take for themselves without much thought about what others are losing.

  5. In another general sense the phrase may refer to people who "pretend" to be part of the flock, but who haven't entered through the proper "door".

  6. The shepherd in these verses leads the sheep out rather than provides a way for them to come into the safety of the enclosure. Where does the shepherd lead the sheep out to? Where does Jesus lead the church out to?