Jesus says it so clearly, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) Now that is a promise. It reminds me of the of the 23rdPsalm which we sang earlier. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.” That is abundant life.
Somehow that abundant life can seem elusive or hard to understand. But it is the heart of Jesus’ promise to us. The reasons chapter 10 talks about both the abundant life and Jesus being the good shepherd, starts in chapter 9. The Pharisees are objecting to Jesus healing a man born blind on the sabbath and they make a big deal about it. Asking everyone how this can possible be. Not only is it contrary to God’s laws to heal on the Sabbath but in Jesus’ time disabilities like blind were seen as a sign of sin. But Jesus says no to all of that. Jesus heals the man and reminds everyone that disability is not a sign of sin.
The Pharisees put God in a narrow box believing that grace can be confined to certain days of the week and the people they deem to be righteous. Jesus stands for abundant life for all. God’s grace knows no limits. When the Pharisees question the blind man, he proclaims “here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been hear that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (John 9:30 – 34) By the end of chapter 9, the Pharisees have driven the man born blind out of the temple, the blind man confesses his belief in Jesus, and the Pharisees are being told that they do not see properly.
It in this context that Jesus says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) The man who was born blind not only gained sight but gained faith. We all gained the reminder that God’s grace is everyone. Dr. David Lose in his reflection on this passage shares a wonderful definition of abundant life, “Abundant life is not a quantitative statement – more, even lots more, of what we already have – but rather a qualitative distinction. Life in abundance is life that is no longer dominated by fear, but rather lives in and through the promise of protection and presence.
Think, for a moment, of all the many things we have been afraid of over the years. Or, of what we fear just now. It might be a transition in life, the loss of employment, the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, loss of ability or memory, not being included in a friend group, the prospect of being alone. Our fears may change as we age, but the fact and presence of fear in our lives does not.
Nor is this true only of individuals. Think of those fears we are experiencing as a church: declining membership, tight budgets, an aging population, loss of cultural influence and prestige. Or as a culture and country: the end of upward mobility, a lack of cultural cohesion, fear of the stranger or newcomer, loss of status in the world, fear in some cases of anything or anyone who is different. These fears drive our decisions, influence elections, and weigh on us incessantly. These fears, in short, rob us of abundant life.” (http://www.davidlose.net/2018/04/easter-4-b-resurrection-abundance/)
Indeed, the role of the shepherd is to keep those in the sheepfold safe from those things that cause fear and anxiety. Jesus not only says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) but promises us the he is indeed the good shepherd who lays his life down for his sheep. Jesus says, “the hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me … and I lay my life down for my sheep.” (John 10:13 – 14)
A few years ago, I read this story that paints one picture of abundant life “One day a man stopped in a convenience store to get a newspaper. He noticed that the owner of the store had tears in his eyes and kept looking out the window. He asked what was going on.
The store owner said, “Do you see that bus bench over there? There’s a woman who comes there every day around this time. She sits there for about an hour, knitting and waiting. Buses come and go, but she never gets on one and no one ever gets off for her to meet. The other day, I carried her a cup of coffee and sat with her for a while.
“Her only son lives a long way away. She last saw him two years ago, when he boarded one of the buses right there. He is married now, and she has never met her daughter‑in‑law or seen their new child. She told me, ‘It helps to come here and wait. I pray for them as I knit little things for the baby, and I imagine them in their tiny apartment, saving money to come home. I can’t wait to see them.’”
The reason the owner was looking out the window at that particular moment was that the three of them--the son, his wife and their small child--were just getting off the bus. The look on the woman’s face when this small family fell into her arms was one of pure joy. And this joy only increased when she looked into the face of her grandchild for the first time. The store owner commented, “I’ll never forget that look as long as I live.” (www.sermons.com)
Abundant life is different for each one of us. For some it is a long waited for family reunion. For others it release from fears. For others it is the reminder that we are enough just as we are. The Good Shepherd, comes to each one of us offering gifts of abundant life. It is a pure gift of grace. JJ Heller sings in her version of the 23rdPsalm, “Don’t need a thing, My good shepherd brings me all. You are all I need. … Goodness and mercy are following me/ You're all that I need/ You make a home for me/ Where pastures are green as far as I see/ You are all I need.”
We are in the great 50 days of Easter. Dr. David Lose writes, “Easter isn’t simply a one-time celebration or holiday, but rather is a way of life, a life guided by the promise that there is something “More” than what we see, buy, collect, or hoard. Life, like love, is one of those things that, in the power of God’s Spirit, only multiplies as it is shared. And as love and life are shared, fear loses its grip on us and we taste, even revel in, not just life, but life in its abundance.”
It is my hope and prayer, that as each of head into the week, you will remember that life in all its abundance is God’s desire for us. Jesus says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) Amen.