Follow the Shepherd

WORK: BIBLE ARCHAEOLOGY: young boy shepherd with flock

This Sunday we’ll read another set of Jesus’ statements of “I Am” – in this case, “I Am the door” and “I am the Good Shepherd”. We’ll be reading John 10:1-21 where Jesus gives a discourse that provides a contrast to the corrupted religious system that had just rejected the formerly blind man, and Messiah who went to find him.

The story is the closest thing to a parable that we find in John’s gospel, and it uses imagery that would have been familiar to the first hearers but which is almost totally foreign to us.

He describes a practice of shepherding where there appeared to be a common sheep pen used by multiple shepherds. This pen would likely be a circular stone walled enclosure with one gap which would be guarded to ensure the security of the sheep. The shepherds would be known by the gatekeeper, and their sheep would follow them by the sound of their unique call, or whistle, or a tune played on a flute.

This good and proper practice is contrasted with sheep rustlers who sneak over the fence to steal sheep – forcing them to go with them.

Then Jesus changes the metaphor, where HE is a door for the sheep. This still stays within the shepherd mold as well. Shepherds would sometimes sleep in the gap of the enclosure, as the first line of defense against robbers or predators that might threaten the sheep. He would literally become a door to the pen.

He talks about motives – the motives of hired hands and the motives of a good and true shepherd.

All of this is meant to contrast the values and purpose of the kingdom of God over against a religious system. As you read this description by Jesus,what are the main characteristics of his relationship to his followers? In what ways can a religious system manifest the characteristics of the robbers Jesus described?

Jesus seems to be trying to encourage people like the formerly blind man that religion may reject them, but it doesn’t really matter. Following Jesus is where real life is found. But this begs the question…how do we KNOW we’re following Jesus and not a religious system? How can we discern what or who we’re following by the clues Jesus gives us in this story?

This is an important issue to consider. I’m looking forward to digging into this on Sunday – hope to see you there!