I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. - John 10:11-15
This passage from John contains one of the 7 “I am…” statements from Jesus. Statements that are used to describe Jesus using mostly common, for the time, analogies that should have made Jesus more relatable and understandable to his audience. This one should have been quite understandable to the people of 1st century Palestine as shepherding was a not uncommon occupation. The most famous King in Jewish history, David, was, as a young man, a shepherd. Luke has angels appearing quite specifically to shepherds to announce Jesus’ birth. So, when Jesus says that he is the good shepherd, who knows his own, and that he will lay down his life for his sheep, that should have been a pretty clear indication of who he was and how he felt about “his” people.
However, before and after this passage, John notes that not all of his listeners did understand or accept what Jesus message. Verse 6 states: “they did not understand what he was saying to them”. Verses 19-21 show strenuous debate, stating: “There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?””
Why, we might ask today, did some in Jesus day, refuse to hear and see what is put so plainly before them? Surely if we were alive then we’d or if Jesus were here today we’d recognize him for who and what he is.
Maybe. Are we really so different today then people were 2,000+ years ago? Do we not argue over established and verifiable truths that are much plainer that what Jesus was telling? Then as now there are factions and tribes that we put ourselves in and provide lenses through which we view the world. Still today we struggle to understand Jesus’ words about himself and most especially his worlds about how he expects his followers to act.
Why do we not understand things that are put so plainly? Do we intentionally reject good news? Is it too much accept? Do we refuse to feel worthy or believe that we are deserving of good news?
I take inspiration by the example of those who saw the truth by matching up Jesus’ words with Jesus’ actions. I pray that I too may use all my senses and reasoning to discern Jesus’ words and match my actions with his no matter how worthy or deserving I feel.