Connect Group guide: The Gate
The Gate – Joel Wade
If you missed hearing this talk in person you can listen again here.
Read chapter 9 and 10:1-10
In John chapter 9, Jesus heals a man born blind, and the Pharisees start an investigation to answer this question: who is Jesus?
Rather than listen to the blind man’s honest testimony, they ‘hurl insults at him’, and throw him out of the synagogue. Jesus finds the healed man, restores his dignity and worth, and answers the question of Jesus’ identity; he’s ‘the Son of Man’, the Messiah.
Jesus then confronts the Pharisees with this ‘I am’ saying.
He says that he is the gate that protects the sheep and leads to life to the full, whereas the thief steals, kills and destroys. Jesus is not only comparing himself with the Pharisees, by portraying himself as a trustworthy leader. He’s going one step further. The only way to life to the full is through him.
The way the Pharisees believed we could enter life to the full was this: obey the law, and be accepted by God. The call of Jesus is to relationship, to become more like him (holy, loving, compassionate), and to reflect his kingdom and character to the world. Living this way removes the burden of self-fulfilment through our own effort, willpower or success from our shoulders.
Although we can know some of this ‘life to the full’ today, we still experience pain and suffering. But we know that Jesus has not only dealt with it through the cross and resurrection, he also participates in our suffering, here and now. He is with us. And one day, he will make all things new, and dry every tear, and we will truly and fully experience life to the full.
- Our culture is increasingly being called an ‘age of authenticity’, where life to the full is found internally and individually. Do you ever experience the temptation to search for life, hope and meaning outside of Jesus? Where does our culture tell us to look?
- How does knowing that Jesus is the only way to ‘life to the full’ remove the burden of self-fulfilment from our shoulders? Have you experienced that in your own life? Has it created a sense of peace?
- Have you ever felt the tension between the life Jesus offers us, and the reality of pain and suffering? How do we walk through the tension of present suffering and future hope?
You might want to read this quote from Tish Harrison Warren from her book Prayer in the Night.
Mysteriously, God does not take away our vulnerability. He enters into it. God did not keep bad things from happening to God himself. To look to Jesus is to know that our Creator has felt pain, has known trouble, and is well-acquainted with sorrow. But our hope in suffering is not merely to gaze on the biography of an ancient man frozen in the pages of the Bible. The story of the gospel is not a mere mantra or a relic of history. It is alive and ongoing. The work of Jesus continues, even now, in our everyday lives. So in hardship we do not look to Jesus solely as one who has been there before, once upon a time in a distant past. We find that he is here with us, in the present tense. He participates in our suffering, even as – mysteriously – in our suffering we participate in the fullness of Christ’s life.
Slowly and prayerfully read through Psalm 23 as a reminder that God both leads us into still waters and green pastures, and is with us as we walk through the darkest valley.