Jun 24, 2015

I AM the Good Shepherd Keeping the Sheep Gate



“I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture… I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep... I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (RSV-CE Jn. 10:7,9,11,14)



Chapter 10 begins what is known as the “Shepherd Discourse”.  John does not transition into this, instead he abruptly begins.  In John’s Gospel, this discourse marks a transition.  The conspiracy and planned violence against Jesus intensifies.  In this post I will address two self-naming statements of Jesus, “I am the Gatekeeper” and “I am the Good Shepherd”.  Unlike the previous statements, these two appear in the same chapter and are directly related. 

In this discourse the meaning is quite clear and easy to follow.  Jesus the sheep are the people of God and a shepherd is a teacher and leader.  Jesus introduces to this imagery the symbol of the thief and robber.  Jesus describes Himself as the “door of the sheep” (the gatekeeper).  As Gatekeeper, Jesus is the only way for sheep to ether the flock, he guards against robbers and thieves.  It is not clear who John is describing as robber and thief, but given its place in the text and the escalation of tension in the book, most interpret it as the Pharisees and Jewish Leadership in the first century.  Later in the passage, Jesus introduces the image of the wolf and hired hand.  All four of these images taken together show the negative view of the religious leadership.  The robber and thief seek personal profit from the sheep by taking them away and slaughtering them. The hired hand cannot be trusted and works for pay and is not personally connected to the sheep, they do not belong to the hired hand.  The wolf brings death. 

As the gatekeeper, Jesus protects the flock and allows each sheep to enter.  The title “Good Shepherd” describes the intimate bond of mutual knowledge of each other “I know mine and mine know me”.  This connection is emphasized in the idea that only a “Good Shepherd” would sacrifice his life for the sheep.  Instead of the sheep being slaughtered, the shepherd is willing to offer himself. 




This passage is of great significance.  Jesus is reflecting on his own death and resurrection.  Because Jesus is the Good Shepherd, guarding the flock given to Him by the Father who sent him to dispel the darkness of sin and error, He will willingly offer His life.  The death that he suffered at the hands of His persecutors (who plotted His death after hearing this discourse) is not something imposed, but something allowed by Him. 

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Sources:
  • Bergant, Dianne C.S.A., and Robert J. O.F.M Karris. The Collegeville Bible Commentary. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1986.
  • Brown, Raymond D. S.S., Joseph A, S.J. Fitzymer, and Roland E, O. Carm. Murphy, . The Jerome Biblical Commentary. Vol. I and II. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1968.
  • Hunt, Michal. "The 7 Symbolic "I Am" Metaphors of John's Gospel." Agape Catholic Bible Study. AgapeBibleStudy.com, 2007. Web. 21 June 2015. <http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/charts/Seven%20Days%20and%20Seven%20I%20AMs%20in%20John's%20Gospel.html>.
  • Just, Rev. Felix, Ph. D. "Christology in the Fourth Gospel." Catholic Resources for Bible, Liturgy, Art, and Theology. Felix Just, S. J., 8 July 2013. Web. 21 June 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fcatholic-resources.org%2FJohn%2FThemes-Christology.htm>.
  • Just, Rev. Felix, Ph. D. "I AM" Sayings in the Fourth Gospel." Catholic Resources for Bible, Liturgy, Art, and Theology. Felix Just, S. J., 11 July 2012. Web. 12 June 2015. <http://catholic-resources.org/John/Themes-IAM.htm>.
  • Lewis, Scott M. The Gospel According to John and the Johannine Letters. Collegeville, MI: Liturgical, 2005. Print.
  • Martin, Francis. The Gospel of John. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015. Print.
  • Mays, James L., et al., . Harper's Bible Commentary. New York City, New York: Harper San Francisco: a Divison of Harper Collins Publishers, 1988.
  • Wilson, Neil S., and Linda K. Taylor. Handbook of Bible Charts & Maps. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2001.

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