Whenever you read a gospel passage, one of the first things to keep in mind is that the division of the text into chapters and verses is historically recent – and sometimes is not the best. So in reading any given passage, we need to always begin with the section before our passage to get a better sense of what may have been happening to provoke the events in the section that we are considering. So in this case, when we are reading chapter 10 of John’s gospel, we need to see what has been happening in chapter 9 – which was the sign of the healing of the man born blind. The healing in turn had provoked questions in the man himself, who moved through various stages of disbelief through belief and ultimately worship (John 9:38). The question that is lingering in the air is – “who is this man Jesus?”
Jesus begins to address this by using the allegory of the good shepherd, the sheepfold and the gate. The shepherd is already a common image in the Hebrew scriptures, finding its height in the figure of the first (and only?) truly good king a millennium before – King David. Other key moments are the Psalm we read today – Psalm 23, as well as the great prophetic challenge of Ezekiel 34.
More significantly, Jesus is making an invitation to all of us today – an invitation to believe in the awesome promise of Christianity – that Jesus does not want us to live a half life, or to reduce the gift of life that he is offering to us to mere morality or religion. He warns us that there will be thieves who will try to steal and kill and destroy. What we sometimes forget is that those thieves are our own expectations, regrets and disappointments with our family and friends.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 8am. (8 mins)
Sunday 4, Easter, Year A. John 10:1-10.