Good Morning! Four little tiny deer munching on the wild almond leaves that have fallen outside my window – I love watching them!
11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The 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. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I 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. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No 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.’
19 Again the Jews were divided because of these words. 20Many of them were saying, ‘He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?’ 21Others were saying, ‘These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’
We continue Jesus’ discourse from yesterday – In verse 7 Jesus had said, “I am the gate for the sheep”. Now there is another “I am” statement; Jesus says “I am the Good Shepherd.” Remember that each time Jesus uses an “I am” statement, he is not just applying a metaphor to himself, he is claiming his kinship with God. In this metaphor, he speaks of a shepherd, the one who actually loves and owns the sheep, who will give up his life for his flock. The hired hand will run away when danger comes, but not the one who loves them. And Jesus says, “I am like that – I am the Good Shepherd – I will lay down my life for my sheep.” The author is beginning to refer to the coming events of the crucifixion – and the resurrection. Jesus says he knows his sheep, his people, and they know him, and he will lay down his life for them.
It is important to note that Jesus says he gives his life for his sheep – “I lay it down of my own accord”. Jesus was never a “victim” at the crucifixion; he allowed the crucifixion, he gave himself, that we might have life. Sometimes we forget that when we portray the crucifixion in gory detail (as in Mel Gibson’s movie), and we think of Jesus as a victim. But he was not, nor was he killed because it was “the Father’s will”. It was – but it was also Jesus’ will – he laid his life down voluntarily. This was a gift for you – and for me! And notice his remarkable statement that comes next, “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from the Father.” Don’t you know those listening were scratching their heads! Who has the power to take up his life again after having died? But those first readers – the community to whom the author is writing – they are smiling and saying, we know! Jesus would rise from the dead!
Of course the listeners – “the Jews” – the religious leaders, Pharisees and chief priests, and those who had believed at the beginning of this discourse, are divided. Some say that Jesus is talking crazy, “He has a demon”. But others were asking, “Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” What about you? Do you believe he was a crazy man? Or, do you believe he was the Son of God, come to give us life?