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Sunday, April 22, 2018
Today’s Scripture Reading | John 10:11–18
“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)
Jesus as the Good Shepherd is a very familiar and much beloved image. Growing up, I attended a church that had just one small stained-glass window above the front altar—a small circle featuring Jesus with a shepherd’s crook and a lamb in his arms, two more sheep gazing up at him from the grass. It’s a comforting, child-friendly, tried-and-true picture of the Christ. It’s a passage I thought I’d ruminated on plenty over the years.
But upon rereading this text, verse 16 leapt out from the page: “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.”
So often we think of Jesus as the Good Shepherd laying down his life for the sheep already in the flock. He goes out to find the ones who have been with him but have wandered off, caring for each one specially. Individual communities of faith invoke that image to care for those in our midst, to comfort ourselves, and to focus inward.
However, the Jesus we claim to emulate cares just as much for the sheep “that do not belong to this fold.” Those sheep may not look, sound, speak, or act anything like the way we do. They may not have any interest in the shepherd. But that does not mean that they don’t matter to Jesus. And so they should matter to us. Every “sheep.” Every one.
Good Shepherd God, thank you for your care for me when I wander and when I’m in trouble. Help me look beyond myself and my familiar flock to recognize each person I meet as one of your beloved ones as well. May I serve them as you would. Amen.
Written by Sarah van der Ploeg, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church
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