Sermons 2006
"Interesting, this Good Shepherd!" Easter 4B, 7 May 2006, John 10:11-16

Home | "Light and Darkness", Christmas 2C, 31 December 2006, John 1:1-18 | Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2006 | "What then shall we do?", Advent 3C , 17 December 2006, Luke 3:7-18 | "Luke's Gospel", Advent 1C, 3 Dec 2006, Luke 21:25-31 | Which Jesus? Proper 29B 2006, 26 November 2006, John 18:33-37 | Apocalypticism and Fundamentalism, Proper 28B, 19 Nov 2006, Daniel12; Mark 13:14-23 | "The Widow's Mite: All and Everything", Proper 27B, 12 November 2006, Mark 12:38-44 | "The Commandments to love God, Neighbor, One Another" Proper 26B, 5 November 2006, Mark 12:28-34 | "Sight -- and Seeing" Proper 25B, 29 October 2006, Mark 10:46-52 | "Baptism: Overwhelming Washing", Proper 24B, 22 October 2006 Mark 10:35-45 | "God's Transforming Love", Proper 23B, 15 October 2006, Mark 10:17-31 | "Divorce", Proper 22B, 8 February 2006, Mark 10: 2-9 | "Hard Sayings and Sharp Words", Proper 21B, 1 October 2006, Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48 | "First or Last?" Proper 20B, 24 September 2006, Mark 9:30-37 | "Unintended Consequences", Proper 19B, 17 September 2006, Mark 8:27-38 | "Ephphatha! Open up!" Proper 18B, 10 September 2006, Mark 7:31-37 | "Rituals", Proper 17B, 3 September 2006, Deuteronomy 4:1-9; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 | "Choices." Proper 16B, 30 August 2006, Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-25; John 6:60-69 | "Come to the Table." Proper 15B, 20 August 2006, John 6:53-59 | "Do not be afraid." Proper 12B, 30 July 2006, Mark6:45-52 | "General Convention and Jesus' Compassion", Proper 11B, 23 July 2006, Mark 6: 30-44 | "Basics for the Journey", Proper 10B, 16 July 2006, Mark 6:7-13 | "Jesus and Rejection", Proper 9B, 9 July 2006, Mark 6:1-6 | "Trust, Faith, and Belief" Proper 8B, 2 July 2006, Mark 5:22-43 | "Storms, Fear, and Faith" Proper 7B, 25 June 2006, Mark 4:35-41 | Mighty things from Small, Proper 6B, 18 June 2006, Mark 4:26-34 | Trinity, Pentecost 1, 11 June 2006, Exodus 3:1-6; John 3:1-16 | The King Jesus Fire-Baptized Holy Spirit Church, Pentecost , 4 June, Acts 2:1-11; Jn 20:19-23 | "That they may be one" General Convention 2006, Easter 7B 28 May 2006, John 5:9-15 | "Friends, friendship, and love" Easter 6B, 21 May 2006, John 15:9-17 | Mother's Day, two mothers' love!" Easter 5B, 14 April 2006, John 14:15-21 | "Interesting, this Good Shepherd!" Easter 4B, 7 May 2006, John 10:11-16 | "How do you prove you are alive?", Easter 3B, 30 April 2006, Luke 24:36b-48 | "Do you believe because...." Easter 2B, 23 April 2006, John 20:19-31 | "He goes before you to Galilee...." Easter B 2006, 16 April, Mark 16:1-8 | "Journey into darkness", Palm Sunday B, 9 April 2006. Mark 11:1-11, 14:32-15:47 | "Sir, we would see Jesus!" Lent 5B, 2 April 2006, John 12:20-33 | "Miracles and Faith, Ordinary and Not", Lent 4B 2006, 26 March 2006, John 6:4-15 | "Rage, Rampage, and Outrage", Lent 3B, 19 March 2006, John 2: 13-22 | "Images of the Cross", Lent 2B, 12 March 2006, Mark 8:31-38 | "Baptism, Temptation, Redemption," Lent 1B, 5 March 2005, Mark 1:9-13 | Ash Wednesday , 1 March 2006, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 | ""Nanny McPhee' and transfiguration", Epiphany Last B, Mark 9:2-9 | "Jesus, leprosy, and the law of Moses", Epiphany 6B, 12 February 2006, Mark 1:40-45 | "Healing, wholeness, forgiveness, and love", Epiphany 5B, 5 February 2006, Mark 1:29-39 | "Haints, Unclean spirits, and demons" Epiphany 4B, 22 January 2006, Mark 1:21-28 | Epiphany 3B, 22 January 2006, "God's Call -- and Our Response", Mark 1:14-20 | Epiphany 2B, 15 January 2006, "Call and Response", John 1:43-51 | Epiphany 1B, 8 January 2006, "The Baptism of our Lord -- and Ours", Mark 1:7-11 | The Holy Name, 1 January 2006, Luke 2: 15-21

Easter 4B 2006 John 10:11-16

In this short little lesson from St. John's Gospel, we have a snapshot of a continuing controversy that went on between Jesus and the religious leaders of his time. The controversy is about Jesus' true identity. In this particular chapter (or scene) from the controversy, we have Jesus responding to those who question his authority or his identity. Jesus answers in a few short sentences.

There are two things really interesting about this passage and in fact about the whole Fourth Gospel. The first is that, while Jesus appears to be a strong person, willing to move toward his crucifixion in Jerusalem, he also uses odd images. When the religious leaders of the day asked him if he were the Messiah and to tell them plainly, Jesus answered with the image and metaphor of a shepherd. Now the image of the Messiah in the minds of the religious leaders, as you know, was that of a triumphant military leader, riding on horseback at the head of a victorious army, a king on the order of David or Solomon. Certainly not an humble shepherd, certainly not a person on the lower social rungs of the ladder of society in ancient Palestine. Shepherds were looked on with some disdain, as people who had associated so long with sheep that they began to smell and act like them. I don’t think much has changed about this in the Middle East today.

So the first interesting thing was that Jesus disabused them of their notions of what the Messiah would really like. Note also that he did not deny that he was the Messiah. He left them scratching their heads again, for there was nothing that could really upset them in what he said.

The second interesting thing and by far the most important to Christians lies in the structure of the language Jesus used. In Jesus' answer to those who would challenge his authority or identity we have the entire Gospel condensed in just a few words. Indeed, it seems to me that if we look at the four verb forms in the short sentences Jesus uses to answer his critics, we have the Gospel – the Good News that Jesus came to earth to bring to us -- summarized in those four verbs.

The first thing that Jesus says is “I am.” (((Egw eimi) God on the thunderous flaming heights of Mount Sinai, speaking to Moses from the burning bush: “I am who I am.” This is the language of theophany, the language of God’s revelation of himself. “I am the good shepherd.”

The second important verb is to lay down one’s life. Jesus says, "The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." The Greek verb is tithemi (ti<>qhmi)). It has the meaning of giving in the sense of physically kneeling down, or bowing down, or lying totally prone and being totally submissive. Ready for nails through hands and feet, ready to be nailed to the Cross. It is crucifixion language -- and resurrection language rolled into one.

The third thing that Jesus says to his critics is that "I know my own." The verb is to know -- ginoskw. The Greek means in the sense of knowing absolutely. Absolutely and every thing. Jesus says that he knows us absolutely. That is both frightening and comforting, if we think too long about it. It is frightening because of the secrets of and in our lives. We can sometimes keep secrets from family and friends, but to think that Jesus knows us entirely and thoroughly better even than we know ourselves—that there is nothing hidden from his sight—is in many ways a very disconcerting thing. The thoughts of our hearts, the real motives for the apparent good deeds that we do, all of the ways in which we cut corners in life, in all of these things we are known completely, and totally and entirely by Jesus.

But there is more to this knowing. Jesus also knows our needs, our pains, our hurts, and our sorrows. The Gospel begins with the knowledge that God in Christ knows us inside-out, completely, and totally.

To know, lay down life for, and a third great verb: to listen to. He says, "My sheep will listen to my voice."

This is my favorite shepherd and sheep story about this and I’ve told it before: An American tourist was traveling in the Mid East. He came upon several shepherds whose flocks had gotten mixed together as they were drinking water from a stream. One of the shepherds turned toward the sheep and called out, "Manah. Manah. Manah." ("follow me" in Arabic.) At once his sheep separated themselves from the rest and followed him.

Then one of the two remaining shepherds called out, "Manah. Manah." and his sheep left the common flock to follow him. The traveler then said to the third shepherd, "I want to try that. Let me put on your cloak and turban and see if I can get the rest of the sheep to follow me." The shepherd smiled as the traveler wrapped himself in the cloak, put the turban on his head and called out, "Manah. Manah." No response to the stranger's voice. Not one sheep moved toward him.(1)

There is much more that can be said about shepherds in Jesus time. Even though they were in the lowest social and economic class of society isn’t it interesting that our Lord, difficult and surprising as always, declared that he was one of them. “I am the good shepherd,” he declared. And an important thing to remember about this is that, even though Jesus had some friends among the wealthy, they were more acquaintances than close friends.

Jesus did not identify with the wealthy and conservative; Jesus always identified with the outcast, down trodden, oppressed, and poor lower classes of the society into which he was born. Our Good Shepherd defended the harlot who was about to be stoned to death by the self righteous wealthier and proper men of the town; our Good Shepherd sat down to eat with tax collectors and those others branded as sinners by the upper economic and social classes of society; our Good Shepherd picked his most important disciples from among the smelly fishermen of Galilee – people only slightly above shepherds in the minds of proper society, our Good Shepherd was crucified between two thieves, our Good Shepherd laid down his life for us.


1. InterNet sources for this story.

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