7 May 2017

John 10:1-10

“I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” (v. 9)

Psalm: Psalm 23


I'm in two minds over this passage. It always takes me back to the only sermon I've heard that I can remember it its entirety. A tutor in my college chapel began by quoting a line from the hymn The King of love my shepherd is "and on his shoulder gently laid and home rejoicing brought me". He then looked at us and said, "Sheep are horrible, dirty, smelly creatures. So are you! Amen." That was it and it has stayed with me for over 30ty years, and I still reflect on it. There is something of inclusivity here, however we see ourselves, the sense of God shouldering us however little we or the world values us.

But I have another reflection. Shepherd theology in the Hebrew Scriptures is related to kingship. The king was the shepherd of the people. Kingship joined politics and theology, and linked ultimate power with pastoral care. Think of Psalm 23, "The Lord's my shepherd". We tend to think of Jesus as shepherd and us as sheep. For the Jews, a different mental leap was made. And it was reinforced every year. The king was crowned, but then every year reminded of his responsibility, to rule yet also to care and always to remember that any authority he had came ultimately from God. A good king used power with humility to keep his people safe, and to shepherd them because they were valuable. That was the ideal.

Who rules like a king today? In a constitutional monarchy, it's more likely the politicians. And that places a responsibility on those who rule and we who elect them to look for those qualities of right use of power, but also of care of even those who see themselves least worthy. I wonder if we could live up to that?


To Ponder

  • How do we use our power?
  • How does being Christian influence how we use our power?

Bible notes author

The Revd Andrew Pratt

Andrew is a Methodist supernumerary presbyter, Honorary Research Fellow at Luther King House, Manchester, and author. He has written over 1,300 hymns.