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4th Sunday of Easter - Cycle B

John 10:11-18

“I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)

As Jesus proclaims to the crowd, “I am the good shepherd,” He contrasts a shepherd who owns his sheep and a shepherd who does not.  A hired hand does not care for the sheep, so he is quick to flee and leaves the sheep when a wolf comes, “and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.”

A shepherd was a common symbol of a leader in the Old Testament, who safely guides the people.  Yet here Jesus is not calling Himself a good shepherd but the good shepherd, subtly likening Himself with God, the One shepherd of the chosen people.  Furthermore, Jesus implies the Jewish leaders are like hired hands, not caring enough for the people to stand firm when the wolf comes.

It’s likely Pharisees listening would take issue with this allegory, but the message is one of hope for the people.  Even the noblest of leaders fall short, and as humans our compulsion is to protect ourselves first.  Jesus makes it clear this is not the case for Him, saying repeatedly that He will die for the flock.

When we own something, rather than loaning it, we might care for it with greater reverence because it is ours.  As Christians, however, we know that everything we have on Earth is a gift which we will someday give back to God.  But Jesus’ care for our lives is even greater than our own, because we are His own.  He says, “I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.”  Those who know Jesus and listen to his voice have the privilege of being cared for by Him.

Sometimes we might feel confused or abandoned by our own worldly leaders, who have been given temporary responsibility and authority over us.  There may be times when we feel that the wolf has come, and those who claimed to care for us have run away and left us alone.  In these times, we can look to Jesus, who is the One and only Good Shepherd.  He will lead us safely back into the fold.  If we seek to know and listen to Him, He promises that there is nothing He will not do to protect us from the wolf.

By Kara Pauley


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