Jesus is the good Shepherd. He knows his sheep, and they know and follow him. But they run away from shepherds they do not know and whose voice they do not recognize.
God condemns rulers who take advantage of their people. They are shepherds who pasture themselves. Accordingly, he promises to dismiss them. He himself will tend his sheep. He will save them from the jaws of opportunistic shepherds.
And God fulfills his promise as he sends us his Son. He looks after us, yes, through Jesus. And the good Shepherd proves himself through his effective compassion for the crowd, since they are like sheep without a shepherd.
Jesus, then, is nothing like the exploitive rulers or shepherds. Unlike them, he looks out not for his own interests but for those of others. His concern is for his sheep. That is why he seeks those who have lost their way or gone astray. He strengthens the weak, binds up wounds and heals the sick.
No, Jesus never leaves those who belong to him. He has great concern for them. He loves them to the end. That is to say, he does not run away to save himself. He protects those the Father gave him, so that no one may be lost except the son of destruction.
Laying down his life for us, Jesus brings to fulfillment his teaching:
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Once again, the good Shepherd differs greatly from shepherds who lord it over their sheep harshly. And one more thing, the good Shepherd fosters unity: “there will be one flock, one Shepherd.”
Give us, oh good Shepherd, shepherds after your own heart, who will shepherd us wisely and prudently. Make us who partake of the table of your Word and Sacrament to me more like you. In that way, we will never play the master (SV.EN XI:313) and will distinguish between true and false shepherds.
22 April 2018
Fourth Sunday of Easter (B)
Acts 4, 8-12; 1 Jn 3, 1-2; Jn 10, 11-18