April 17, 2005 - Year A - Easter 4
10 • 1 Truly, I say to you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 But the shepherd of the sheep enters by the gate. 3 The keeper opens the gate to him and the sheep hear his voice; he calls each of his sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them and the sheep follow him for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, rather they will run away from him because they don’t recognize a stranger’s voice.”
6 Jesus used this comparison, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7 So Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, I am the gate of the sheep. 8 All who came were thieves and robbers, and the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved; he will go in and out freely and find food.
10 The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come that they may have life, life in all its fullness.
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Notes from [The Community Christian Bible]
• 10.1 COUNTRY WITHOUT FRONTIERS
Thanks to the parable of Jesus, we can imagine one of those sheepfolds in which the flocks of various shepherds are gathered together for the night under the vigilance of one caretaker. At dawn, each calls his sheep and leads them out.
The Bible foretold the day in which God would come to gather together the dispersed sheep of his people, so that they would live in their land. Jesus is the Shepherd and he has come to accomplish what was announced, but he will not do it in the expected way. The Jews thought that the Shepherd would revive their former prosperity: they would again be a privileged nation among other nations.
Jesus says clearly that his people are not to be thought of as identical to the Jewish nation. Those who believe, and only they, are his. He will take from among the Jews those who are his; likewise, he will take sheep from other folds as well (v. 16), that is, from among nations other than the Jewish nation. Therefore, he will lead them all and will guide this flock which is not a nation with land boundaries to where he knows. The only flock (not the only “fold”, as people say), that is, the only Church, moves freely through history, not confined to any one nation or era of civilization.
The shepherds of the Jewish people thought they could achieve unity by promoting national pride, by maintaining the privileges of the “higher” castes, and by discriminating against non-Jews. Jesus unites his people solely by attracting them to himself, by letting people experience who he is. All who are attracted to him, recognize his voice and believe his word are his.
People willingly gather around great figures, whether they be leaders or saints. When a people have neither frontiers, arms, language, nor laws to defend themselves against external and internal dissension, the presence of a Shepherd or leader is even more essential. Faith in Christ unites us far better than does fidelity to traditions of the past or solidarity with co-religionists. Christ’s people are not a mass; it is nor Humanity with a capital H. They are composed of persons who have begun an adventure with Jesus of mutual trust and love. I know them and they will hear my voice (vv. 14 & 16).
When the Bible speaks of the Shepherd, it usually refers to God himself, the only king of Israel, but sometimes means the King-Messiah sent by God. Jesus spoke of only one shepherd. Though distinct from the Father, he is one with him (v. 30).
In the Bible angels are sometimes called sons of God, and Jesus remarks that the rulers are called gods. Because of this, Jesus did not like to be proclaimed Son of God. He speaks forcefully in saying: the Father is in me and I in the Father: equal to equal (v. 38). At the same time that he stresses his divine power (vv. 15, 18, 29, 38), he also affirms his total dependence on the Father. In this we recognize God the Son.
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Comments by Wesley
1. "Now, don't be a stranger," is one goodbye form from around here. We have heard their voice and they have heard ours. We will recognize each other anywhere. Life has occurred. Fullness of life has happened. We have caught up with one another and know each other better. It has been too good to let rest with these few moments and so we use this farewell formula in anticipation of further growth and joy.
2. I was struck by the note that a part of this full life is an ability to "move freely through history, not confined to any one nation or era of civilization." This is true enough but it keeps running into the fundamentalism of this world that constrains folks to one group or time. A part of our work and joy is to remember we are not bound simply because someone else is bound.
3.Look around for folks who are living full lives and associate with them as quickly as possible. Being in this company is far more satisfying than the boundaries of traditions and co-religionists. One of the ways in which we are known and know ourselves is by the company we keep.
I wouldn't trade my family and friends for the world and trust you experience the same joy with your family and friends. And yet have you ever tried to share your friends with one another and found that they aren't compatible with each other even though each is with you? There is still work to be done on this fullness of life as there is also truth in knowing that we are bound together and none of are whole until all of us are whole.
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