Shepherd appears to be a favored occupation in the Bible. Abraham, Jacob, Esau, and Amos were all shepherds. Moses became one while on the run. David was a singing shepherd before he became king. And then we recall the Bethlehem shepherds, the first to hear the news about Jesus’ birth.
The Bible probably values shepherds more than biblical people did. Society despised and often marginalized shepherds. Being a shepherd warranted no fame or glory; the vocation largely garnered public ridicule and humiliation.
So, for Jesus to name himself the “good shepherd” would shock John’s audience. Jesus, in effect, says that he will become the object of ridicule and scorn much as the common shepherds were. As he often does throughout his ministry, Jesus takes conventional wisdom and flips it on its ear.
But here’s another reversal. Shepherds eventually sacrificed their sheep, providing the means through which people could make blood offerings in the Temple and restore their relationship with God. Without the shepherds, there would be no sheep, no means to sacrifice and, ultimately, no restoration of divine relationship.
Jesus, in identifying himself as the good shepherd, says this: “I know my own and my own know me. . . . And I lay down my life for the sheep.” This shepherd is not in the business of leading his sheep to slaughter but saving his sheep from slaughter. He does not allow them to die but dies in their place. This is the most radical reversal of all: The shepherd is sacrificed, not the sheep.
God, thank you for Jesus’ sacrifice, that I may be in relationship with you. Amen.
This week’s readings open with a confrontation in Acts between Peter and John and some of the religious leaders. Peter speaks in harsh terms to the leaders, stating that they had killed Jesus; yet by the power of Jesus’ name, a man who could not walk has been healed. By that same name spiritual healing happens as well. The other three passages employ the metaphor of the Good Shepherd. “The Lord is my shepherd,” the psalmist declares, and the shepherd cares for all our needs. In John’s Gospel, Jesus declares that he is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. First John repeats this imagery. Jesus proved his love when he lay down his life for us. If we truly love one another, we also ought to sacrifice in tangible ways.
• Read Psalm 23. How comfortable do you feel about God’s provision for your life? Do you believe you have enough?
• Read Acts 4:5-12. When have you gotten into difficulty for exercising your Christian faith and values? If never, why not?
• Read 1 John 3:16-24. The writer notes that we may find being called sheep unbecoming. He goes on to mention that the epistle of John addresses followers of Christ as “little children.” Would you prefer to be a sheep or a child? Why?
• Read John 10:11-18. Which of your assumptions about God have been turned upside down? How did this come about?
Responda publicando una oración.