April 29, 2012: 4th Sunday of Easter
Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A hired man, who is not a shepherd
and whose sheep are not his own,
sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away,
and the wolf catches and scatters them.
This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice,
and there will be one flock, one shepherd.
This is why 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 on my own.
I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.
This command I have received from my Father.” (John 10:11-18)
Unless you are from a farm family, most of you may not know what a real shepherd does. But this gospel tells us that “a good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep!” That is a big order–one I think most of us do not think is what a shepherd is really expected to do. But the gospel is quite clear, so I think Jesus is using this story to force us to understand what he is in this world to do. As we know, Jesus was sent from God to bring God’s word–and God’s love–into this world. But he always knew that in order to do this, he would be crucified, so that we would know that he was willing to be killed for our sake. And, his hope was that, if we knew that, we would know how important it was for God to make his love for us known–so important that God was willing for his son to be crucified.
Think as deeply as you can about what this story means–about what Jesus was willing to do in order for all of us to be able to enter heaven and live happily with him forever. God is not someone who wants to give anyone pain–God wants us always to be happy and pain-free. But both God and his son, Jesus, were willing to have Jesus go through this very painful death so that their love for us would be so clear we would never question it. That shows us the depths of their love. During this next week, try to think of some way you can show your deep love to them also.