March 12, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from John 10:11-15.
“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.”
Beginning with verse 1 this passage is a direct extension of the story of the blind man as becomes apparent in verse 19. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary points out that the Greek word translated as “good” is closer to meaning “noble” or “ideal” and not as the opposite of bad or in the sense of being proficient at something.
This metaphor of the good shepherd is one of the reasons I enjoy reading the gospel of John so much. John has a way of conveying the intimate nature of God’s love for me that is incomparable. The communion between Jesus and his Father is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It is a mutuality, a continuous flowing back and forth, a union that makes Jesus and God indistinguishable one from the other. Of course, that’s what John is describing here. Jesus is telling me that this is the relationship he wants with me as well — the kind of knowing, of intimacy, that is beyond all understanding. The point is that it is not for me to understand; it is for me to simply relax into, to experience in a way that blots everything else out. I think that’s the only way that I can truly “know” God. From what I have read I think that’s the objective of meditation — an emptying of myself so that I can experience the fulness of God and His love for me. That is ridiculously difficult for me, so difficult that I seldom even try. There’s too much to do, too much to think about.
Jesus is the good, the ideal, shepherd. He was willing to lay aside his very life for me because he loves me. That’s the ideal that he wants me to follow. He wants me to lay aside all the clutter in my life, to die to life so to speak in order that I can know him, to be in union with him as he is with the Father. It’s a tall order for me, one that I resist. This Lent I have told myself that I am going to spend a few minutes in the morning trying. I may have to awaken a little earlier than usual. Maybe that will allow me to put off the intrusions of life for a few minutes. We’ll see how that goes!