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The Good Shepherd

Posted by Thaddaeus

John 10:11-18

I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep.  I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.  And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice.  So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.  For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father.”

Background:  The Good Shepherd follows Jesus’ encounter with the man born blind.  The man born blind is a symbol of rebirth through water and the Spirit, who Jesus brings into the sheepfold.  A sheepfold is a low stone corral open to the sky.  It means the Church.  The parable is a commentary on the Pharisees who are willfully blind and greatly upset about the cured blind man.  They have no compassion for him.  They do not realize that parable refers to them.  They are the hirelings who pasture themselves and care nothing for the sheep as in the Old Testament Parable of the Shepherds found in EzekielShepherds are supposes to be the leaders of the people, to care for their subjects and anticipate their needs.  In ancient prophecy God will hold these shepherds accountable for what has happened to Israel and will give them a new shepherd worthy of the title.  Jesus’ assertion that he is the Good Shepherd is claim to messiahship.

The Good Shepherd:  The Good Shepherd is the traditional passage for the fourth Sunday of Easter.  The fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet is dalet (Lit., “gateway”), the sole and necessary gateway to Christ.  Four signifies the universality of worship.  There are four Hebrew letters in the name of God: “YHWH.”  The Hebrew name for Judah contains every letter in the name of God, except dalet, suggesting that the gateway to God comes through Judah.  It is also the flock of which God Himself foretold that He would be the shepherd, and whose sheep, even though governed by human shepherds, are unfailingly nourished and led by Christ Himself, the Good Shepherd and the Prince of Shepherds.  The other sheep are the Gentiles.  In God’s plan there is to be one flock (Gentiles and Jews), one Church and one Shepherd.   Thus, we are not taken into the Jewish fold; rather, we are gathered into one Church – the universality of worship.