Sunday

'I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.' (v. 11)

John 10:11-18 Sunday 25 April 2021

Psalm 23

Background

This week begins with the 4th “I am” saying of Jesus, it will end with the 6th. These remind us of God saying to Moses at the burning bush “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14). There are lots of layers of meaning in this passage.

To begin with, there is the declaration of Jesus as the divine “I am” with imagery of the Good (or True) Shepherd who knows, even owns, and loves the sheep and who keeps them safe. This is core to the identity of Jesus and is a belief that is central to Christianity.

Second, Jesus is comparing himself to others claiming to be true shepherds, but who fail to care, protect and love the sheep. This references Ezekiel 34, and takes us beyond a narrow comparison with the Pharisees questioning the blind man healed by Jesus (chapter 9). John might be pointing us to those in the history of the people of Israel who had failed to lead,  care and protect the people since the time of Moses. In the context of a Roman-occupied Israel, which was an empire that promised safety for its citizens but killed Jesus, we might see Jesus comparing himself to the failing of powerful empires. Finally, John might be pointing us now to leaders, whether spiritual or secular, and comparing their care, protection and love with that of Jesus.

Thirdly in this passage John introduces the idea of a self-sacrificial shepherd (verse 11), going beyond expectation and foretelling the Passion. Possibly the early Christians were reflecting on the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53.

Finally, verse 16 talks about  sheep who are not part of this fold. It is often understood to mean  Gentiles who will respond to the gospel (even most of us). Given the repetitive attempts to restrict those who are included in God’s Kingdom, I wonder how many and how far away these other sheep might be – I wouldn’t want to restrict the compassion and power of Jesus.

 

To Ponder:

  • Which leaders do you think John wants us to compare to Jesus as good shepherds? How does that affect our responses to them?
  • How does the imagery of sheep, shepherds and folds work for you? When you think about the sheep who are not part of this fold, who do you think they are?
  • Jesus makes clear that being a self-sacrificial shepherd is his choice. What does this mean for you?

 

Next Page Monday