Exceeding Abundantly Above, Part 4

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In Ephesians 3:20, we read this:

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us… (TNIV)

That’s really a remarkable verse when you think about what Paul is saying about God. Whatever it is you need, God is able to supply it, “exceeding abundantly above” what you may ask for. So far in this series, we’ve considered a few things God has done and is doing for us “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” Among them:

• God has supplied abundant grace (Romans 5:20) to make peace between God and man, and man and the world around him – the peace that transcends all understanding.
• God has provided abundant pardon (Isaiah 55:7) to forgive any sinner that comes to Him in faith.
• Total satisfaction is available to every believer no matter what the circumstances of his life may be because God supplies it in abundance (Psalm 36:8).

Living life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ is “easy living under the Son” because God cares for us He makes sure we have what we need to not only last us through all eternity, but to make this life worth living. That brings us to our next “exceeding abundantly above” provision, and it’s found in the Gospel of John:

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10 KJV)

“Abundant life” is why Jesus Christ came to us. Not only life, but abundant life is what He brought us. There are all kinds of ideas floating around as to what Jesus meant when He spoke these words. Let’s look at them in context and you’ll be amazed at just what Jesus meant when He spoke about “the abundant life.”

At the beginning of John 10, Jesus is seen speaking to an audience made up of His disciples, a formerly blind beggar, some Pharisees, and other hanger’s on.

Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.” (John 10:1 TNIV)

That’s a slightly confusing thing for us to read, but to the Pharisees who heard it, Jesus’ statement must have cut to the quick. You and I don’t see too many shepherds around, but shepherding was a part of life in Judea and those listening to Jesus were very familiar with shepherds and sheep pens. This verse, and the parable that follows, was really directed at the Pharisees in the group and the once-blind beggar, whom Jesus had healed back in chapter 9.

Two kinds of blindness

Jesus and His friends were walking along and they saw a man who had been born blind. That’s an important designation; he didn’t become blind through an accident or an illness, he was born blind.

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:1, 2 TNIV)

That question reflected a common way of thinking during Jesus’ day which said that the sins of the parents were passed on to their children. Think about that for a moment. What a cruel image of God the Jews had at this time. The assumption that God would punish a child for things their parents may have done is so out of character with what we know about God. But, here it is. It’s what the Jews believed and it’s what Jesus’ disciples believed – in spite of their relationship to Jesus, their minds remained locked in their habitual way of thinking. But Jesus set His friends straight:

Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3 TNIV)

This man born blind and his parents, Jesus explained, were both victims of a sin-cursed society in which, sadly, often the innocent suffer right along with the guilty. Yet, earlier in John’s Gospel, Jesus and His disciples encountered a lame man, whom Jesus healed. Later on, He met up with that man and said something interesting to him:

Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” (John 5:14 TNIV)

Yes, sometimes illness and sickness may be related to your sin or your sinful choices and lifestyle, but not in the case of the man born blind. This fellow was born blind because he was born into a sin-cursed and sinful world. Sometimes there is absolutely no connection between the misfortunes of a person and his own sinful condition. Truth is, good people are often the victims of a sick, immoral society through no fault of their own.

But God can take a bad situation and turn it around. God was not behind the blind state of this man, but he could certainly be rescued and restored to wholeness by God. That’s why we pray for people; that they may be healed and God be glorified.

And so our Lord healed the blind man. But because He did it on the Sabbath, the Pharisees were convinced the miracle didn’t happen. The implication was that the formerly blind man was lying. The Pharisees in this story are a perfect illustration of the modern American who thinks he knows everything and if something happens outside his ability to explain it using the knowledge he has, he dismisses it out of hand. The arrogance of human beings hasn’t changed much from Jesus’ day to ours!

The religious types quizzed and verbally abused this poor fellow about his healing, but he never backed down. In frustration, he said something truly remarkable:

If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (John 9:33 TNIV)

Here he was, an uneducated member of the great unwashed mass of society making one of the most profound statements ever. If Jesus were not a Man from God, then He couldn’t have worked His miracles. To this man, it was simple. His physical eyes had been opened by the power of God, but his spiritual blindness was also healed. All of a sudden, he knew something about Jesus that the Pharisees didn’t, or that they wouldn’t accept.

To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out. (John 9:34 TNIV)

That’s right. They threw him out of the temple. Essentially, the man born blind had been healed by Jesus and that got him kicked out of his religion. Oddly, that was the second best thing to happen to him. Religion does nothing good for anybody.

Our Lord is a compassionate Savior. He knew what had happened to the man He healed, and Jesus seeks him out and we read this interesting exchange:

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. (John 9:35 – 38 TNIV)

This formerly blind man, who had made that stunning declaration about the Man who healed him, didn’t recognize Jesus because when Jesus healed him, he was blind! But just look at the remarkable faith this man had: He was ready to believe without having seen. Now that’s faith.

For this man born blind, his healing marked the new beginning of a new personal relationship. Gone were the old relationships with his impotent religion and heartless family; he was now committed to Jesus Christ. He was now part of a new society, a new family.

Christ, the Shepherd and the Gate

That’s the background to chapter 10, and that’s why Jesus told this parable:

Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 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 10:1 – 5 TNIV)

That’s a parable that has a couple of applications, but the one we’re interested in the obvious one. Christ is the Shepherd of the flock of God. He is also the “doorway” through which one passes to become part of the flock of God. Nobody can become part of God’s flock any other way. You can’t climb over the wall. You can’t sneak in. If you want to be a sheep under God’s care, then you must pass through Jesus Christ. For His part, Jesus a few chapters on states explicitly what He’s saying here implicitly:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 TNIV)

That’s essentially what Jesus is getting at here in chapter 10, except that He’s using a parable. Why didn’t He just come right out and say it? Because Jesus is trying to prove a point: the Pharisees, the very people who claimed to have all this spiritual insight, were in fact the ones who were blind. They didn’t understand the what Jesus was saying. Why should they? The Pharisees were confident of their own position; they were proud of their knowledge and of the influence they had over people. They had such an elevated estimate of themselves that they couldn’t see the truth of what Jesus was saying: They were the thieves and the robbers; they were the ones stealing – or trying to steal – God’s sheep.

The thief – the Pharisees – had tried to discourage the man born blind by verbally harassing him and abusing him. That’s how all false shepherds treat sheep. They aren’t kind. They aren’t patient. Given a chance, false shepherds would just as soon kill a sheep than help it. But not Jesus; not the Good Shepherd.

And all that background brings us to our fourth “exceeding abundantly above.”

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10 TNIV)

The thief (false shepherds, the Pharisees) come to take life, but the Good Shepherd (Jesus Christ) came to bring abundant life to the sheep under His care. The whole purpose of Christ coming to earth was to give life. John got exactly what Jesus meant, and when he summed up his Gospel, he wrote this:

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31 TNIV)

God’s purpose and plan are to not only save man from eternal death and destruction but to give man a good life in the here-and-now. That’s not insignificant. The Good Shepherd wants His sheep to experience the best that life has to offer. That’s what the “abundant life” is all about. It’s not that God wants you rich and good looking, but the new life we have in Christ is just that: a new life; a better life; a life filled with hope and optimism; a life of possibilities; a life of joy, peace, and contentment. You can’t find that outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ. All manner of false shepherds are trying to get you to follow them by offering you what only Christ can deliver. You don’t need a false shepherd. You just need the Good Shepherd. You need Jesus Christ.

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