Sunday’s Reflection: Jesus uses various pastoral metaphors about sheep, gatekeepers, and the gate of the sheepfold (10:1-10), identifying himself first as the gate of the sheepfold (v. 7) and then as the good shepherd (v. 11). He contrasts himself with thieves, bandits who do not enter by the gate (v. 1) and strangers whom the sheep refuse to follow (v. 5). Then he contrasts himself with the hired hand who is supposed to take care of the sheep but who really cares only for his own personal welfare (vv. 12-13).
“I am” can be understood as coded language that refers to Moses’ encounter with Yahweh in the old testament. When Moses asked God’s name, God replied, “You shall tell the children of Israel this:God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.”’ Exodus 3:14 NRSV
The Old Testament uses shepherd as a metaphor for God: Psalm 23:1 and Isaiah 40:11. God also appointed leaders to be shepherds for Israel: 2 Samuel 5:2 and Isaiah 44:28.
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. There is a lesson here for us. It is not enough to go through the motions as a Christian. Christ wants more than lip service—he wants our hearts. Jesus will do exactly that in obedience to the Father: His passion, death, and resurrection. The good shepherd seeks ways to lead faithfully and stands for what is right—even in the face of opposition or danger.
God desires unity, and God is willing to go to any length for it as we see in the theme of laying down one’s life that threads throughout today’s readings. Jesus’ desire for unity demonstrates his commitment and great love. He gives his life voluntarily; no one takes it from him. He does this in order to gather all his sheep into one inclusive gathering of all of God’s people. There is great hope in this promise, this yearning, because, as Jesus says, just as he gives his life, so can he take it back again. As this desire to be united provided hope for the Gentiles and others, so too does it provide hope for those on the margins today.
Prayer: Shepherd of all, by laying down your life for your flock you reveal your love for all. Lead us from the place of death to the place of abundant life, so that, guided by your care for us, we may rightly offer our lives in love for you and our neighbour. Amen. Revised Common Lectionary Prayers (2002) alt. Resources are from the Anglican Church of Canada and Sermons that Work.