This was my second show. The first I’d attended—the previous year—had been held in the city in which I reside. Every morning I got into my car, drove to the convention center, parked for a nominal fee, then returned home at the end of the day. But this particular year I was looking at either cabs (which I couldn’t afford at the time) or walking in the heat and humidity of New Orleans until I reached my destination.
I chose to walk. So did Laura.
Every day, as our bodies cut through the thick air, we noticed buses—official buses, just for CBA—making routine stops at hotels along the way, finally depositing their passengers mere steps from doors leading into the air-conditioned convention center. As we wiped sweat from our brow and agonized over wearing high heels and pantyhose in July, we vocally wondered about the cost of the bus.
We made our trek several times a day. Then, on the last day and for the last time, as we were heading from the event to the hotel, Laura turned to me and said, “I don’t care if that bus cost a million dollars to ride. I’m taking it. I just don’t think I can abuse myself like this any longer.”
I agreed with her. “No matter the cost,” I said. “We won’t eat dinner tonight if we run out of money.”
We stepped to the curb and looked into the air-conditioned bus, toward the kind face of the waiting driver. “Excuse me,” I said. “What is the cost to take the bus to the Wyndham?”
“Are you with CBA?” he called down from his seat.
“We are,” Laura said, showing him her entry badge. I did the same.
He smiled. “Then the bus is free.”
“Free?” I squeaked. “Do you mean to tell me we’ve walked in this heat every day for a week when we didn’t have to?”
The bus driver chuckled. “I ‘spose so. Come on up. Enjoy the ride.”
What We Didn’t Know
Well, we just didn’t know. We should have known. There were signs at the hotel and at the convention center, but we’d not bothered to read them. For the next few hours, Laura and I admonished ourselves with how foolish we’d been.
We’d charged ahead. We knew the path, but we’d not bothered to ask the bus driver about the ride. Eventually our admonishments turned to giggles and finally all-out laughter.
In the years that followed, Laura and I have not hesitated to take the bus. And we’ve enjoyed the ride.
Really, This is Nothing New
Years ago I heard a similar story. It was of a cruise ship’s captain who, while strolling on the deck one evening near the end of the journey, found a young man eating crackers with cheese as though it were his last meal. Stopping to observe the ravenous behavior, the captain finally said, “Young man, was the dinner meal not to your liking?”
The man looked up, startled. “Oh, no,” he replied. “I’m sure it was just fine. But I…I brought crackers and cheese for my meals.”
“But why?” the captain asked, stupefied. “There are delectable feasts in the dining hall below.”
The man hung his head between his shoulders, forlorn. “I wanted to come on a cruise for so long,” he said. “To see the ocean, to feel the waves beneath me, to stop at exotic places along the way. But I don’t make a lot of money and I could only afford my room. I’m sure the beautiful food I’ve seen being served is way out of my budget.”
The captain raised his brow. “But, young man, you don’t understand! The cost of your ticket bought you both your room and dining privileges. You’ve gone hungry for no reason at all.”
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Too often we look at this verse and concentrate only on the second half. We like having life “to the full” or, as the KJV version puts it: “more abundantly.”
But this verse comes in the middle of Jesus giving his “Good Shepherd” talk. Even though those who heard it were accustomed to the lifestyle of a shepherd and the dangers he shielded his flock from, they didn’t get the metaphor Jesus was trying to give them. They understood it was the shepherd’s work to bring the sheep out each morning, lead them along paths to fields of thick grasses for pasturing and streams of sparkling water for drinking. He led them to cool places to rest and then, at the end of the day, back “home” again where he stood watch over them. But they didn’t understand that Jesus was defining himself as the Shepherd and those who would follow him as his sheep.
And Then There is Always that Pesky “Thief”
The Greek word used in the original text for thief is: Kleptes. Using it as a root word, we get the words kleptomania and kleptomaniac. According to the NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon, kleptes means:
- an embezzler, pilferer
- the name is transferred to false teachers, who do not care to instruct men, but abuse their confidence for their own gain
Look again at number two. Though it would be easy to express thief simply as a “wolf,” Jesus was going for a clearer understanding of what he’d come to offer.
The teachers of the day were not fully leading their “flock” in the true ways of God. They talked a good talk when it came to religion, but little to nothing when it came to relationship. Jesus had referred to them as “wolves” in Matthew 7:15. Jesus, as a rabbi and as the Good Shepherd, wanted to show his followers—those who heard and recognized his voice—that which another shepherd had learned and had taught them through his writings a millennia before.
The Lord is my shepherd, David wrote in Psalm 23. I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. This is life abundant. It’s not perfect. It’s not free from danger or from those who would want to steal it from us. But it is a good life when we fully trust the Good Shepherd to lead us along those paths carved into the hill of life for us.
So Why Don’t We Get on the Bus… …or eat from the tables on cruise ships? Why do we sweat in the heat and humidity, trudging along to our destination while nibbling on crackers and cheese?
Maybe the false prophets are at it again. These days the truth is often veiled, making it difficult to know for sure how we’re supposed to live. If we’ve been blessed monetarily we are made to feel guilty by some who have not. If we’ve found those sweet shelters where we can rest and laugh and have joy in the Lord, we’re told we’re wrong, that this is a solemn thing, this life of a Christian. If we raise our hands and clap while singing praise and worship to our Lord, we’re told we’re being sacrilegious. We disagree on the number of instruments that can be played to honor the King and which arts are acceptable to him.
We trudge. We sweat. We starve. And we think this is the way God would have it while we are here on earth. But if we look back at the scripture just once more we’ll see the truth:
Life, Jesus said. To the full. Life. Zoe (Gk). The absolute fullness of life. A life real and a genuine life. Full of vigor and devoted to God. A life meant to go on forever.
Think about that with me and I’ll see you on the bus…or at the table. Bon voyage and bon appetite.
Eva Marie Everson is the author of a number of works such as Oasis, her recently released title from Baker/Revel. A seminary graduate and student, she speaks on a number of topics and can be reached by going to www.EvaMarieEverson.com.
Photo, taken along a Judean hillside, by Eva Marie Everson