29 July 2020John 10:11-21
‘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.’ (vs. 16-17)
Psalm: Psalm 90
The good shepherd is instrumental in God’s good plan. There is a dig at the ‘hired hand’; perhaps there are various hired hands of differing qualities. Again, we should be careful about identifying each character in an allegory, or getting too worried about ‘the wolf’.
I have a particular interest in ‘the other’, hence today’s selected verse. Who are these ‘other sheep’? In a first century context, in a Gospel written in Greek, it is reasonable to think that the other sheep are Gentiles. Jesus does have a rather global outlook in John’s Gospel. There is a big challenge for us in reading the text as inclusively and universalistically as possible. There was no boundary to Jesus’ outlook, there were no constraints from any religious institution. It is difficult for us to engage with the text, in its context, as if we were listening to Jesus as he spoke these words (or shared in the experience of the writer which fuelled the reflections that became Jesus’ unusually long speeches, unlike the Synoptics). Our Christian history and of the Church through the ages gets in the way, Jesus is not addressing the Church when he speaks. Everything is rather more fluid than we are used to or are comfortable with.
The Liberation Theology tradition opened, or re-opened, our eyes to God’s bias to ‘the poor’ (disadvantaged and ostracised are better), which is the theme of Jesus’ first sermon/manifesto. Alongside this, perhaps restating it differently, we have Jesus’ radical openness to otherness. Jesus was Other (‘the Word was with God’ in John 1) and became other (‘the Word became flesh’, John 1:14). We can only understand who, what and where we are if we embrace the other. Jesus didn’t come to establish a special group or an in-crowd, quite the opposite. We cannot put limits on Jesus and if we follow him (and ‘we’ are not the only ones who follow him, as many Muslims will tell us) then surely we should be radically open too, there can be no limits to openness. All the criticisms of Jesus were closed criticisms.
- What might it be like to think of yourself as a ‘hired hand’?
- Where does wrestling with radical openness take you?