I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. – John 10: 10

   What does Jesus mean by ‘life’ here? While He went around healing people, I doubt that He means better health or even a greater length of days. It has to do with the quality of life, but that expression can be somewhat nebulous. If we try to define it in terms of what we think the good life is, we would be short-changing ourselves. As usual, Jesus is challenging us to expand our horizons.

   In one of my early assignments in the Episcopal Church, one of our teenage boys, 15 years old, drowned on a church outing. It was a very emotional experience for our teens who had never come so close to death before. At the grave side ceremony, one of them looked down into the hole beneath the resting coffin & said, “So that’s what it all comes down to.” If we believe that, it casts a dark shadow over everything we do. One of the distinguishing characteristics of a Christian disciple is an absolute conviction on this matter. This is why the New Testament is such incredible Good News. God has acted through the life of Jesus to show us the meaning of human existence.

   Fear is always hovering over our heads. Will people really like me? Will I succeed? Will I lose my job? Will I get sick? Will I get cancer? What happens to me when I die? With all of these anxieties & pressures around us, how do we make sense of it all? God has taken the initiative in the person of our Lord: “Follow me. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be safe.”

   Have no fear of that marauder, death, who comes like a thief in the night to slaughter & destroy. “By developing your friendship with Me, by loving Me, by loving others as I have loved you, you will not be afraid anymore; you will have no fear of where you are going with your life. I am the Good Shepherd! Put your trust in Me & you will be safe.

   You may have heard of a book by Dr. Raymond A. Moody, Jr. entitled Life After Life. It is a collection of actual case histories of people who appeared to have died clinically, & were resuscitated; people who came very close to death as the result of a severe injury or illness; & persons who were in the act of dying. In each instance, these people claimed to have entered the after-life world, & the book tells us what they experienced. Here is an excerpt:

“A man is dying, & as he reaches the point of greatest physical distress, he hears himself pronounced dead by his doctor. He begins to hear an uncomfortable noise, a loud ringing or buzzing, & at the same time feels himself moving very rapidly through a long, dark tunnel. After this, he finds himself outside of his own physical body…. Soon, other things begin to happen. Others come to meet & help him. He glimpses the spirits of relatives & friends who have already died, & a loving, warm spirit of a kind he had never encountered before – a being of light – appears before him.”

   After the publication of his book, Dr. Moody’s life changed radically. The response was so heavy, so demanding, that he had little or no time left for his family, his personal life, or his medical practice. People were clamoring for more information, more reassurance. Was there really life after death? This is all very interesting, but why should Christians get excited about it, unless their faith is not that strong? The Resurrection is God’s sign & seal that life is not absurd, that we can feel safe in the loving hands of the Good Shepherd.

   This is our dying conviction: that we ARE safe in the Lord’s hands; that we will enter through the true Gate; that we will grow again.  AMEN!