Fourth Sunday of Easter 21.4.13 John 10: 22-30

16 04 2013

A Request for Straight Talking

Jesus frustrates the Jews’ desire for plain speaking, and instead starts to speak about sheep and spirituality.  

John 10: 22-30

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’ 25Jesus answered, ‘I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30The Father and I are one.’

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

  1. Why does location matter here?
  2. Does time matter too?
  3. Why does Jesus not answer directly?

Heart Questions

  1. How do you think the Jews feel about Jesus’ answer?
  2. How do sheep feel about being sheep?
  3. How do you feel about the unity of the Father and  Jesus (included or excluded)?

Hand Questions

  1. Is it more important to know who Jesus is, or to hear his voice?
  2. What ethical obligations come with the gift of eternal life?
  3. What is the greatest gift you have ever given?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you.  That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands.  Take your time.





Fourth Sunday of Easter 29.4.12 John 10.11-18

17 04 2012

True Care

This short passage from John’s gospel follows on from another one (copied below) which introduces the theme, John 10.1-10. Those verses are, perhaps, an easier quarry for the preacher as the contrast is between Jesus and robbers. Note that the word ‘robber’ is the same as is used later in John’s gospel to describe Barabbas – the people’s choice (John 18.40). In the later verses (John 10.11-18) the contrast is between Jesus and hired hands. Unfortunately, the preacher might just be a hired hand.

John 10.11-18

Jesus said ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And

Good Shepherd from Corinth

Good Shepherd from Corinth (Photo credit: diffendale)

I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’

Reflections and Questions

‘the hired-hand… leaves the sheep and runs away’ v 12 This is weak, cowardly behaviour. It is self-interested and self-protective and therefore fickle and unreliable.

What might make you run away? What is your wolf?

‘the hired hand does not care for the sheep.’ v 13. This is a painful description. Care is a virtue which can’t be feigned. Sooner or later the non-caring carer will be revealed as a fraud.

How do we know if our own care is genuine?

‘I know my own and my own know me’ v14  You can’t get away from intimacy and mutuality in this passage. We are talking about depth of relationship here.

Try changing the word ‘know’ to ‘love’ and see how that informs the way you hear these rich words. What other transpositons might open up the passage for you?

‘they will listen to my voice.’ v16  The word ‘voice’ matters for John. It conveys something of depth. It is far more than ‘words’. 

What does ‘voice’ mean to you? Do you have the voice of a good shepherd, one which will mean something to ‘other sheep’?

The previous verses:

John 10.1-10

Jesus said, ‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ 6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7 So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.