The Good Shepherd: Meditation for the second Sunday after Easter
In the prayer (Collect) for the day, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who “was brought again from the dead”, is described as “that great shepherd of the sheep”. The entire Collect is obviously taken from the Benediction in the Epistle (Heb. 13:20-21), which has also been generally adopted for the Benediction at burial services. The role of Jesus Christ as “that great shepherd of the sheep”, the good shepherd that gives His life for the sheep, as He claims/asserts in the Gospel for the day (John 10:11) is connected to His death and resurrection, where He died for His people and resurrected to empower them to please God in their lives. They will no longer be “weary and scattered like sheep having no shepherd” (Matt. 9:36), consequent on the carelessness, negligence and wickedness of their leaders.
A shepherd is to care for the sheep by tending, guiding and guarding them. The Bible often pictures the people of Israel as sheep, and God as their shepherd. Their leaders, representing God, are also pictured as the (under) shepherds of the people. But they are often bad shepherds, who rather devour and feed on the sheep than protect and feed them. Their misdoings provoked God and He pronounced judgment on them.
Our Lord Jesus is the good Shepherd, Who, by His death and resurrection, has shown what it means to be a good shepherd. Also, as the good shepherd, He should be followed and obeyed.
Reflections on the Bible Readings for Day
The OT passage (Ezek. 34:1-10) is God’s rebuke of the shepherds of Israel (their leaders). They were committed to enjoying the privileges of being shepherds and taking good care of themselves at the expense of the sheep. They also failed to take good care of the sheep or seek for the lost ones.
The misdoings of the shepherds resulted in the scatterings of the sheep.
But God would not let the shepherds go scot-free. They would be held to pay for their misdoings and faithlessness.
The Epistle (Heb. 13:1-21) is a concluding exhortation, which provides rules for Christian living and a benediction. The key to the ethical exhortations of the passage is in the first verse, which reads: “Keep on loving each other as brothers.” It is only this kind of brotherly love that can generate real care characteristic of a shepherd. Christians should, unlike Cain, be their brothers’ keepers. They should be shepherds to one another. The leaders (who are the accredited shepherds) should be obeyed and the faith of those of them worthy should be imitated. But, ultimately, in the benediction, our Lord Jesus Christ is acknowledged and proclaimed the “great Shepherd of the sheep”. Every other shepherd is a miniature one.
The Gospel (Jn 10:7-16) contains two of the seven self-descriptions of Jesus generally known as the “I am” statements. They are the claims of Jesus, which are mirrors for viewing His life and personality. Here, Jesus made two categorical statements about Himself and they are connected to His relationship to the sheep. He said:
“I am the gate for the sheep” (vs 7) and “I am the good shepherd.” (Vs. 11). The two roles are related in that they both lead the sheep to life. The gate leads the sheep to salvation and pasture. It also gives access to the shepherd who comes in to provide the sheep with care and nurture. The gatemen open for him, but not for a thief or a robber, who rather enters through some other ways to steal and devour the sheep. In claiming to be the good shepherd, Jesus further distinguishes between the good shepherd and the hireling. The good shepherd lays his down life for the sheep. But a hireling cannot risk his life for the sheep. He will rather take to his heels at the approach of a wolf. As the good Shepherd, Jesus died for us so that we will live. He has by so doing shown us how to be a good shepherd.
The Venerable Dr Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba is the Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.
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