Fourth Sunday of Easter 2024
John 10:11-18

Reading this Gospel passage again, I’m struck not by the characteristics of the ideal first-century shepherd, but by what Jesus says about his life: ‘I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No-one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will, and as it is in my power to lay it down, so it is in my power to take it up again; and this is the command I have been given by my Father.’

In this middle section of John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks openly of his Father, coming from the Father, teaching with the words of the Father, being one with the Father.  He heals the man born blind and there is much dispute among the people and the scribes and Pharisees about who he is and where he comes from.  Is he the Messiah?  Or has he a demon?  If he’s a sinner, how can he do what he does, say what he says?   And now he tells them a parable about leadership, and tells them why he has come: so that the sheep who follow the real shepherd will have abundant life.  He has the power to give this, and he tells them: I AM the good shepherd who will give up his life for the sheep; I AM the good shepherd who knows the sheep, and whose sheep recognise him. The life he lays down he will take up again, through his own authority.

From where we stand, Jesus could not be any clearer with the crowds and the religious authorities of his time. Many of the people have nothing to lose; it’s wonderful for them to hear what Jesus says, and to see and be affected by the things he does, to begin to speak of him as the Messiah.  The folk from the Temple are a different matter.  Despite looking out for the Messiah, they hear about what Jesus says and does, sometimes hearing and seeing for themselves, and they question him, but his answers leave them paralysed and riven with doubt.  The authority he shows convinces some, hardens the hearts of others. In the next chapter he demonstrates that authority over death when he calls Lazarus from the tomb.  And then the fat really is in the fire.

What does the authority described by Jesus in this passage mean to you?


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