A Full Life or a Long Life?

In the middle of a Biblical chapter that contains some enormous statements by Jesus, there is something worth stopping to ponder.  This chapter has two of the “I am” statements of the seven in John’s gospel.  Here Jesus says. “I am the gate for the sheep,” which refers to how people enter the kingdom of God.  Next, he will state, “I am the good shepherd.” Above all the people who tend to the needs of others, Jesus is the best.

Between those two statements, Jesus says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (NIV 2011)

Some translations have Jesus saying he gives life abundantly.  The word could also mean overflowing or, as the New International Version translates it, “full.”

But what does he mean by a full, abundant, or overflowing life?

There are only two possible explanations. One is that he wants us to have a long life.  The followers of Jesus will make choices that will lead them to have an abundant number of days.  In part, this makes sense.  If you remove yourself from the destructive actions of sin, you are bound to live longer.  But the problem is both practical and theological.  Jesus was perfect, and he was killed at 33, and that doesn’t seem very long.  Also, what about suffering or martyrdom?  And haven’t we all known someone who was a wonderful person and still died young?  It just doesn’t seem to fit the description.

The only other option is that Jesus was talking about the quality of life.  The people who follow him will find a life that is more than breathing in and out for the maximum amount of time.  His people will be marked by a life that is filled with meaning, purpose, and joy.  Their life will overflow with goodness, mercy, and compassion.  They live life without guilt, remorse, and regret.  His followers will experience the kingdom of God on earth while waiting for their eternal residence.  The master shepherd will lead them throughout all their days.  The people who trust Jesus will experience life at a deeper and more meaningful level.  Their lives will be full of the goodness of God. 

It would be nice to have both, and that is why Jesus gives us eternity.  For this life, the goal is to pursue Jesus and find the life he desires for you.  Too many people are giving their time, resources, and energy to add more days to their lives, which we have no control over anyway.  A full life is only found in following him, and it makes every day, no matter how many you get, worth living. 

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