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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?"
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 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.
This is the Story of Jesus drawn from the four Evangelists
Gospel passages accompanied by a number of brief commentaries