Lectionary Year A
April 21, 2002
John 10:1-10

Step V: Distillation/Hermeneutical Bridge

A.Summary of Salient Features

(RR) 1. My first (Ah Ha) came when I discovered that the Shepherd is God and that God's children are the sheep of the fold. There is only one shepherd. Jesus is God incarnate and was sent by God to reveal who God is, God's love for us, and to save those who believe in Jesus.
2. We cannot be shepherds, but must strive to be like the Shepherd.
3. My next (AhHa) came when I discovered that Jesus is the gate, but is also the gate for the sheep. This means that Jesus is the means and also the way to enter and receive Salvation.
4. Salvation is available to all who believe in Jesus. It is by believing that Faith and God's Grace allows the children of God to enter heaven and Salvation.
5. Jesus is the gate for the sheep. The sheep are God's children who must learn to follow and to recognize the shepherd's voice as he will call them by name. We must listen for the voice.
6. There is a relationship between the shepherd and the sheep. This is how they come to know him. To know God we must be in relationship with Jesus.
7. We learn that the gatekeeper is a hired hand who will flee at the sight of the wolves. How many times have we experienced this in our lives when the wolves were about to get us and the gatekeeper was nowhere to be found?
8. The sheep will not follow strangers who do not enter by the gate. These are the thieves and robbers who want to kill and destroy them. The sheep are totally defenseless and dependent on the shepherd, and have one chance to survive the stranger's approach. Run! Run away. This was the figure of speech used by Jesus to identify the Pharasees and the harm they were doing to the sheep.
9. The thief and robber come to kill and destroy, but Jesus, the "Good Shepherd" came so that the sheep could have life and to the full. ( abundant life ).
10. And as we learned, the "Good Shepherd" voluntarily gives up his life so the sheep might Live. There is no greater love.

(BD)1. Jesus is the widow/door to God, and God is the shepherd.
2. Are sheep smarter than we are, I am not sure we always run from the thief and robber even when we think we know the shepherd's voice?
3. What happens when the sheep turns into a Pharisee when they are inside the gate?

B. Smoother Translation

(RR)10:1 To answer the question you asked about how a demon possessed man could restore the sight to one who was born blind, let me say to you this truth of nature. The shepherd of the sheep will always enter the sheepfold through the gate, but a thief and robber will enter the sheepfold at some other place. The gatekeeper who is a hired hand is there only to open and close the gate. The shepherd approaches and calls to his own sheep by name and the gatekeeper opens the gate. It is common practice for the shepherd to name the sheep of the fold as is customarily done by those who lovingly raise cattle and live stock. This is how they call them home to be fed, watered, and to receive loving care. Now when the shepherd gets all the sheep belonging to him brought out of the sheepfold, the shepherd takes the lead position at the front and point of the flock. The sheep hear the sound of the shepherd's voice and know the voice and will follow the shepherd wherever he might lead them. The sheep have a name and a relationship with the shepherd. There is total trust and belief that the shepherd will lead them to still water to drink, and green grass to eat providing the energy and growth for abundant life. This is why the shepherd has come to lead them. Now hear this, the sheep will not ever follow a stranger because they do not know the stranger's voice. They will run away because this is the only chance they have for survival from death and destruction. Jesus said this figure of speech in the form of a parable, but the Pharasees and Jews did not understand what he was saying to them. It seems that not only could they not see, but they also could not listen. Jesus said once again that truly, truly I am the Gate of the sheep. All those false prophets and people who bore false witness about me or my fathers kingdom were thieves and robbers, and the sheep did not heed them. I am the Gate as well as the Gate for the sheep. Whoever follows me and comes through me to enter will be saved from death and have Salvation, eternal life, and find green pastures. The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy what I have promised you, but I have came in order that you might have life and might have it to the full.

(BD)1. Truly, truly I say to you, anyone who does not enter through the door into the sheepfold, but goes up another way that one is a thief and a robber.
2. But the one entering through the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
3. To this one the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
4. When he goes out with his sheep he goes before them, and the sheep follow him.
5. But they will not follow a stranger, they will flee from the stranger because they do not know the strangers voice.
6. Jesus told them this figure of speech but they did not understand the things being told to them by Jesus.
7. Therefore, Jesus again said to them truly, truly I say to you, that I am the door of the sheep.
8. All those who came before me where thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.
9. I am the door, if any one enters through me they will be saved, and be lead about to find green pastures and be nurtured.
10. The thief comes in order to steal, kill and destroy life, I have come so that they might have abundant life.

C. Hermeneutical Bridge

(RR)We are on a field trip to the Lands of the Bible, traveling down the Kings Highway in Israel headed toward Jerusalem. It is a magnificent three-week trip that has taken us through Syria, Jordan, and now on the final leg of our journey to Jerusalem. It has been much like the journey Jesus took as he ministered, healed, performed miracles, and taught on his way to Jerusalem. In fact we have been through every town and place where Jesus performed his ministry before his passion, death and resurrection. It is a very strange feeling, like we have traveled back 2000 years in time and revisited the sights where our faith began and is grounded. Imagine if you will that you are with us on that journey.

We can see a shepherd camp, a Bedouin camp. These are the shepherds of the desert and wilderness. It is life just like it was in the time of Jesus. The woven blanket tents, with two hump camels parked in back, and no sign of any mechanical objects indicate that it is just as it was 2000 years ago. But there are no beautiful meadows, green pastures on rolling hills covered with flowers and cool quiet running water as we typically see in our Western pictures of shepherds and flocks of sheep.

It is very different and unlike anything you could imagine in emptiness, desolateness, and wilderness. It is the Wilderness that we read about in the Bible. This is the real world. For as far as you can see, there is no life be it plant or animal, nothing but rocks. How do these people survive? There is a sheepfold full of sheep with two dogs and a person watching them. The pen is not secure and the sheep could leave if they wanted to. What do these sheep eat? They look fat and healthy. I can see another flock out on the horizon. We are getting closer to them and we can see about 1000 sheep in a flock. There are two dogs on the side of the flock and occasionally they finesse a sheep that has wondered away back into the fold. The shepherd is well out in front of the flock and is leading them. We notice one other thing, there is one sheep that is between the flock and the shepherd who seems to be also in a leadership position in the flock.

I marvel at what I am seeing. Where is the shepherd leading the flock? Where is the food and water? Look at the relationship between the sheep and the shepherd and between the sheep and the dogs. The relationship between all of them as they interact together. It takes ultimate trust to follow this shepherd not only for the sheep but also the dogs. There is an amazing relationship between God's creations and creatures. And now I know what it means to be a shepherd as well as to live the life of a sheep. I now can appreciate the pastoral image of the shepherd that is used by Jesus in his parables of the sheep and Good Shepherd.

(BD)Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

(??)       Watching and working with the farmers in this area, one gets an appreciation for the sheep/shepherd/gate allegory.

      As to how one person could serve as both the shepherd and the gate, I watched once how a farmer is able to guide his cattle into and out of various pens. He is the one in charge (most of the time!) and it is he who opens and closes the gate and he who chooses who goes in and who goes out. Thus he is both the shepherd and the gate or gatekeeper. It's funny, sometimes one or more animals get in or out that are not supposed to be in or out and the farmer is always diligent to make sure that one does not stay with the main group.

      I am also amazed at how well these big animals "know their master's voice." When I approached a group of cows, as a stranger, they were very skittish, almost like big, nervous cats. But, when their master approached and called them by his affectionate terms, "C'mon girls," they followed easily and closely.

      Also, this idea of the shepherd having to "cast out" the sheep in verse 4 ("ekbalein") seems like a similar notion to the farmer having to push and prod his animals to move. Some cows go through gates willingly, while others have to be goaded a little. It's funny to watch how some cows will come all the way up to the gate, then get scared and turn around and run back, only to be chased down by the farmer again.

      Although, I'm not familiar with sheep herding, I expect that a lot of the same dynamics would be seen.

      This whole process makes me think of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints and election. I can think of many examples in my own life and in others' lives where we have been goaded right up to the "gate of heaven" only to stubbornly refuse to enter and turn and run.

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