4th Sunday of Easter – 3rd May 2020 — Gospel: John 10, 1-10
Responsibility and Recognition
This section includes three parts. The first part is a ‘figure of speech’ (10,6), which begins with the antagonists (10,1). Then there is a shift to describe the attributes of the shepherd and gate keeper, the protagonist. The targeted sheep is tossed between thieves, bandits, strangers, and shepherd, gatekeeper, the gate. The activities associated with the shepherd/gate keeper are: enters by the gate, opens the gate, hears, calls by name, brings out, goes ahead, knows and is known (10,3-5). The thieves operate stealthily and bandits use violence for their own purposes: to diminish the flock and create anxiety within. In this initial part, Jesus indirectly identifies himself as the true shepherd. This shepherd has the well-being of the sheep at heart, rather than his own well-being. In fact, there is a relationship of mutual trust between the shepherd and sheep, with an element of responsibility and recognition, on either side. The trust is validated by emphasizing that the sheep are never abandoned.
In the second part, the narrator includes brief interruption on the lack of understanding of his hearers: “… but they did not understand what he was saying to them.” (10,6b). “They” may point out the Pharisees and the disciples. Since misunderstanding is a frequent reaction to Jesus, now Jesus response calls for a deeper level of engagement (10,7-10). In the final part, Jesus speaks of the gatekeeper (10,7.9) in order to clarify the image of the shepherd. This image is personalized with “I am” that continues his Christological role. He speaks of himself as the shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep and takes it up again, which is beyond the scope of the ordinary shepherd.
The theme underlined here is hearing, which leads to following and knowing Jesus. The key character in focus here is the shepherd. He has the proper relationship with the sheep because they hear (10,3.8) and know his voice (10,3.4.5) and will follow him (10,18.104.22.168), in contrast to the strangers from whom the sheep flee. The thieves and bandits (10,1.7) come to steal, kill and destroy, while Jesus comes to provide abundant life. Whoever enters through Jesus, the gate – will be saved, will be brought into pasture and life. Jesus is the good shepherd of Psalm 23 and Ezekiel 34, who brings his followers to amplitude. He is the right way, the true way to enter into fullness of life. In being both shepherd and gate, Jesus protects the sheep and provides for them. Between Jesus and his adversaries, we need to recognize at every moment the voice of the good shepherd, who blesses with faithfulness and life-giving ways.