The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd has been one of those images that has captured something in our hearts and lives, and we know that it’s from the earliest days of Christianity.
But one of the favorite images of the ways to portray Jesus has been exactly as this.
Jesus there with the small lamb or sometimes a much larger sheep there over his shoulders bringing it back home.
Capturing the images from here and of course also from the 15th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, but one of the things that are about this image of the Shepherd is that it’s certainly present in the scriptures we can see it across various pages and we see it, for example in Psalm 23 and in the Prophet Ezekiel Chapter 34, there are these. You know, great references to the failure of Israel to be a Shepherd and of God wanting to Shepherd and to guide and to care for his people.
We also know that it’s an appropriate image for us. You know, sheep aren’t exactly the cleverest of animals, they’re a bit smelly. They’re a bit useless. They have to, you know, they can’t really fend for themselves out in the wild. You never see, you know, a sheep that goes wild because it eventually just dies. You know it becomes wool blind or whatever, so it needs to be cared for it needs to have that human intervention, the guidance, the leadership, the shepherding for the sheep.
It’s a little bit humbling to remember that these are appropriate images for us, as the people I’ve got, but it is important also for us to know the context of this.
It really struck me in reading this passage that normally there’s a break when we move from one chapter to another because there’s a change of scene or a change of characters involved. But here at the beginning of John, Chapter 10 there is no break the action.
The place is still there in the temple forecourt. It’s still the same characters that Jesus is speaking to and addressing as he spoke to at the end of Chapter 9 in Chapter 9 is that beautiful story.
We have it during the season of Lent in year A of the man born blind. And this man is there and everywhere he’s well known people you know have experienced the just the sadness of that kind of life. You know not that he’s had an accident, but from the very birth he’s being born blind, and this question is there in the air. Well, who’s sinned? The presumption is that if there’s physical ailment, there must be sin involved. Something was at his parents and so this question is there, but Jesus doesn’t seem too interested in that.
All he wants is the life of this man, so he heals him.
He washes the man in the waters of Salome and the man is cleansed and healed and restored. But by this stage Jesus as is moved on to other people, and so there’s this great dialogue and discussion as the man slowly begins to try and make sense of who Jesus is of why he has done this marvelous action of healing him. But then there’s the conflict of the leadership, the Pharisees and scribes who are saying, you know. Would Jesus do this on the Sabbath of all days? He doesn’t need to do this on the Sabbath today. The rest of course, for Jesus it’s the day of restoration. The day of renewal, the day of new life, and there’s this conflict then, between the man and the Pharisees and his parents, and of Jesus. And it’s the context of that failure of the Pharisees to truly understand what is God about? What is God like? What is God’s desire for his people? And they don’t get it, and so it’s it seems that there the audience. They’re the ones who are being addressed.
The failure of those who claim to be the ones who speak for God, and yet they aren’t following through they’re not being faithful to God’s call and God commandment, and it’s challenging for all of us, but challenging also for those in leadership. For me, you know, standing before you know. Trying to make sense of all of these ideas. And knowing that I stand in in many ways judged hopefully not condemned, but at least I stand here before you. You know, having to be faithful to this commandment that we’re invited into this sense of simply being transparent to the work of God.
God longs – not for just some – but for all people he makes it very clear there are other people that that are not part of this fold. I have to lead them as well. God’s desire is to lead all of us into that union with him. All of us are being invited to be as our second reading today said from the 1st letter of John Chapter 3. A marvelous declaration of the depth of God’s love for us. That we’re invited into that into that experience and encounter.
Personally, you know, Jesus wants to be the Good Shepherd. For every one of us he doesn’t need for there to be intermediaries, he wants to shepherd and lead every single one of us personally. He’s inviting us into that kind of relationship where we’re simply able to be there before God. We don’t need to do a whole lot of work for that, we’re simply invited into that experience, and into that encounter.
There will be people who get in the road. As Ezekiel chapter 34 is so strong against the leadership that has led people not to God. But has led them astray. As we know from our own experience that often in those people that we’ve looked up to and they’ve failed us in so many different ways. And yet the promise is still there.
The promise is still inviting us into that encounter into that realization that he is still faithful, his grace and his mercy is still available to us to change us, to transform us to, to call us into that experience of union with God. Again, that’s the gift we are longing for. A second reading again, reminds us that the father has not just been grudgingly bestowed a simple little measure or a few drops of his love upon us, but he has lavished that love upon us. You know, God’s delight is to pour his love upon us.
That we’re able to experience and to receive the absolute abundance of his love, and it’s that love that changes us. It’s that love that transforms everything. It’s that love that makes us capable of being like God again, as first, John says. You know, we don’t know exactly what we will be, but all that we do know is that when we see God, we shall be like him, ‘cause he will make us. A work of God. It’s the wonder of God’s action to do that. You know it’s not about us having to conform ourselves into shape.
Ourselves and by works and all acts of righteousness to make ourselves worthy of God’s love. No the Shepherd is calling us and inviting us because we’re stupid; because we’re unworthy; because we haven’t got our lives together. It’s precisely in that moment of realizing I’m not worthy. I can’t do this.
I need God.
I long for God.
I need that love.
I need that encounter.
I need that leadership.
I need that care and God will do it.
God will transform us.
God will change us.
But in that moment in that experience in that encounter.
There also has to be that sense of being transparent to that of letting others also sharing that it’s to the extent that a person is changed to transform by God’s love that we become capable of leading others that we become capable of pointing others into that same experience of encounter with.
So as we pray for vocations, as we pray that people will continue to respond in our church to this wonder. To this call to this invitation. To faithfully follow the Lord, let’s pray first of all, that we will be the ones who experience and encounter Gods love today that we will let the Father call us and love us.