Scripture: Lectionary 279. 4/30/12. Acts 11:1-18. Psalm 42:2-3.44:3.4. John 10:1-10
Yesterday is named Good Shepherd Sunday. We continue that imaging of who Jesus is as the Good Shepherd but start at the beginning of the chapter that treats of this theme in John. Sunday’s readings came in the second example about Christ as Shepherd; today we return to the first ten lines of chapter ten. We know that all of chapter ten is an example story about the strengths and qualities of a good shepherd.
The Hebrew Bible contains much about the bad shepherds in Ezekiel chapter 34 where we learn about what a shepherd should not be or do. We also have the positive example of David who begins the Messianic line as a strong shepherd for his people. We always are helped by understanding Jesus through the Scriptures that he was familiar with—those of the Old Testament.
In the prophesy of Ezekiel God brings back the sheep that are scattered and entrusts them to the messianic king, David (cf. Jer.2:8; 10:21; 23:1-6; Zech. 11:3-9, 15ff). “But John’s shepherd gives his life that his sheep may have eternal life, John 10:28. All is summed up in the great declaration:’I am the Good Shepherd.” (Dom Ralph Russell).
In this first description of the shepherd as a gate or gate keeper we have the first action example of the Evangelist developing another “I AM” statement with some symbol such as life, light, way, or with a person such as “Shepherd or Gate-Keeper.” The symbols are not meant to be abstractions but concrete realities of who the Lord really is for us. All sorts of images and symbols are used so that different perspectives are given that touch different personalities who are relating to Jesus through their faith perceptions of who he is for them.
The image of the shepherd being the sheep-gate is well known to us. A shepherd actually lies down at the opening where the sheep come and go and acts as the protective door for them. “ I lay down my life for my sheep.” His body actually acts as the gate for his sheep. An entruder has to go through the strong shepherd to get to the sheep. Since this image of a shepherd is so fully developed in this chapter of John, it made me think of the whole chapter as part of a seamless garment that the Evangelist has put before us in the entire Gospel.
The pattern of the robe is seen in the Prologue; the chapters are the making sure the whole garment is of one piece. I recall the scene at the foot of the cross where the soldiers respect the value of the seamless garment Jesus wore. Instead of dividing it into four they cast lots for it. It made me think that this garment could have been made and given to him by his mother Mary who is in the scene right after the dividing of his garments. Did she not also weave into one human body and personhood the very son who was wearing the garment she also had made? I like to think so and ponder it over when I read the I Am statements in John. Amen. Alleluia. Alleluia.