Sunday 22 April 2018

Bible Book:

“I am the good shepherd.” (v. 11)

John 10:11-18 Sunday 22 April 2018

Psalm: Psalm 23


From Easter to Trinity Sunday this year the main Sunday lectionary Gospel readings are all from John (except for a brief excursion into Luke last week to pick up the immediate aftermath of the encounter on the Emmaus Road). Today, we move away from the resurrection appearances into the rest of John’s sweeping theological presentation of Jesus, with its signs (like feeding the five thousand (John 6) and healings, such as the blind man in John 9) and the “I am” sayings. Today we have “I am the good Shepherd”.

Jesus is drawing on imagery which would have been commonplace in the rural society in which he lived. It was also a strong element in Hebrew scripture, notably in the best-known of all the Psalms, “The Lord is my shepherd” (today’s set Psalm). However, typically of John’s presentation of Jesus, that imagery is used in quite complex ways, taking us some way beyond the picture on the Sunday School wall of Jesus patting lambs on the head. John’s Gospel takes us straight to the themes of sacrifice, and of Jesus being God’s best and greatest intervention and revelation.

Relationship is a key theme in this passage: Jesus’s relationship with the Father, and, crucially, his relationship of love and care with his followers – love and care which take him all the way to the cross. But the passage ends in Easter hope as Jesus talks of both laying down his life and taking it up again.

An aspect of the passage often overlooked is God’s universal care for all people. Jesus speaks of many flocks, not just the one into which he was born and where he was ministering at the time. This challenge to exclusivism and, maybe, nationalism, is a sharp challenge in our times where people feel anxious about globalisation, diversity and identity. “One flock, one shepherd” is quite an aspiration.

To Ponder

  • What does it mean to be a member of a flock?
  • What differences does it make that Jesus is the shepherd?
  • Read the hymn In heavenly love abiding (StF 736), with its reference to “my Shepherd is beside me”, and compare it with Psalm 23 (on which it is based).
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