“The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice”(John 10:2-5) (NIV).
Apparently, this is a profound Scripture, as denoting the reality that not all can hear the Lord’s voice. I suppose there are different interpretations of what this Scripture says. But there cannot be confusion on the view that there is one shepherd being referred to. Obviously, that shepherd cannot be any, other than Jesus. Among the cluster of callers, how can one identify the voice of Jesus, now that He is no longer physically present? Of course, the answer comes from the Lord’s written word:
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice” (John 5:24-28) (NIV).
The most important principle in Christianity is to establish that without Christ everyone is dead. “He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’ But he replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God’”(Luke 9:59-60) (NIV). Here Christ was not talking about the dead people burying the dead ones. But He was talking about those observed as physically dead, being buried by the spiritually dead.
As far as God is concerned, humanity died at the time of Adam. “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die’”(Genesis 2:16-17) (NIV). What this implies is that Adam died on the same day that he ate the wrong tree. The fact that Adam lived about 930 years does not mean he was alive, according to the above Scripture.
He may have lived to see his great-grandchildren, but death had overtaken him. When Jesus said ‘Let the dead bury their own dead,” He was speaking as one aware of the reality of death. He repeated the portrayal of this when giving the Parable of the Prodigal Son: “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate”(Luke 15:24) (NIV). That Father repeated the same words to his bewildered elder son “But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”(Luke 15:32) (NIV).
In that parable, Jesus was, actually, revealing the mystery of the salvation of humanity. Jesus was the elder Son who remained with the Father—who, in this case, is God, Himself. When Jesus said: “Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” He was not talking about the physically dead. But the spiritually dead. It is only those who hear His voice who would regain their lives.
When the true Shepherd calls, His sheep hear His voice, according to Jesus. While there are people who hear His voice, it is not automatic that everyone hears, as to readily accept Him. This is not taking away the fact that the most popular religion in this world is Christianity. How can one tell what is truth from error?
The challenge is caused by the fact that the counterfeit appears as not different from the original. But this goes far beyond good observation. The Book of revelation shows three different layers of humanity. There are those who the Bible refers to, as God’s children. These are completely different from the other two groups. These are the ones that Jesus said they hear His voice, to whom Jesus said He no longer calls servants:
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you” (John 15:15-16) (NIV).
As can be seen, these are chosen by the Shepherd. It is not possible for an ordinary person to leave everything to follow Christ unless God calls Him (John 6:44). This is why, to Peter, the revelation of Jesus as Christ, did not come by flesh and blood (Matthew 16:17). Only God, Himself, had made it possible for Peter to see that truth.
Those whom God chooses, know the Shepherd who also knows them because He chose them. One could aspire, in vain, to be among that group. Those chosen by Him, know His voice, as to be able to distinguish the counterfeits. That group comprises His brothers who, basically, would not be different from Jesus. This makes it the reason why John stated that it is impossible to love Jesus, when unaware of those like Him, in our surroundings.
“We love him because he first loved us. If a man says, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” (1 John 4:19-21) (AKJV).
All manner of confusion in Christianity appears as emanating from the inability to understand this datum. Many people assume that being the Lord’s brother is a matter of choice. The pretenders choose which Scriptures to apply in their Christian lives. Some of them, actually, even become highly critical of those not conveniently applying Scriptures according to their viewpoint. The only danger lies in what happens to such people, at the end:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”(Matthew 7:21-23) (NIV).
What appears strange is that the rejected people would have, actually, managed to cast out demons and performed miracles in His name. Casting out demons is the most fantastic thing to achieve. Remember, at one stage, His own disciples failed to perform that feat. Jesus advised them that it was only by prayer and fasting that they could do so:
“Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it out?’ He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’” (Matthew 17:19-20) (NIV).
Jesus said this to the inner circle of His disciples. Yet they could not do what could be done by those who would be disqualified (Matthew 7:21-23). Once again, this goes to show that God’s calling cannot be as obvious as people assume. However, those called by Jesus, recognize Jesus who also recognizes them. They comprise the first group, that Jesus calls friends (John 15:15), or His brothers:
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’”(Matthew 25:40) (NIV).
Notice carefully, that Jesus is referring to those having fed His brothers, apparently, different from those feeding them. The brothers of Jesus are those also said to be His friends in John 15:15. Those people left everything to follow Christ and the world does not know them, just as the world does not know Christ:
“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live(John 14:15-19) (NIV).
Here, lies the mystery of what distinguishes the brothers of Jesus. The comforter is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot accept, and neither sees nor knows Him. But His brothers would know him, because he lives with them, and will be in them. Like their brother Jesus, they overcame death. Those brothers of Jesus comprised the disciples and a few, committed to following Him, wherever He went. But the floodgates were opened, after the Pentecostal miracle:
“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call’” (Acts 2:37-39) (NIV).
The condition appears as confined in repentance before one can receive the Holy Spirit—sealing the person to become God’s child. Without God’s Spirit, which enables a person to be God’s child, a person is not the brother of Jesus. Yet, there is a second group comprising the Lord’s servants, referred to, in the Book of Revelation:
“Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God”(Revelation 7:3) (NIV). Notice carefully, that these are not His brothers, whom He no longer calls servants (John 15:15). His Servants are similar to those rewarded for kindly acts in Matthew 25:40. Also, similar to the men of peace who took care of His disciples in Luke 10:6-7.
Others may not have been aware of Jesus’ existence. They would be kindly people, having been concerned with feeding, or catering for strangers. These will also inherit the Kingdom, but not as members of the royal family. The privilege of being among those of the royal family requires renouncing everything to follow Christ.
Although doing so is not by a person’s choice, according to John 6:44. The third and final group comprises the lukewarm (Revelation 3:15-17). Generally, these are self-centered people. They are comfortable, as assuming to be safe. Most of them are considered dedicated Christians, in this world. They comprise what describes the Christian religion.
This group is sustained by Theologians, from various colleges or seminaries. Without God’s intervention, it is not possible for these to see the light. They cannot listen to ‘none-scholars’ for instance. Yet there is no Scriptural record of God having ever used Scholars in His work. Of course, Paul was a Scholar. But Paul had to count that as dung (Philippians 3:7-8). I encourage good Christians to pray for our Scholars.
Whoever finds what is said here, as making sense, is requested to share. No-one knows how one can be of service to God, to reach out to those that He intends to call. While God is the one who calls, we submit to Him, as His instruments, for Him to do His will. Safety is in maintaining honesty and dignity, in this world of corruption.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99