Monday of week 4 of Easter – Gospel (Alternative)


Commentary on 10:11-18

Jesus gives two images of himself connected with sheep.  First, he calls himself the Gate of the sheepfold.  Only true shepherds pass through this Gate to reach the sheep.  In today’s passage, he speaks of the second image, identifying himself solemnly as the true Shepherd of his people. “I AM the Good Shepherd.”  This is the third ‘I AM’ statement.  Jesus’ assertion that he is the Good Shepherd is tantamount to identifying himself as Messiah.

Of course, the image of God as shepherd of his people is found many times in the Old Testament.  For instance, in the much-loved Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd…” or in Ezekiel 34 where God speaks of himself as the shepherd of his people.

Jesus now takes that role on himself.  He is the “good” shepherd because he is willing to lay down his life for his sheep.  In this he is totally unlike a hired hand who, at the first sight of danger (such as the appearance of a wolf or armed robbers) will abandon the sheep.  He is only being paid to do the job and has no personal commitment to the sheep.  It seems that some of the religious leaders are being finger-pointed here.  They are more interested in the literal observance of the Law than in the spiritual well-being of the people.

Jesus, on the other hand, is a good shepherd.  “”I know my sheep and they know me… For these sheep I will give my life.”  His death on the cross is the clear proof of that.  This is what makes him stand out from other “shepherds”.  And the “knowledge” here is not mere acquaintance or recognition but a deep mutual understanding of each other.  A knowledge that is the fruit of experience and an intimate personal contact leading to love.

But not all sheep belong to Jesus’ flock and it is his deep desire that they too should belong to his fold.  This, first of all, points to the Gentiles who were not yet among God’s people.  For us today, it points to all those who have not yet come to know the Way of Christ as pointing to life.

Jesus’ goal is that there be “one flock and one shepherd”.  It should be the dream of all Christians too.  The Father loves Jesus because of his readiness to die for his sheep.  But Jesus’ death is his own free choice, an act of pure love for his sheep.  He has the power to lay down his life and to take it up again.  Our Shepherd will die but will rise again in glory to take his sheep with him to the life that will never end.

But, though Jesus the Good Shepherd, will die for his sheep, he does so in perfect freedom.  This is what gives his sacrifice such value.  He willingly surrenders his life into the hands of his Father and in doing guarantees his presence with his sheep for all time and in every place.

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