Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Lord, I thank You for being the door of Your sheep.  I adore You because You hear me, and through You I am saved! The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but Lord You have come so that I may have life and have it more abundantly! Thank You for being the good shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep!
Precious Lord, You are the Good Shepherd. Your Word says that You feed me in good pasture.  To me this means that You will bring me to good places in life; to the best places to feed on spiritually and emotionally! Lord, I am assured that You will feed me and make me lie down; it is in You that I find rest. You seek what is lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick! 
Eternal God, Lord, I was once sheep going astray; but I have now returned to You, the Shepherd and Overseer of my soul! Thank You for watching over me even when I was not faithful to You. Thank You for loving me unconditionally so that I could return to Your flock like I had never left! You are the Good Shepherd, You would leave ninety-nine sheep just to save the one! I adore You for being a shepherd and not a hireling.  You are not a hireling who sees His sheep as a job, but You are the good shepherd who sees His sheep as His children. 
I thank You for the works that You have done in Your Father’s name for they bear witness of You. I believe in You because I am Your sheep, You are my good shepherd. I heard Your voice, know You, and follow You. Lord, on this day, I will give thanks because in You I will never perish! No one will snatch me from Your hand. Your Father, who has given me to You, is greater than them all, Amen.

Psalm 4
1 Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
2 How long will you people turn my glory into shame?
    How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?
3 Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself;
    the Lord hears when I call to him.
4 Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds,
    search your hearts and be silent.
5 Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord.
6 Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?”
    Let the light of your face shine on us.
7 Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound.
8 In peace I will lie down and sleep,  for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.

John 10:1-10
1 Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit.
2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.
5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers."
6 Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7 So again Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.
8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them.
9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."


The Lord is my Shepherd…

How many times have we recited that phrase?  Taken from Psalm 23, it reminds us that with God as our Shepherd, we truly have nothing to fear.  God will lead us, will provide for us, will protect us.  God will never leave us but will bring us home.

Jesus borrows upon this language in John’s Gospel as he addresses the crowds.  Having just healed a man born blind, there begins a debate as to who Jesus truly is…  The religious leaders are desperately trying to protect their own credibility by denouncing Jesus, which is very hard to do when he keeps performing miraculous healings.  They keep pointing to the fact that he does not behave according to their understanding of the law… does not abide by their code of conduct.  

And Jesus responds by painting a word picture, one that would be very familiar to the people of that day.  The sheep pen… where the sheep were kept safe and sound at night.  During the day, the sheep were led out into green pastures and beside quiet waters… along right paths…  But at night, they were brought back into a pen where they were kept safe from the wild animals and thieves.  Frequently, a shepherd who was guarding such a flock would make his bed by the entrance to the pen.  Any sheep wishing to escape would have to pass by the shepherd.  Similarly, any thief would have to contend with the shepherd first… unless he jumped the wall.

Which is exactly the language Jesus uses here…  Jesus is the gate, the way into safety.  And those who choose to enter in another way are thieves…  who come to kill, steal and destroy.

Perhaps it is confusing to hear Jesus refer to himself both as the gate and also as the shepherd…  But besides using differing metaphors to communicate his point, perhaps Jesus was playing on the image of the Shepherd who placed himself at the entrance to the pen to protect his flock?  He was the one who would “lay down his life” for the sheep…

For me, this begins to unlock this picture.  Jesus, the good shepherd, is the one who leads me into green pastures, but is also the one who leads me into safety… and who stands guard over me.  Anything, or anyone, who tries to get in any other way… perhaps through self-effort, or riches, or power… has another agenda.  And that agenda kills, steals and destroys.

Perhaps you are thinking I am being harsh or overly dramatic here, but give me a moment to play this out.  Jesus, the good shepherd, is the one who gives us our identity as beloved children.  Jesus is the one who has paid the debt of sin and death.  Jesus is the one who promises to lead us safely through… even through death and into eternal life.  Jesus is the one who promises to give life that is life indeed (otherwise called abundant living.)

The other choices?  Choosing our own identity?  Making our own way?  Depending on ourselves? We are always searching and comparing and judging and wondering… is it enough?  And our peace of heart and mind are stolen.  Our joy of life dies as we continually strive to measure up.  And our witness, our effectiveness is destroyed when it eventually all falls apart.

There are two powerful images here that are both fundamentally important.  Jesus is the one that leads us out and into true living.  He is the one that can provide all that we need.  But as Psalm 4:8 reminds us, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  Jesus, our Shepherd, will offer us protection so that we can rest.  In Him we are safe and secure.


Go now with your trust in the good shepherd,
and let us love, not just in words,but in truth and action.

Believe in the name of Jesus Christ,and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

And may God be at your side, even in valleys of death.   May Christ Jesus be the cornerstone of your life.      And may the Holy Spirit abide in you..and tend you with love and mercy all the days of your life.

We go in peace to love and serve the Lord,In the name of Christ. Amen.


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