Monday, May 1, 2017

Shepherd and Gate –– 4th Sunday of Easter, Year A –– 7 May 2017

In both Jeremiah 23:1–4 and Ezekiel 34, the prophets announced God's judgment against the rulers of Judah, describing them as shepherds who scatter and devour the sheep. . . Because they failed to protect the sheep, God decided to remove them from their place of authority and to provide the flock with faithful care. Jeremiah refers to new shepherds sent by God to comfort and strengthen the flock. According to Ezekiel, however, God himself will gather and feed the flock. With these images in the background, Jesus pictures his own authentic leadership for the people of God in two ways. He is the good shepherd who knows the sheep and is recognized by them. He is also the gate for the sheep. – Aaron J. Couch

GOSPEL READING: John 10:1-10

There is a two-edged quality to Jesus' use of these parabolic images. On the one hand, Jesus denounces his opponents. . . [as] thieves and bandits who have entered into the sheepfold by stealth. They are strangers who cause the flock to flee. On the other hand, Jesus uses this image both to characterize his genuine care for God's people and to indicate his own true identity as the shepherd sent by God.

Against the background of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Jesus' claim to be the authorized shepherd for the flock is equivalent to identifying himself as Messiah, the true anointed king of God's people. Jesus' claim is entirely exclusive. All others who have placed themselves in roles of leadership (including King Herod!) are thieves and bandits who cause harm to the flock. . .

Because Jesus is the gate for the sheep, it is only through him that God's people may receive the healing gift of life. The text hints that Jesus is able to make such an expansive and exclusive claim because he is much more than the human ruler anointed to care for God's people.– Aaron J. Couch

FIRST READING: Acts 2:42-47

The early church's life is sometimes referred to as a sort of “communism,” with all things being held “in common.” It is, instead, a profound lived expression of the belief that all things belong to God. . . With gratitude for all of God's gifts, the people of God shared the gifts of God “with glad and generous hearts.” The beauty of this way of living, without greed or selfishness. . . served as an effective witness, so that new believers continued to be added to the faith. – Aaron J. Couch

EPISTLE READING: 1 Peter 2:19-25

Not all suffering is the same. There is no merit in suffering due to criminal wrongdoing, but it is another matter entirely for believers who suffer patiently, even though they have done nothing wrong. . . Such suffering is, in fact, an element of a Christian's vocation. The author identifies three qualities of Jesus' suffering that are to be emulated by believers. Jesus was an innocent sufferer, having done nothing wrong and having spoken no deceit; he did not threaten or rage against his abusers; he trusted fully in the ultimate justice of God. – Aaron J. Couch

Aaron J. Couch is a co-pastor of First Immanuel Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon.

Homily Service 41, no. 2 (2007): 137-144.

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