By John Yieh
A Reading from the Gospel of John 10:1-18
1 “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 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.”
What a comforting image! Jesus compares himself to a good shepherd who would lead, feed, and protect his flock.
This image echoes the image of God in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters. … Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil.” It points us to Jesus’ unique identity as the incarnate Son of God and his intimate relationship with God the Father.
This image recalls what Jesus the Son of God has done in the Gospel of John, supporting the wedding party in Cana, conversing with the Samaritan woman, making the blind see, raising Lazarus from the grave, rising from the dead, and appearing to Thomas and Peter to manifest his divine power and deep compassion. It shows Jesus’ mission of incarnation to reveal God’s love and redeem the world.
This pastoral image brings safety, satisfaction, and warmth to our heart and our soul. It reminds us that we can put our trust in Jesus our Good Shepherd with all our angst over the pandemic, the hurt of polarization, the worry of inflation, the concern over jobs, and the burden of family problems. In his care, we can find rest of soul and enjoy the peace that the world cannot give. It is no wonder we all love this image of Jesus.
As a good shepherd, Jesus also says that he will call his followers with his voice and lead them to the grass and water where they may be nourished and refreshed. He will lay down his life to protect them from any trouble and defend them against evil. If we follow his words and remember his promises, we will find the tender embrace and mighty arms of God amid any contingencies in our lives or tragedies in the world. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound!
The Rev. John Yueh Han Yieh, Ph.D., is professor in New Testament at Virginia Theological Seminary and a New Testament editor for the Bible Society in Taiwan. Dr. Yieh enjoys his teaching ministry at VTS and is a frequent preacher and speaker in the U.S. and Asia.
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Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Katakwa – The Anglican Church of Kenya
St. David’s Episcopal Church, Wayne, Pa.