B.C.P. 2nd after Easter John 10:11-16
John:10:11: I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12: But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13: The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14: I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15: As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16: And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
A best-selling business book in the U.S.A. was "Best Boss, Worst Boss" by management techniques expert Jim Miller. The book grew out of a contest he began in 1992 to find the worst boss in America. The 1995 winner was a Midwestern sales manager who allegedly ordered employees to get back to work when they tried to help a co-worker who had suffered a heart attack. Also, fearing a drop in productivity, he waited until the end of a workday to announce that a missing employee had been found dead. Having a rotten boss can pay off: The winner collects an expenses-paid, one- week trip for two in Hawaii.
In today's gospel Jesus is comparing the religious bosses of the day with himself. He does this by using the, then familiar picture of a shepherd and sheep. First, earlier in this Chapter, he compared the Jewish leaders with robbers and thieves. Now he compares them to a hireling, a shepherd who was only in it for the money, what he could get out of it. Such a shepherd did not care for the sheep and would abandon the sheep if he was confronted by thieves, robbers or a dangerous animal
Jesus' words pointed to him self as the good shepherd and denounced the Pharisees for failing to fulfil their duty to God. This echoes the words of Ezekiel 34 1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.
In Jesus' day the Pharisees and teachers of the law were wealthy, often at the expense of the poor. They loved to be seen in their fine clothes, performing their religious duties and looking down on those whom they considered 'sinners'. They took great pride in observing a multitude of rules, but were denounced by Jesus for ignoring justice and compassion.
The good shepherd would not abandon his sheep when facing danger, but voluntarily gave his own life so his sheep may escape death. This is a picture of the sacrificial way in which Jesus went to the cross, taking the punishment for the sin of the world so that those who make him their shepherd are not cut off from God. He knows the sheep and they know him. This mirrors the close relationship that Jesus has with God the Father.
A shepherd would know each sheep by name and would know their individual characteristics. What type of grass they liked, if they liked to walk near the front or the back of the flock and so on. Jesus knows everything about each one of us and he still loves and accepts us. His love is unconditional, we do not have to earn it, although it must make a difference to our lives.
The sheep knew the voice of the shepherd and they followed him. He would call his sheep out of a pen with a number of flocks in it and they would recognise his voice and come. No-one would be able to imitate his voice and fool the sheep. The shepherd would lead his flock to water and to graze, they would hear his voice, trust and follow him.
Christians need to know, trust and follow the voice of Jesus. We can know his voice through the Bible, leading, guiding, encouraging and building us up. We know his voice through his Holy Spirit who lives in and empowers every believer. We can know his voice as we listen to other Christians, including those who expound his word.
Before he ascended to heaven Jesus restored Simon Peter to the position of leadership and forgave him for denying him three times. As they walked by the sea of Galilee Jesus told Peter to feed his sheep on three occasions. It is a reminder that God forgives people and then calls and equips them to look after his flock. This is a way of sacrifice and spiritual battles and all Christian leaders need to be prayed for.
The good shepherd has other sheep which are not of this fold. The Jewish people were chosen by God in the Old Testament. However, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus opens the way to God for everyone irrespective of race, colour, sex, age, class or any other pigeon hole people can be put into.
God's people are now united through having one shepherd, rather than one ancestor. This is something that we can rejoice in. We are part of a world-wide family of believers united by the blood of Jesus. But this unity also brings a responsibility. We are to love one another as Jesus has loved us. This involves deliberate sacrifice and commitment. Practically it means that Christians in the rich Western world have a responsibility to help clothe, house, feed and provide water for our poorer brothers and sisters in the two-thirds world.
Today, let us be determined to intimately know and follow Jesus.
Let us rejoice in the fact that he loves us unconditionally and that we are part of his world-wide body of believers.
Let us show that we are truly followers of Jesus by caring for our fellow Christians in the next street and in the farthest continent.