Depending on your age, this column is either a walk down memory lane or a “history” lesson — 50 years in the making. So, if you look over at someone reading this column and nodding their head up and down in phantom agreement, you can take a guess at their age.
The Year 1968 was a year in which a manned spacecraft first orbited the moon, the Boeing 747 made its first commercial flight, average monthly house rent was $130, gas was $0.34/gallon, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, Intel Corporation was founded, the Beatles released the “White Album,” the first Big Mac went on sale (…for $0.49), Ziplock sandwich bags were introduced, the “hip” products of the year were bean-bag chairs and lava lamps, and you will want to burn any remaining Polaroid pictures of what you thought was high fashion. Continue reading
Verses 17-18 form the conclusion to the discourse. In these verses, the shepherd metaphor is abandoned completely and Jesus speaks directly about his death and relationship with God. These verses focus on three theological themes that are essential to understanding the death of Jesus in John.
First, these verses place Jesus’ death fully in the context of his relationship with God. Verse 17 contains the first linkage of “love” (agapaō) with Jesus’ death in the Fourth Gospel. God’s love for the world (3:16) and for Jesus (3:35) are already known to the reader, and this verse adds a new dimension to that love. God loves Jesus because Jesus lives out God’s commandment fully (v.18). In the Fourth Gospel, the core commandment that Jesus gives his disciples is that they love one another just as he has loved them (13:34). The sign of Jesus’ love for them is that he is willing to lay down his life for them (cf. 13:1; 15:13). Jesus thus obeys the same commandment from God that he passes on to his disciples, to live fully in love. It is wrong to read the these verses as saying that Jesus wins the Father’s love through his death; rather, his death is the ultimate expression of the love relationship that already exists and defines who he is and how he enacts God’s will for the world. Continue reading
The Good Shepherd. At v.11, the focus shifts to Jesus’ self-revelation as the good shepherd. The identification of Jesus as the shepherd was implicit in the figure of speech in vv.1-5, but it is made explicit for the first time here. As before, the positive image of the good shepherd (vv.11, 14-16) is contrasted with a negative image, that of the hired hand (vv.12-13).
The “I am” saying of v.11a is explained exclusively in metaphorical language in vv.11b-13. That is, after the initial use of a first-person singular pronoun, Jesus never refers to himself directly again. Instead, he draws on images derived from the OT to explain what he means by “good shepherd.” The adjective “good” (kalos) also has the meaning “model” or “true,” and the reference point for what constitutes a model shepherd is set by the image of God as the good shepherd in Ezekiel 34. According to Ezek 34:11-16, God the good shepherd cares for the sheep, rescuing them from the places to which they have been scattered, feeding them, and tending to the weak, the injured, and the lost. By identifying himself as the good shepherd of Ezekiel 34, Jesus thus identifies himself as fulfilling God’s promises and doing God’s work (cf. 4:34; 17:4). Continue reading
The Sheep. The latter part of v.3 (the sheep hear his voice) literally translates as “the sheep the sounds (phōnēs) his hear.” While voice might be part of the range of calls the shepherd might use, perhaps when one considers the use of whistles, “sounds” is the better translation. In any case, the key is the link between recognition of the proper phōnēs and the resulting movement: lead-follow. The movement is also twinned: call-answer, lead-follow, stranger-run away. In one, the movement it towards intimacy (v.4); in the other, the movement is towards separation (v.5). Continue reading
Commentary. Moloney outlines this narrative by the following schema:
- 9:39-41: Introduction. Jesus is questioned by the Pharisees (among whom there is a division) and he condemns them for their blind ignorance
- 10:1-6: Jesus tells a parable about entering the sheepfold and the Pharisees cannot understand. This section is marked with the unique, “Amen, Amen…”
- 10:7-13: Jesus contrasts himself, the door and the Good Shepherd, with others who are thieves, robbers and hirelings. This section is also introduced with “Amen, Amen…”
- 10:14-18: Jesus the Good Shepherd, out of union with the Father, lays down his life for the sheep
- 10:19-21: Conclusion: A division among “the Jews.”
Some thoughts about shepherds. Fr. James Martin, SJ, in his book Jesus: A Pilgrimage notes that most of Jesus’ parables are agricultural in nature, with some nod toward those who harvest the seas for their living; very few are rooted in his own livelihood, carpentry (or more specifically, tecton, a general term for one who works in the building/craft trades). Yet Jesus grew up in Nazareth amongst his neighbors who labored in those areas. Thus, Jesus, while himself not a farmer or fisherman would be familiar through his extended relationships. We are left to speculate the “common knowledge” about shepherds and the care of sheep and what ideas Jesus might have held. Continue reading
1 “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. 2 But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. 5 But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” 6 Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them. 7 So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came (before me) are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. Continue reading
Recently I was taking in a bit of light reading, you know, the classic summer beach novel: easy to read, entertaining, … and no I don’t remember the title. But I remember this, there are good guys being chased by bad guys. The good guys are only armed with their wit, imagination, guile, luck, and their paranoid friend who believes every conspiracy theory is true. But then again, just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean you’re wrong. Continue reading
Pointing to the life in the Early Church. Since these disciples are to continue Jesus’ ministry, perhaps it is not surprising that they are to proclaim the salvific message “in his name.” In fact, what is done in the “name” of Jesus surfaces as an important motif in Acts. Luke will portray a community very much oriented around Jesus (1:1, 21–22)—with salvation offered to “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord” (= Jesus; cf. 2:21, 36), and people directed to be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ” (2:38), appropriating the blessings available through and signaling their allegiance to him. Subsequently in Acts Christians heal (3:6, 16; 4:10, 30; 19:13), preach (4:12; 5:28, 40), and are baptized (8:16; 10:48; 19:5) in the name of Jesus; suffer for his name (5:41; 9:16; 21:13); and are those “who call upon the name” of Jesus (9:14, 21; 22:16). The mission role of the disciples is summarized in the words, “You are witnesses of these things.” Continue reading
Offering Proof. Jesus does not rebuke them for their lack of faith but offers two proofs of his own materiality as evidence of his resurrected existence. Negating two among the several possible categories for imagining the afterlife—one barbaric, the other more sophisticated—Luke first shows that Jesus’ disciples do not mistake him for a cadaver brought back to life (v.37), then confirms that Jesus is not an “immortal soul” free from bodily existence. It is why Jesus assures them with the phrase egō emini autos – “it is I myself” – or in modern English, “It’s really me!” Continue reading