Summary: In life there are few places that are safe but with Jesus guarding us we can remain at peace in the darkest places
There is a group of people I hope we never have to meet. They’re job is hard, exciting, frightening and important all at the same time. They do SAR; Search and Rescue. They work near Reno, Nevada and work ski resorts and desert rescue. They pull people off of Mt. Hood, find lost hikers in the Cascades and recover bodies from the Columbia Gorge. They use boats and helos to brave the rough seas of our Oregon coast. One specific part of this fraternity is the US Coast Guard whose SAR motto is; "This we do so others may live."
To avoid these people professionally one only has to use their common sense—don’t ski out of bounds, hike prepared and with a buddy etc. Still, there are always unseen things that cause us to need rescue. Last week’s man who had been born blind was one such soul. His blindness was for the expressed purpose of showing God’s glory. We only read part of his story, for after Jesus heals him he becomes embroiled in an argument about Jesus. Brought to the Pharisees to hear his story he discovers an open and hateful hostility against Jesus.
Jesus teaches in this passage aware that even Pharisees can seek to do nothing but "steal, kill and destroy [v. 10]". The thief disrupts the peace and rest of the God’s chosen ones. The contrast with the shepherd is even greater for the shepherd knows each sheep by name and his sheep follow his voice alone. Lloyd Ogilvie, the former Chaplain of the Senate and Pastor of Hollywood Presbyterian Church tells of being in the Middle East and watching a group of shepherds walk a large flock down a hillside one evening. As they got nearer each man called to his sheep and out of this huge mass the sheep moved to follow the voice they knew. They then led them into their pen and with a fire near the doorway settled down, literally sleeping in front of the opening, just as Jesus describes.1
Let me suggest that the voices to which we listen have a whole lot to do with those situations that put us at risk. Voices call us to follow into any number of seemingly good things that can threaten our very soul.
Dexter Manly, has two Super Bowl rings, and amassed over 100 sacks during his career-heard voices. They were voices calling him into personal and instant gratification as a star. Clothes, meals, cars and drugs took over his life. In 91 he was banned from the NFL. He career ended after two years in the CFL but he "continued to live as if he was still a player. He carried his expired NFL Players Association card for identification. Questioned about his profession, he’d reply: "football player." The drugs continued and in 2002 he served 2 years of a four-year prison sentence for cocaine possession. In an interview with The New York Times, Manley said, "I’m still living that dream. Football gave me personality. Once it was over, I had nothing to live for."2 Today it seems he has his act together a bit more. There is redemption.
Other voices call to us today. Some are stupid like emails that promise us millions of dollars from a rich guy in Nigeria. Others are tempting, such as investing in "sure things" like AIG or Enron. Some offer us personal control through seminars or the secret to stock investing. Understand that none of these voices, in and of themselves, is bad. They are only bad in that we tend to follow them instead of the voice of Jesus. They are dangerous when they lead us away from following our Lord. They are life threatening when they confuse us so we no longer hear our Lord clearly and stop following. Jesus says the shepherd leads his sheep and they follow because they know his voice. Where does Jesus lead us? Look at the 23rd Psalm for one answer. He leads us to places of peace and safety.
Max Lucado in a video program based on his book 3:16 Stories of Hope, has a wonderful lesson on the oft heard statement, "All roads lead to heaven". He then gives us an imaginary discussion with a travel agent. "
You tell him you need a flight to Rome, Italy. So he looks on his screen, and he offers, "Well, there’s a flight to Sidney, Australia, at 6:00 a.m."
"Does it go to Rome?" you ask.
"No, but it offers great food and movies."
"But I need to go to Rome," you say.
He says, "Well, let me suggest Southwest Airlines."
"Southwest Airlines flies to Rome?"
"No, but they win awards for on-time arrivals."
You’re getting frustrated, so you reiterate "I need one airline, to carry me to one place—Rome."