Here are some of the ways recent translations have opened chapter 10. Very truly. NIV Truly, truly. NIV Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. MSG Yes, indeed! CJB Verily, verily. KJV In the Greek, we read, Amen, amen. I had to go down to the Tree of Life version to find, Amen, amen.
That is not because Tree of Life is the only correct translation. Rather, the Greek amen [pronounced ma-ane] is a transliteration of the Hebrew amen [aw-nabe]. The Hebrew word means so be it, truth. The Greek means trustworthy, surely, so be it. Most of the translations wanted to avoid using amen because it is so widely used as the closing of prayers that we generally forget we are saying, “So be it, God.”
Why is this word important, you might ask? In the Hebrew tradition, any time something is repeated, it means “listen up, this is important.” John tells us that Jesus spoke the word twice, so we need to pay attention.
The NIV records verse 1 as, 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 name Pharisee is not in the text. However, when we look at the preceding verses, the translation works.
Chapter 9:39-41 concludes the section regarding the man Jesus healed the man who had been blind from birth. Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” NIV
This statement needs to be a constant reminder to each of us of our tendency to become Pharisees.
Back to verse 1. Anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, clearly is a shot at the Pharisees and other religious leaders who opposed Jesus. It is not enough to learn scripture, to put shekels in the Temple trumpets [collection stands], to pray before each meal, to hand a copper coin to a beggar, or to pray in public. If you do not pass through the gate, you have no right to be in the sheep pen.
To express it in modern terms, if a church leader does not become a Christian by following the One and Only True Shepard, he does not have any right to be a church leader. He is not following Jesus, so he is not a Christian.
How do we know a leader entered the sheep pen through the Gate? He speaks the words of Jesus. He teaches love, forgiveness, compassion, equality. In the words of Peter in today’s reading, Yet when he was insulted he offered no insult in return. When he suffered he made no threats of revenge. He simply committed his cause to the one who judges fairly. Phillips
Can we do less?
Read my earlier comments on this theme here and here.
Be righteous and do good.