Part 44 – John 10:16–18
Other flocks – the Gentiles.
Jesus goes on from talking about himself as a Shepherd to give a very clear, if not very long, indication that he knew that his word would go out through all the world. By ‘other sheep not of this sheepfold’ he clearly meant those who were not of the ancient people of God, the Jews. Us! The Gentiles (though perhaps a few ethnic Jews may hear or read this. If so – welcome.) This is perhaps the clearest indication we have in all the Gospels that Jesus knew his words and their effects would spread through all the world. Because he only had a man’s body he was limited to how many people he could actually contact and influence himself. After his death and resurrection his people would be able to do ‘greater works’ than he could do because they would spread through all the world in ever widening circles.
There was an explosion of activity after his death and the giving of the Holy Spirit all across the then known world. An Ethiopian returned to Ethiopia with the Good News; the apostle Thomas almost certainly reached south India with it; Paul probably reached the furthest western end of the Mediterranean area, to Spain, with it; and these are only the ones we know about.
What does it all say to us? The divide between Jew and Gentile that was the subject of what Jesus actually said is not likely to be of much significance to us. But what about all the other divides that people are so good at making between themselves and other people who are slightly different from them? The most obvious difference is between black and white and all the differing shades of brown in between. The divide between rich and poor can be just as deep if less obvious. Between accents. Between ethnic backgrounds. Between those who live one side of the tracks and those who live the other side. Between this cultural background and that one – even sometimes between generations. Between those who wear these sorts of clothes and those sorts. We have many, many ways of dividing people up and, to its deep shame, the Christian church has sometimes been at the forefront in drawing the distinctions. Yet all are clearly wrong in the eyes of Jesus. He said he had other sheep from the other side of a very deep divide. He promised to bring them in, that they would listen to his voice, and be part of his one flock. We might say, in a common English idiom, that ‘that is all that matters’. Particularly at the end of the day ‘that is all that will matter’.
The clear challenge to us is to accept all manner of people into our fellowship and friendship. If you live in a situation where there are long held and deeply rooted divisions among people that is not easy. I was going to go on to say that it is easy for those of us who do not face those particular problems to talk like this, but I wonder. Do any of us live in situations really free of divisions? Or is it just that some of the divisions are much less obvious, more subtle, harder to see? Think carefully about it – for yourself, where you are, not for other people.
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