The Good Shepherd
12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
Such an astonishing intimacy exists between Him and them: I know them, they know me and are docile to my voice..."as the Father knows me and as I know the Father", He dares to say; and this is evidently of great import to the people. He is saying there is a divine intimacy between His Father and Himself, a similar relationship to that with His sheep, the ones whom the Father gave to Him, the elect.
His life is offered for them, it is a sacrifice for them, because they are themselves the sheep of God, as He will clearly illuminate at the end of His statement. The flock which he assembles overflows the ancient fold in which the sheep of God have been gathered up to now: there are many He says, outside of His own, who will come to Him, and He must make of them one under one shepherd.
He does not say what will become of them; only it is time that He take under His care, in order to lead them to unity.
So then, twice Christ affirms in very strong metaphorical language, that He offers his life for His sheep. His offering is not purely ideal; no! it is terribly real. He is saying: I sacrifice my life my own, I die so that they may live. Here is a clear annunciation of His death, the most evident that He has made.
Ah, but now a question arises. If Christ so generously offers His death, having this one thought living in His heart, how can He, at the same time, assert that He is the One who gathers and who maintains the great flock?
This means that His dying is not the same as any man's dying. No. It is unlike any other death.
In the Gospel synoptics, Christ never foretells His death without having it followed by a reawakening, His resurrection. In this Gospel of John the evangelist, Christ does the same, and in doing so, allows us to progress into the mystery.
Christ dies as One who is the Master of the return of life; His death is not a demise; on the contrary, it is the perfect accomplishment of the Good Shepherd: For I do not depart from life, except to resume it, and I have the full power to do so.
It requires a man of great heart to give his life for just one; but Christ was telling His listeners about dying a sacrificial death, but with the great assurance of taking it up again; this is the work of One who has the very power of God. He permits to be seen here Himself, in a unique union, Man and God. And, at the moment when He thus reveals the entire plenitude of His mystery, He carefully marks once more His perfect submission to His Father.
These things were to be said; and we can imagine our Lord saying them. This does not mean the entire audience believed what they heard; but each was captivated by words spoken with such authority. On the preceding days, Christ made it known to the Jews that He was going to die; they had understood it to be a violent death.
The disciples more than once listened to announcements from their Master; never more penetrating as this.
Through the manner in which Christ speaks, the disciples were able to comprehend that His death, for Him, as for them, was a reality of capital importance.
He is the Good Shepherd.
"I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father."
|Le Bon Pasteur ~ The Good Shepherd|
© Angelina Lenahan