Posts Tagged ‘the Good Shepherd’

JOHN 10:11-18

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 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. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 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. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 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.”

Who were, or are, the “other sheep” outside the fold of the twelve, for whose sake also Jesus had come? By the time the Fourth Gospel was written (c. 95 CE) the early Christian movement had been forced into a clean break from the parent traditions of Judaism, so it may be this non-Jewish mission field that the author has in mind.

The mystical tone and content of this Gospel enabled his community to see in Jesus the revelation – or more accurately, the incarnation – of an eternal and universal reality. If Jesus was the name these early Christians gave to the timely event in history that opened out to include something that was also above or behind history, then might this same outreaching grace of God have been actively present elsewhere and at the same time, but in different circles, throughout the world?

If so, then because God is at work for the redemption of all people, this single divine initiative, refracting into the many rainbow colors as it breaks into the world of time – experienced as red here, green there, and violet somewhere else – can all be known by the name of Jesus.

This is not to say that “all religion” are equally true. But those that propagate a vision for the human future that centers on genuine community, and that inspire their devotees to lives of compassion and forgiveness, might meaningfully be regarded as sheep of other folds, who recognize and respond to the voice of the good shepherd.

JOHN 10:11-18

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 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. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 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. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 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.”

The telling difference between the good and true shepherd and a hired hand is that only the former cares enough for his sheep, rather than for the reward of his earnings, to risk injury and death for their protection. When danger comes, the hired hand decides that the sheep are only “so much an hour” in value anyway, and saves himself instead. The good shepherd, on the other hand, knows his sheep and values them as having intrinsic worth – that they are “worth saving.”

In just about any life domain you can easily tell between those who are there because they believe in the cause, and those who are in it for the payoff.

One of the things that dawned on the disciples in that revolutionary moment of realization called the resurrection, is that Jesus had been genuinely committed to his cause. When the cross appeared on his horizon he didn’t calculate in the interest of his own safety and individual survival. Whereas other self-proclaimed messiahs had appeared around the same time – the named “Barabbas” of the Gospels may have been one – many had forsaken their apocalyptic visions and promises by abandoning their followers at the eleventh hour.

Not so with Jesus. He had remained focused and faithful to the bitter end, and this courageous integrity on his part authenticated his gospel in the very instant of his self-accepted martyrdom.