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Sunday, March 10, 2013
Today’s Reading | John 10:1–18
“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. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The 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. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I 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. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No 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.” (NRSV)
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Martin Luther’s reframing of the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” to mean that we are actually to help provide for the bodily needs of our neighbors, to enrich life for others, resonates for me. While in seminary, I was similarly drawn to liberation theology, specifically by the Medellin Document and its speaking of God’s saving act as the liberation of the whole human being—not only in a spiritual sense, but in the socioeconomic, physical, and psychological realities of human existence.
As we reflect on Lent, our eyes sometimes focus on the theatrics of Good Friday—the violence, the innocence, the betrayal, the state-imposed death penalty on a cross, the gruesome death of Jesus, and the dashing of the disciples’ hopes. Yet it is Jesus, the one who will die, who says, “I have come that they may have life.” As retired professor Bruce Rigdon pointed out in a lecture on Orthodox Christianity here at Fourth Church, we might all be enriched if Lent had the focus of the Orthodox: Jesus journeys to Jerusalem not simply to die but to live again—for you and for me. In some mystical way, Jesus offers us new life as the Body of Christ, calls us to offer new life to the dying places of our world—for when we offer life to others, we have it to the full and therein lies our freedom.
Fill us with the life of Jesus, that we may have life to the full. Fill us with the life of Jesus that we may offer life to all around us, that we may have life to the full. Fill us with the life of Jesus that we may offer life and be truly free. Amen.
Written by Edwin Estevez, Pastoral Resident
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