Lenten Daily Gospel Reflection - 20 March 2013
“I assure you that whoever doesn’t enter into the sheep pen through the gate but climbs over the wall is a thief and an outlaw. The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The guard at the gate opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. Whenever he has gathered all of his sheep, he goes before them and they follow him, because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger but will run away because they don’t know the stranger’s voice.” Those who heard Jesus use this analogy didn’t understand what he was saying.
So Jesus spoke again, “I assure you that I am the gate of the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and outlaws, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief enters only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. When the hired hand sees the wolf coming, he leaves the sheep and runs away. That’s because he isn’t the shepherd; the sheep aren’t really his. So the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them. He’s only a hired hand and the sheep don’t matter to him.
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I give up my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that don’t belong to this sheep pen. I must lead them too. They will listen to my voice and there will be one flock, with one shepherd.
“This is why the Father loves me: I give up my life so that I can take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I give it up because I want to. I have the right to give it up, and I have the right to take it up again. I received this commandment from my Father.”
The Gate and the Shepherd.
Sounds like a Doctor Who episode, doesn’t it? Sadly, it’s not.
This is a continuation of a conversation that Jesus is having primarily with the Religious Opposition. Throughout Israel’s history, her leadership were often poetically referred to as “shepherds.” Here, Jesus is saying that the current leadership aren’t really shepherds. They’re thieves and outlaws. They don’t really care about the people; they’re only concerned about their own well-being. That’s why, when trouble comes, the leadership don’t protect the people. Instead, they leave them to be ravaged by their attackers.
Jesus, on the other hand, is saying he’s the True Shepherd. He’ll stand between the attackers and the people; he’ll take the attack upon himself.
The question that I’ve been asking for a while now is: Who’s attacking the sheep?
For a long time in my walk, I was taught (and taught it myself) that Jesus was protecting people from G_d. That is, since G_d is holy, and sin can’t stand in G_d presence, G_d must destroy it. Since humanity is nothing if they aren’t sin “in the flesh,” then G_d must destroy humanity. But, like a mother protecting her children from an abusive father, Jesus steps in and takes the wrath of G_d in place of humanity. This theory makes G_d out to be the bad guy.
But that’s not what Jesus is saying here. Jesus, as we have seen in John’s telling of the story, is a picture - the picture - of what G_d really looks like. Jesus is saying that it’s G_d who is protecting the sheep even unto death. That’s how much G_d loves creation - G_d will stand in the face of death itself to protect and rescue it. No one else, Jesus said, has done that, does that, or will do that. No one else loves creation that much. That, he said, is what the True Shepherd is.
Not only is Jesus exemplifying this Love, he’s the one granting access to this Love. He’s not keeping people out, that’s what other’s have done (and still do). When Jesus came into the world, he became the place where G_d’s Realm and this world’s realm overlaps and intersects. He’s the Gate that connects the entirety of G_d’s “supremely good” creation. And he’s not keeping people out - the gate is wide open. It is through him that Life - life to the fullest, Life of the ages - is flooding this world’s realm.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC