Daily Readings in John – Day Thirty-Three
November 13, 2017
John 10:1-21 (NRSV)
10 “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7 So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes[a] 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 up again. I have received this command from my Father.”
19 Again the Jews were divided because of these words. 20 Many of them were saying, “He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?” 21 Others were saying, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
In comes Jesus with a set of agrarian metaphors. Best as I can tell, the sheep – even though they’re still sheep – are people now, and Jesus is very protective of them. There are other people that want to take people and eat them or sell them or do whatever bandits would generally do to sheep. And Jesus starts his teaching by saying I am not like that. I am not a thief.
He starts by repeating, I am the gate. I protect people, and I’m the way to safety (as the sheep come in through the gate) and I’m the way to nourishment (as sheep come out through the gate). Only good things ever happen because of me.
Awesome – Jesus appears to be a shepherd in the wool trade, not the lamb meat industry, so vegetarians, thumbs up for Jesus here.
But then he takes the analogy home, for people, because he has a name for all these good things sheep get as they walk in and out through him – he calls it abundant life. And then in the second half, Jesus says not only am I not like a thief, but I’m also not like that summer employee you hire at minimum wage just to keep a warm body in the shop.
I have ownership in this.
This is my life.
I’m dedicated. I take care of the sheep. I put myself between the sheep and any harm. I will lay my life down for them, he says, and not just generally, as a group, but one by one, for each one, because I know them all. They’re my people, or my sheep. They’re my friends.
This is a journey with Jesus that involves no violence and no coercion and calls for us vs. them tribalism.
Instead, the only task of the sheep is to be as persistent and dedicated as possible about recognizing and listening to the voice of Jesus, who will lead us well into life.
Invite Jesus, if you like, to help you learn to recognize his voice, and to distinguish it from the voice of the hired hands and thieves who don’t care about you or who would even seek your harm.