The Voice: summary

Christ the Good ShepherdVerses 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 Voice: Jesus

Christ the Good ShepherdThe 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 Voice: the flock

Christ the Good ShepherdThe 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

The Voice: contrasts

Christ the Good ShepherdCommentary. Moloney [301]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.”

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The Voice: about

Christ the Good ShepherdSome 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

The Voice: context

Christ the Good Shepherd1 “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

An abundant life

I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” So, what do you make of the verse? What generally stands out in the hearing and imagination is “the abundant life.” What does it look like? If we don’t have an idea of what it looks like, how will we know when we have it?

Once upon a time in Kenya, an Englishman visiting the central highlands, discovered a beautiful river. Not too far downstream he came upon the chief of the Kikuyu people enjoying a moment of fishing. The chief had a great spot in the shade, the fishing line was tied around his big toe, and the chief seemed like he was napping more than fishing. Continue reading

The voice: some thoughts

A Theological Summary  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 voice: good shepherd

Israel’s leaders were often regarded as shepherds, and even though God was always their principal shepherd, responsible human agents were necessary so that Israel would not be as “sheep without a shepherd” (Num 27:16, 17); and significantly, a charismatic element is said to have rested on such leaders (Num 27:16–21; cf. Isa 11:1–9; 44:28–45:1). God is said to have led the flock Israel through the wilderness by the hand of Moses and Aaron (Ps 77:21; Isa 63:11). Although no Israelite king is ever directly called by the title “shepherd,” it is implied, since David as prince feeds, or shepherds, Israel (2 Sam 5:2), and when Micah predicted the death of Ahab and Israel’s defeat, he said the scattered army would be “as sheep which have no shepherd” (1 Kgs 22:17; 2 Chr 18:16; cf. Num 27:16, 17). Continue reading

The voice: shepherds, robbers and sheep

I AM the Good Shepherd2Amen, 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.

Commentary Moloney [301] 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.”

Continue reading