April 26, 2015 (Year B, Easter 4) Celtic Meditation

John 10:11-18

In this short passage, Jesus twice refers to himself as the Good Shepherd and three times tells his disciples that he, as the Good Shepherd,[1] lays down his life for his people.

Jesus begins this parable by explaining the difference between the hired shepherd and the true shepherd of the flock. The hired shepherd does not defend the sheep from danger but seeks his own safety first. In contrast, the true shepherd of the flock is so invested in the well-being of the flock that he will risk his own life for the flock. From this metaphor, Jesus explains that he, out of his care for his people, willingly sacrifices his own life for our safety. While we, as Christians, are called to imitate Christ, sometimes we forget our place in this parable. In what ways do we, as church, attempt to serve the world in the place of the Good Shepherd rather than as the sheep who are loved by the Good Shepherd?

Jesus’ identity is based upon God the Father knowing him and his knowing the Father. Part of this knowing between God the Father and God the Son is the knowledge that the Son will lay down his life for the people of God. Just as Jesus’ identity is based upon the mutual knowing and being known by God the Father, our identity as Christians is based upon being known by Jesus and knowing Jesus. In this parable of the Good Shepherd, this knowing looks like sheep listening to their Shepherd. The sheep respond to the Shepherd’s voice, not the “bleating of other sheep,”[2] and are joined into one flock. How can we, the non-Jewish fold of sheep[3] known as the church, offer a place where others can join us to hear Jesus’ voice as we worship and serve?

The Son of God is loved by God because, as the Good Shepherd, he lays down his life in order to take it up again. Our Good Shepherd chose to give his life for the sake of us sheep, not merely as a sacrifice, but also as demonstration of his power that he exercises on behalf of his people. This act of power is not only approved by God the Father, but it is integral to God’s plan of salvation. What does it look like for us, the sheep of the Good Shepherd, to demonstrate to ourselves and others that we recognize and trust the Good Shepherd’s power to die and to rise from the dead?

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[1] For a detailed analysis of the development of this metaphor of God as the true shepherd of God’s people, see Andreas J. Köstenberger’s “Jesus the Good Shepherd Who Will also Bring Other Sheep (John 10:16): the Old Testament Background of a Familiar Metaphor,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 12.1 (2002): 67-96.

[2] Philip E. Thompson, “John 10:11-18,” Interpretation, 51 no 2 April 1997, 185.

[3] The “this fold” sheep refers to the Jews; the “sheep that don’t belong to this fold” refers to Gentile believers. What is shared in parable will be revealed fully after Jesus’ resurrection.

© 2015 Donna R. Hawk-Reinhard, All Rights Reserved

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