Note to readers: Liturgical entries on this blog are based on the traditional calendar of the Books of Common Prayer and the traditional one-year Eucharistic lectionary. If you follow a newer calendar or three-year lectionary, there are variations in names for some Sundays and in the readings.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Good Shepherd

Depending on which lectionary one follows, either the Second Sunday after Easter or the Fourth Sunday of Easter focus on the theme of the Good Shepherd. Some reflections on this theme follow.

In St. John 10:11, our Lord boldly proclaims, “I am the good shepherd.”  There are two aspects of Jesus’ claim. 1) Jesus is claiming to be the Messiah-a leader like King David in many ways. 2) By calling Himself the Good Shepherd, Jesus of Nazareth is also moving His claim to another level. In John’s Gospel, “I am” sayings from Jesus are reflections of God’s name in Exodus. Furthermore, Jesus does not merely say “I’m a good shepherd.” He says, “I am the good shepherd.”

God Himself is the Good Shepherd of Israel, and this claim by Jesus is a reflection of Jesus’ unique relationship with God the Father. So Jesus is making a powerful claim. He is both the human Messiah and the divine Son of God. He is the great leader of the chosen people in both ways. 

Jesus cares for God’s flock. He nourishes their souls.  Jesus is not a hired hand who will abandon the sheep in hard times. The sheep recognize Him; they know that He is worthy of their trust. He looks after them even when it hurts Him. He lays down His life for their sakes, and Jesus Christ has the power to take up His life again for the sake of the flock. Even from heaven, He continues to watch over His human flock, intercede for them, and send His Holy Spirit to guide them.

Easter is a season that stresses our hope in Christ, and knowing that Christ is our Good Shepherd highlights such hope in a special way. All too often we are like wandering sheep, but we do have a leader that we can trust. Easter is a celebration and a proclamation of the depth of our Shepherd’s love and of His victorious power. So let us heed Him and have faith in Him. Let us be loyal and stay near our Good Shepherd. Let us accept His guidance and nourish our souls with His spiritual food and drink, with His Word and Sacraments.

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