The Diverse Multitude

Part 7 of a 7 part series. View series intro and index.

Jesus sits with his disciples, Pharisees, and others who are gathered around.  He tells yet another story that doesn’t make sense.  Jesus might as well be talking to a brick wall.

“When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice,” Jesus says.

Everyone is confused.  Jesus tries to clear things up.  He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep…I am the door.”  I can see the disciples: “A door, Jesus?  What are you talking about?  You are a man!”  Remember that Jewish teaching—Old Testament or New—has layers of meaning, and weird examples to explain things.  It’s eastern, not western.  Sometimes (very often), even the Jews themselves didn’t understand these examples.

Jesus continues: “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…And I have other sheep that are not of this fold.  I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.”  Now this makes sense.  The Jewish crowd understands.  Some like it.  Others despise it.  John 10:19 says, “There was again a division among the Jews because of these words.”

The words, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold,” no doubt struck a chord with the Pharisees and their band of followers.  How could a Jewish man who claims to be the Savior of Israel say that he has “other sheep”?  Dirty Gentiles?  Did Jesus just say that?  They can’t comprehend, but that’s exactly what Jesus said.  If it wasn’t clear enough, he says, “So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

In addition to Christianity, there won’t be Jewish and Muslim and Scientologist and Buddhist and Hindu and humanist and rationalist or Republican or Democrat or atheist or any other religion we could make up.  There will be one flock and one shepherd.  You are either with Jesus or not.

John the disciple, who wrote the Gospel of John, also wrote Revelation.  In chapter 7, he gives us a stirring illustration of what heaven will be like:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples, and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (vv. 9-10).

The Good Shepherd is also the sacrificial Lamb who died to purchase people for God—every kind of person in every kind of race who speak every kind of language in every nation for all time (see Rev. 5:9-10).  One day, this vast, diverse multitude will sing together in heaven, praising God.  That day will last forever.

It is a glorious thing for a king if a single people group worships him.  However, it’s more glorious for a king if he is worshiped by multiple people groups.  Further still, it’s most glorious for a king if he is worshiped by every people group on the earth.  The level of glory a king deserves is measured by the diversity of his worshipers.  God is the God of ultimate diversity.  He will have the most diverse group of worshipers.  This only reveals how glorious, how majestic, how attractive, how powerful, and how lovely he really is.

What will God do with this diverse people?  God’s desire is not to take this group and make them uniform.  No, his desire is to take a diverse people and bring them unity.  There is no glory in making everyone the same, but there is glory in diversity, and there is more glory in unity amidst diversity.  This diverse multitude will have unity, not uniformity, in their Shepherd, their Lamb, their Savior and Lord.  Their unity will be found in one name—the only name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved—Jesus Christ.