22At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 25Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30The Father and I are one.”
Oremus online text: http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=John+10:22-30&vnum=yes&version=nrsv
Textweek general resources: http://www.textweek.com/yearc/easterc4.htm
Textweek resources for John’s Gospel this Sunday: http://www.textweek.com/mkjnacts/jn10c.htm
Chris Haslam’s commentary: http://montreal.anglican.org/comments/archive/ceas4l.shtml
Some interesting articles on this passage:
William Loader’s commentary: http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/LkEaster4.htm
Peter Gomes: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0MDO/is_4_30/ai_106941566
Margaret Guenther: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1058/is_n14_v112/ai_16883528/
Part of the great multitude no one can count, we gather O God, and attend to the voice of the Good Shepherd. Keep us safe in those arms from which no one can snatch us, that we may proclaim your word in peace until at last we stand before the Lamb, whith songs of praise on our lips. We ask this through the Lord Jesus, our Passover and our Peace, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever.
From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year C, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.
We arrive this Sunday at Good Shepherd Sunday, and are given a great theological and ecclesiological metaphor for our relationship with Jesus Christ.
At first glance, I am struck by a few things to help me discern how to preach and teach on Jesus’ words to the people in the Temple portico. Is the festival of the Dedication important in the story? How does this ritual tie into the teaching of Jesus at this moment? The children of Abraham-the Jews-want a straight answer about Jesus’ messiah-ship, what are they seeking to know? Why does Jesus say they are not his sheep? What does it mean to be a sheep of Jesus’? Are we one with God in our connection to the shepherd? Are there ecclesiological challenges posed by this that live themselves out in our liturgy and common life together?
So, let’s turn to the text. Is the festival of the Dedication important in the story? How does this ritual tie into the teaching of Jesus at this moment? This feast in the Jewish calendar is the feast of Hanukkah, which remembers the night in the midst of the Maccabean victories when Judas Maccabeus drove out the Syrians who had desecrated the altar. He then built a new altar and the feast remembers the consecration of that altar. It had come to symbolize a renewal of the people and their dedication. In some way the answer to my proposition may be that we recognize that as the Temple is being renewed, and the worshippers gathered being renewed, Jesus stands before them offering renewal of a different kind. Will they see that this is passing away as the “bride groom” stands in their midst--no need for an intermediary any longer?
I am reminded of Abram who journeys out from the land of Ur of the Chaldeans and along his way erects altars to God renewing his commitment to the God who had called him forth. In some way I wonder how Jesus, as the high priest who stands at his table Sunday after Sunday, offers an image and the very real opportunity for rededication to God, which an altar far away in a foreign land does not. The unique nature of Christian communities at worship is the presence, not of a priest, but of Christ. I will come back to this in a minute.
The children of Abraham, the Jews, want a straight answer about Jesus’ messiah-ship, what are they seeking to know? When they say they are in suspense, they literally mean “taking away our life” (R. Brown, John, vol. 1, 403). Raymond Brown suggests in his text that John is himself implying that in laying down Jesus’ life, he is taking something away from these people (403). There is a definite conflict building at this point in the Gospel narrative between Jesus and those who choose not to follow. I can imagine the anxiety building and the desire to be certain before choosing which path to follow that is before these good people who are trying to decide just what they are supposed to do as good religious people.
Why does Jesus say they are not his sheep? What does it mean to be a sheep of Jesus?
It is clear throughout the Gospel of John that those who do not bear witness to Christ are not followers of Christ; perhaps Jesus is saying no more or less than this? In the midst of this celebration of rededication one can imagine the juxtaposition of Jesus and his ministry as the Way and the renewal of a former way of worshiping and practicing one’s faith through life falling away.
Are we one with God in our connection to the shepherd? Jesus is clear that he is one with the Father, his ministry is given to him by the Father, and the sheep are his only through the Father.
Raymond Brown summarizes this passage well with these words:
To hear the voice of Jesus one must be “of God”, and “of the truth.” While this dualistic separation of Jesus’ audience into two groups is clearer in John than in the Synoptics, we should not that in Matthew 16:16-17 what enables Peter to recognize Jesus as Messiah and Son of God is the revelation Peter has from the Father. In Johannine terminology Peter and the other members of the Twelve are sheep given to Jesus by the Father, and so they hear his voice and know who he is. Those in John wo do not hear are like those in the Synoptics who hear the parables but do not understand…Jeremias [Joachim Jeremias, German Lutheran New Testament scholar and theologian] seems to do more justice to the whole – the community of his followers which after his death developed into the primitive Christian community (Acts 20:28-29; I Peter 5:3; I Clement 44:3, 56:2).
Are there ecclesiological challenges posed by this that live themselves out in our liturgy and common life together? We often get so focused on who is “in” and who is “out” in this passage we miss an important part of Jesus’ teaching, and an important part of theological history and ecclesiological life. It’s clear that those who follow Jesus follow him because-to use a modern term-his voice calling them by name resonates in their hearts. Out of the recognition that Jesus Christ is the risen Lord, followers proclaim he is such, and shape their lives in keeping with Jesus’ ministry.
As we step into our worshiping communities on Sunday with Jesus’ words in our minds, we are conscience of the fact that we are all sheep under the one Shepherd. This is true. It is also true that, as Christians, we emulate and attempt to practice the faith of Christ and so we engage in the work of shepherding too.
If we take a liturgical example from the writings of the Orthodox theologian John Zizioulas, we see that Christ is the great high priest and is the celebrant of the Eucharistic feast in all places. The bishop is the primary symbol for the church of Christ’s presence at the altar. The priest is the regular symbol of the bishop and then of Christ at the altar. (I admit this is a far simpler and less aesthetically pleasing rehearsal of Zizioulas’ thoughts.)
I believe a similar symbology might be applied to the work of shepherding. Christ is the great Shepherd of the sheep. Christ models shepherding for us. The bishop is the chief symbol of Christ’s work as the head of the local community and shepherd of the sheep of a diocese. The priests in turn are the on the ground shepherds in the congregations. But I would add that the people are also shepherds, the baptized community who proclaims Jesus Christ is the symbol of the shepherd in the world.
We do a similar thing with the Body of Christ theology when we say we are the body of Christ in the world. What I am struggling to get to is the idea that all of us often get so caught up in being sheep we don’t realize that we are the everyday, hour by hour, shepherds sent into the world to gather in the others. We are the ones seeking the 1 in 99. We are to be the ones who share in the work of holding the sheep tight and safely when danger comes. We are the shepherds who cannot flee when the going gets rough. We are the gates most people find when they enter community.
Everyone who goes to church has the opportunity the rest of the week to take what is learned from the great shepherd of the sheep, Jesus Christ, and to engage in the practice of shepherding Christ’s flock in the world.
Who are the shepherds and who are the sheep in this video of mission, ministry, and stewardship? Sheep and shepherds all?
The Lambeth Bible Study Method
This Bible study method was introduced by the African Delegation to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church. It is known by both names: "Lambeth" and "African." This method is derived from the practice of Lectio Divina. The entire process should take about 30 minutes.
Question #5: "Briefly identify where this passage touches their life today," can change based upon the lesson. Find lesson oriented questions at this website: http://www.dcdiocese.org/word-working-second-question
Opening Prayer: O Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. One person reads passage. This person then invites a member of the group to begin the process.
2. Each person briefly identifies the word or phrase that catches their attention then invites another person to share.
3. Each shares the word or phrase until all have shared or passed using the same invitation method.
4. The passage is read a second time, preferably from a different translation. The reader then invites a person in the group to begin the process.
5. Each person briefly identifies where this passage touches their life today, and then invites someone who has not shared yet.
6. The passage is read a third time, also from another translation, and the reader invites a person to start the process.
7. Each person responds to the questions, "What does God want me to do, to be or to change?"
8. The group stands up in a circle and holds hands. One person initiates the prayer “I thank God today for …” and “I ask God today for…” The prayer goes around the circle by squeezing the hand to your right.
9. When the circle is fulfilled, the person who initiated the prayer starts the Lord’s Prayer, “Our father…”