Body and Blood of Christ

The Good Shepherd

John  10: 1-21

"Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers." Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own  the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away--and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must  bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father." Again the Jews were divided because of these words.   Many of them were saying, "He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?" Others were saying, "These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?" 


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The Good Shepherd

Against  the  background  of  Ezekiel 34,  Jesus  presented  himself  as  the  'shepherd'  of  God's  flock  and  the  'door'  of  access  to  God. In  a  Palestinian  setting  the  sheepfold was  a  courtyard  or  a  walled  enclosure  in  a  field.  At  night  the  sheep  of  various  shepherds  were  gathered  within.  

There  was  a proper  manner  of  approaching  sheep  herded  in  a  sheepfold:  through  the  gate  opened  by the keeper.  Any other mode of entry was the conduct  of  a  thief.  Then there  is  the  shepherd.   He  knows  his  sheep by  name;  when  he  calls  them  they  follow  him  confidently.  They  will  not  follow  a  stranger;  they  do  not  recognise  his  voice.  The  parabolic  form  wears thin  as  Jesus  reveals  his own  part  in  the picture.  It  is  because  the parable  is  really  about  him  that  the  same  person  can  fill the  role  of  shepherd,  and  also  of  gate  giving  access  to  the  fold.  The  Lord  not  only  gives  and  sustains  life  but  is  himself  the  way, or  means  of  entry,  into  life.  As  the  good  shepherd,  Jesus  contrasted himself  with  the  Pharisees  who  had  just  expelled  from  the  synagogue  the  man  born  blind  (9: 34).  Jesus  'leads  out'  and  'goes  ahead  of'  his  sheep  as  their  leader  and  guides  them  to the  pasturage of  his  word.   And  he  calls  each  'by  name' --  there  is  a  close  personal  relationship  between  the  Christian  and  Christ.

          Jesus  also  described  himself  as  the gate  of  the  sheepfold:  he  is  the  way  of  life  (see  14: 6).  In  and  through  him  alone  do  Christians  enter  into  'life' -- a  gift bestowed  with lavish  generosity. Here there  is the  same  loving  care  as  before  and  the  same  intimate  familiarity  --  they  'go  in  and  go  out'  as they  please.  While  Jesus  spoke of  himself  as  shepherd and  way,  the  passage must  be  a  challenge  to  all  who  hold  pastoral  responsibility.   They  will  do  well  to contemplate  the picture  of  caring  vigilance  and  patient  love  that  the  good  shepherd  presents,  and  mark  his  respect  for  the  freedom  of  his  disciples  (vv. 1-10).

          Jesus  declared  himself  to be  the  good or ideal  shepherd.   Again,  Ezekiel  34 is  the  background.   God  promises  his  people,  in  the  first  place,  that he  would  become  their  shepherd,  and  then  that  he  would  choose  a shepherd for  them  in  the  messianic age.  Jesus' assertion that he was the good shepherd indicates that this age has come, and that he is that promised  shepherd.   He  is  a shepherd so  very  different  from those  castigated  by  Ezekiel: 'You  have  not  strengthened  the  weak,  you  have  not healed  the  sick,  you  have not  bound  up  the  injured,  you  have  not brought  back  the  strayed,  you  have  not  sought the lost,  but  with  force  and  harshness  you  have  ruled  them'  (Ezek  34; 4).  On every point  Jesus  stood in  sharp  contrast.

The Good Shepherd          The  second  characteristic  of  the  true  shepherd  is  that he  knows his  sheep intimately  and  that they know  him.  In  John  the  mutual knowledge  of  Jesus  and  those  who  belong to  him  is  an  extension  of  the  mutual  knowledge  of  Father  and  Son  (see  Jn  17: 26-27).   Knowing  Jesus  and  the  Father  means  being  of  one  mind  and  heart  with them.   But  the  shepherd  concern  of  Jesus  reached  out  to  other  sheep  --  the  Gentiles  --  to bring  them  also  into the fold  of  eternal  life.  Jesus  declared that the  Father loved him  because he  was  prepared  to  sacrifice himself  in  faithfulness  to  the  task entrusted  to  him.  Because  he  was  so  fully  one  with  the  Father,  source  of  life  and  life-giver,  he  had  power  not  only  to  lay  down  his  life,  but  power  to  take  it  up  again.  'I  have  received  this  command  from  my  Father';  as  always  in  John,   it  is  the  Father  who  initiates  activity.

          'The  Jews'  did  not know  what  to  make  of  Jesus'  words.   Some  declared  flatly:  'He's  a  raving  lunatic!' Others  observed  more  thoughtfully:  'These  are  not  the  words  of  a  madman --  and  no  power  of  evil  could  open  the  eyes  of  the  blind.'   The  question  of  who  Jesus  is  will  not  go  away.

                                                                                 Wilfrid Harrington.


 

 

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This is the Story of Jesus drawn from the four Evangelists

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Unfolding the Story of jesus

Gospel passages accompanied by a number of brief commentaries

Unfolding the story of jesus