21 and 22 April 2018 Fourth Sunday of Easter B Homily
First John 3:1-2
My sisters and brothers in Christ
Chapter 10 of John’s Gospel is used on this fourth Sunday of Easter each year to celebrate Jesús as the “good shepherd”.
The few verses in today Gospel repeat “I am the good shepherd” and “”A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” several times.
“I am” phrases, if we read John’s Gospel, get Jesús in big trouble with the religious authorities. The “I am” problem arises because when Moses was instructed to lead the enslaved Israelites out of Egypt he asked the Lord whom shall I say sent me.
The LORD says to Moses, “Tell them ‘I AM’ sent me”. Thus for Jesús to say “I AM” was to say he speaks for the Lord and by implication is “One” with the Lord. Or as some of his listeners understood, Jesús “Made himself equal to God”.
Jesús laying down his life for his sheep became a reality because Jesús’ message about his relationship and unity with God made him a blasphemer to the religious authorities.
John’s Gospel has a different “take” or “slant” on Jesús’ attitude to his impending death than the Gospels of Mark, Luke and Matthew.
In Matthew, Mark and Luke Jesús predicts his passion and death but does not have the description of “laying down and taking up his life.”
Jesús “knowing the Father” and the “Father knows me” bespeaks the unity that Jesús experiences and shares in his preaching to the people and in his life with his followers.
Jesús speaks to the unity not just of Jesús, the good shepherd, with the Father.
Jesús also speaks of the unity of the the good shepherd with the sheep.
“I am the good shepherd,
And I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.”
John’s writings tend toward repetition but all lead to the unity of Father, Son, Spirit and the unity of the flock, through Jesús with the Father and Spirit.
The “goodness” of the shepherd is proven by the shepherds willingness to lay down his life and take his life up again in obedience to the Father.
The “hired hand” does not have the same interest, dedication, unity or ability to sacrifice that the “good shepherd” has.
John’s Gospel has a severe attitude to those, like the “wolf” who is a marauder or the “hired man” who “works for pay” and has no “concern” for the sheep.
Jesús also speaks today about “I have other sheep who do not belong to this fold”.
Jesús must call them and they will hear his voice.
Jesús’ vision is that there will be one flock and one shepherd,
The good shepherd who has concern for the sheep must be ready to lay down their own life for the good of the sheep.
May our community strive to be one flock listening to and following the voice of the good shepherd.