Lexegete ™ | Year B | St. Mark
Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 3, 2009
Psalm 23 (1)
1 John 3:16-24
Prayer of the Day
O Lord Christ, good shepherd of the sheep, you seek the lost and guide us into your fold. Feed us, and we shall be satisfied; heal us, and we shall be whole. Make us one with you, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Alleluia. Jesus says, I am | the good shepherd.
I know my own and my | own know me. Alleluia. (John 10:14)
1a. CONTEXT: John 10:11-18
The background for the Good Shepherd pericopes is to be found in ch. 9, where Jesus gives sight to a man born blind. The man's blindness is symbolic and he represents everyone. The evangelist is saying that all people are born spiritually blind and remain blind until they are enabled to see by Jesus. When the man confesses his faith that Jesus is the Messiah, he is cast out of the synagogue (9:22). Jesus then seeks him out. When Jesus in ch. 10 says, "I am the good shepherd," and speaks of the sheepfold, this is to indicate that there is a new fellowship into which Christian believers alienated from their native religious communities will be received. Jesus cares for his sheep to the point of laying down his life for them. If this seems unwise strategy for a shepherd, ch. 11 assures us that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Furthermore, those who believe in him, even though they die, will live (11:25-26). Though the aged and sick are comforted by the words, "The Lord is my shepherd," and many children as they go to bed pray, "Jesus, tender shepherd hear me. Bless your little lamb tonight," it cannot be assumed that 20th century Americans, most of whom live in cities and have little to do with animals, well understand pastoral imagery. Indeed, if religious metaphors are to be drawn from animal husbandry, it would seem almost more appropriate that in America hogs and swineherds, or cows and cowboys be featured. Texts helpful in setting forth the Old Testament background of this imagery are Numbers 27:15-23; 1 Samuel 16:1-13; 17: 34-35; Ezekiel 34: Isaiah 40:11.
1b. TEXT: John 10:11-18
Jn. 10:11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Jn. 10:12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away-- and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
Jn. 10:13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.
Jn. 10:14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,
Jn. 10:15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.
Jn. 10:16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
Jn. 10:17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
Jn. 10:18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father."
11 Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ποιμὴν ὁ καλός: ὁ ποιμὴν ὁ καλὸς τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ τίθησιν ὑπὲρ τῶν προβάτων: 12 ὁ μισθωτὸς καὶ οὐκ ὢν ποιμήν, οὗ οὐκ ἔστιν τὰ πρόβατα ἴδια, θεωρεῖ τὸν λύκον ἐρχόμενον καὶ ἀφίησιν τὰ πρόβατα καὶ φεύγει καὶ ὁ λύκος ἁρπάζει αὐτὰ καὶ σκορπίζει 13 ὅτι μισθωτός ἐστιν καὶ οὐ μέλει αὐτῷ περὶ τῶν προβάτων. 14 Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ποιμὴν ὁ καλός, καὶ γινώσκω τὰ ἐμὰ καὶ γινώσκουσί με τὰ ἐμά, 15 καθὼς γινώσκει με ὁ πατὴρ κἀγὼ γινώσκω τὸν πατέρα: καὶ τὴν ψυχήν μου τίθημι ὑπὲρ τῶν προβάτων. 16 καὶ ἄλλα πρόβατα ἔχω ἃ οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τῆς αὐλῆς ταύτης: κἀκεῖνα δεῖ με ἀγαγεῖν, καὶ τῆς φωνῆς μου ἀκούσουσιν, καὶ γενήσονται μία ποίμνη, εἷς ποιμήν. 17 διὰ τοῦτό με ὁ πατὴρ ἀγαπᾷ ὅτι ἐγὼ τίθημι τὴν ψυχήν μου, ἵνα πάλιν λάβω αὐτήν. 18 οὐδεὶς αἴρει αὐτὴν ἀπ∍ ἐμοῦ, ἀλλ∍ ἐγὼ τίθημι αὐτὴν ἀπ∍ ἐμαυτοῦ. ἐξουσίαν ἔχω θεῖναι αὐτήν, καὶ ἐξουσίαν ἔχω πάλιν λαβεῖν αὐτήν: ταύτην τὴν ἐντολὴν ἔλαβον παρὰ τοῦ πατρός μου.
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition | © 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;
The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition © 1975, United Bible Societies, London
2. ANALYSIS: John 10:11-18
There are two parables in 10:1-5. In 1-3a the imagery has to do with the gate and the gatekeeper. In 3b-5 the theme is the relationship of the shepherd to his sheep. This latter parable is explained in 10:11-16. 10:17-18 are a commentary on Jesus' statement, "I lay down my life for the sheep" (Brown, Anchor Bible). 10:11. Ego eimi ho poimen ho kalos. This is one of the "I am" sayings of the Fourth Gospel. The
emphasis should be on "I" and "good." Brown proposes that kalos be translated "model." Ten psuchen autou tithesin. There is a slight difference between the meaning of "lays down his life" in v. 11 and "lay down my life" in v. 15. The good shepherd is willing to risk his life for his sheep (1 Sam. 17:34-35, Am. 3:12, cf. Judg. 12:3), whereas Jesus has freely given his own life for the sheep.
10:12-13. Misthotos, lukos. Macgregor notes a difference between the timid hired hand of v. 12 and the marauding thieves and robbers of vv. 1, 8. Hoskyns sees here the distinction between hostile attacks from the outside and desertion from the inside. Cf. Acts 20:29. For a shepherd's flight from wolves, see 2 Esdras 5:18.
10:14-15. Ginosko ta ema kai ginoskousi me ta ema, kathos ginoskei me ho pater kago ginosko . . . Bultmann states that here as in the Farewell Discourses the relationship between the Revealer and his own is reciprocal. They are determined by him and he by them. Since, however, this mutual relationship is grounded in God, it is not circular, as in mysticism, and differences do not disappear. The revelation
never loses its character of address and challenge.
10:16. Alla probata echo. Barrett, Bernard, and Hoskyns state that the reference to the "other sheep" implies the Gentile mission. Brown agrees, but in a later JBL article he uses the phrase "other sheep not of this fold" to suggest that it could refer to an instance of late first century ecumenism, as Johannine Christians reached out to Christians of the apostolic churches, as well as to secessionist Johannine
10:17. Dia touto me ho pater agapa. Nygren is of the opinion that the absolutely unmotivated NT idea of agape is somewhat weakened in the Johannine writings, because a reason is sometimes given for God's love, both of the Son, as in 10:17, and of the disciples, as in 16:27. It must be granted that the Fourth Evangelist does not use agapan in a restrictive sense. It can even be used to describe preferring
darkness rather than the light (3:19), or human praise more than the praise of God (12:43). It appears that agapan and philein are sometimes used interchangeably. In 10:17 and 16:27, where God's love is motivated, this can be interpreted as a further development of election love. The Son has in every sense done what the Father sent him into the world to do. The disciples have kept the commandments, as branches they have remained in the vine, and consequently they continue to bear fruit. They do not do this apart from God's grace, nor is their obedience merit on their part. At least as far as the disciples are concerned, God's love continues to be unmotivated in its original sense, but those whom this love wins it can use as its instruments in its redemptive purpose.
10:18. Oudeis eren (airei) psuchen mou. Barrett and Brown state that the aorist (eren, has taken) is the more difficult reading and to be preferred, though both the RSV and the NRSV translate (airei, takes). This appears to be another instance where Jesus during his ministry speaks of his death and resurrection in the past tense. Exousian echo palin labein auten. Elsewhere in the NT, the resurrection of Jesus is an act of God. Jesus, however, does not claim to act independently of the Father (cf. 5:30).
3. STRATEGY: John 10:11-18
One possible approach to this text is to stress the uniqueness of Jesus, the good shepherd, who, by virtue of having laid down his life for his sheep and taken it again, defends his flock, knows his own and is known by them, and is a source of unity as his voice is heard and heeded.
Another approach is to examine what is implied when we as human beings consider ourselves as sheep. Do we have the attributes of sheep, so that we are weak and helpless without a shepherd, easily frightened and stampeded, following in distress any leader, even if he is jumping off a cliff? Here an examination of the 23rd Psalm (the psalm for the day) may be helpful. The author confesses need for a
shepherd, but when he writes, "Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil," we should not first of all imagine some sick or aged person being comforted as death draws near (though the psalm can certainly be used in this way), but a person going without fear on a dangerous mission. Thus those who are sheep may also exercise the shepherd's role. Indeed this is one of the ways the Good Shepherd
continues to lead and guide us.
Leaders of congregations are called “ pastors” (shepherds) and one of the signs of the bishop's office is the shepherd's staff. The shepherd's role can, however, be democratized. Luther writes in The Freedom of a Christian : "As our heavenly Father has in Christ freely come to our aid, we also ought freely to help our neighbor through our body and its works, and each one should become as it were a Christ to the other that we may be Christs to one another and Christ may be the same in all, that is, that we may be truly Christians. . . . Surely we are named after Christ, not because he is absent from us, but because he dwells in us, that is, because we believe in him and are Christs one to another and do to our neighbors as Christ does to us." To be a Christian is to have a risen Shepherd, but also to be called to a shepherding role.
4. REFERENCES: John 10:11-18
Barrett, C. K. The Gospel according to St John. London: S.P.C.K., l958.
Bernard, J. H. Gospel according to St. John, vol. II, ICC. New York: Charles
Scribner's Sons, 1929.
Brown, Raymond E. The Gospel according to John, Anchor Bible, vol. 29. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1966.
Brown, R. E. "'Other Sheep not of this Fold': The Johannine Perspective on Christian Diversity in the Late First Century," JBL, 97:5-22.
Bultmann, Rudolf. The Gospel of John. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1971.
Hoskyns, Edwyn C. The Fourth Gospel, edited by F. N. Davey, 2nd ed. London: Faber & Faber, 1947.
Luther's Works, vol. 31. Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1957, 367-8.
Macgregor, G. H. C. The Gospel of John. New York: Harper's, 1928.
Nygren, Anders. Agape and Eros. Transl. Philip S. Watson. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1953, 146-159.
Exegete: Bernhard Erling, PhD, ThD
Dr. S. Bernhard Erling is Professor Emeritus of Religion at Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minnesota. Dr. Erlng holds degrees from Gustavus Adolphus (B.A.), Augustana Theol. Seminary (B.D.), Chicago (M.A.), Yale (Ph.D.), and Lund (Th.D.). He is author of a study of Anders Nygren, Nature and History [Studia theologica lundensia : Skrifter utgivna av Teologiska fakulteten], Lund: C.W.K. Gleerup, 1960; and A Reader’s Guide to Dag Hammarskjold’s Waymarks (St. Peter, MN, 1999.)
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