4th Sunday of Easter John 10:1-10 Acts 2:42-47
The Good Shepherd.
I have been looking for a sheep. I searched and I searched all over the house, and I’ve found: a cat, a dog, a rabbit, a bear, a few pigs, and even a choir member (showing the toys of all, and the figure of a choir member doll) … but no sheep. Not a single sheep to be found in the house! I collected all the others, but I didn’t really need them, I needed a sheep! So, what’s to be done? Well, remember these (toilet roll)? I tried to be creative with an empty roll – we’ve all got those! – and make something that resembles a sheep. Well, vaguely, I suspect. My creative powers are somewhat limited. But it will have to do.
The reason for my searching for a sheep is, of course, because of the words that Jesus spoke about being the Good Shepherd. And he is the Good Shepherd, because he is different. Just before chapter 10 in Luke’s account of the work of Jesus, there’s been a dispute to do with who Jesus was. It’s all about his identity. The picture of a shepherd with his sheep is one that is used a lot in the Bible to refer to the king and his people. The image of a shepherd was a metaphor that the people could understand: there were a lot of shepherds and sheep around at the time, as opposed to today. Today we not thinking of rulers as shepherds; rather as executives behind their desks, dictating letters and chairing meetings. But Jesus is talking about rulers as shepherds, and about himself as the one ruler that God had promised and who would lead the people back to God. The intimate contact between shepherd and sheep was one that Jesus used as an illustration, as it was a picture that the people were familiar with and could understand. That’s also why he tells them the parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-7):
‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost. Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.’
The point that Jesus is making is that you can tell a true king from a false one, just as you can tell a true shepherd from a false one. The latter will only abuse and steal, but the former, the true shepherd or the true king or ruler, will do all he can to make sure that the sheep (the people in this case) are safe. And that means that not even one can be missed. If one gets into trouble, thinking, for example, that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, then the true shepherd will go and look for it and not give up until it has been found and brought home. Jesus has come to find us. It’s as simple as that. He rejoices with the Father and the angels in heaven over every single one of us that’s been found. So, here I am: with my cat and dog, pigs and rabbit, my teddy bear and my little sheep – o, and my choir member, of course – thinking of you, and of God, who has found me. There is great joy, even in the midst of pain, because Jesus is with us and we are not alone. Amen.