JESUS CHRIST: OUR GOOD SHEPHERD
(A biblical reflection on THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, May 15, 2011)
Gospel Reading: Jn 10:1-10
First Reading: Acts 2:14a,36-41; Psalms: Ps. 23:1-6; Second Reading: 1Pet 1:20b-25
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of the strangers.” This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what He was saying to them.
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door, if any one enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (Jn 10:1-10 RSV)
Jesus often used the image of the shepherd and sheep in His teachings. Israel was a pastoral land where sheep were raised for wool (and for meat), so the crowds clearly understood His imagery. They knew a true shepherd had to be constantly vigilant and willing to risk his own life to protect his flock from the hazards of nature and of humans. The hired hand ran away when danger loomed and did not protect the sheep. The true shepherd led and guarded the sheep, developing a close, tender relationship with each.
When speaking to the Pharisees around Him (see Jn 9:40), Jesus’ words about the sheep and the shepherd would certainly have brought to mind thoughts of God’s word to Israelconcerning good and false shepherds (see Ezek 34:1-31). Through the prophet, God told His people: “I will rescue My sheep from their mouths, that they may not be for them…… I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the crippled, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will watch over; I will feed them in justice” (Ezek 34:11,16). Those with eyes to see would recognize that in Jesus, God perfectly fulfils His prophetic word. Jesus Himself searches for us and seeks us out. Indeed, He is the model of the good shepherd who gives comfort, peace, wisdom, and life to His sheep.
There was only one gate in the sheepfold (see Jn 10:7,9), through which both sheep and shepherd entered. Thieves and robbers were identifiable precisely because they tried to enter some other way (see Jn 10:1). When the shepherd and his flock spent the night on the hillsides in Judea, he lay across the opening in the wall of the sheepfold. His body served as a gate. As we read the Psalms, we know that Jesus is that gate through which the righteous enter and find life: “This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it” (Ps 118:20). Only Jesus who can give us life, and life to the full (see Jn 10:10).
During this Easter season, let us consider God’s wonderful intention for us. The Son of God took on human flesh and endured terrible sufferings so that we would not have to struggle grimly to merit eternal life. This plentiful life is joyous, full, indestructible, certain even in light of the world’s uncertainties, and surviving beyond the grave (see Jn 11:25). It is ours now and eternally as we trust our lives to our Good Shepherd.
Short Prayer: Jesus, my Lord and my God, You have made us. We are Your people, the sheep of Your pasture. We enter Your gates with thanksgiving, and we bless Your name forever. Amen.
Jakarta, May 9, 2011
A Christian Pilgrim