This Sunday's Readings
Acts of the Apostles 13:14,43-52
Paul and Barnabas preach the good news among the Gentiles and are expelled by the Jews.
A song in praise of God who shepherds us.
John describes his vision of the praises that the holy ones sing to the Lamb.
Jesus describes his care for his sheep.
Background on the Gospel Reading
The fourth Sunday of Easter is also called Good Shepherd Sunday. In each of the three lectionary cycles, the Gospel is taken from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John. This chapter of John's Gospel follows Jesus' healing of the man born blind and the rejection of this miracle by Jewish leaders who question Jesus' authority to heal. Jesus responds to this challenge to his authority by calling himself the Good Shepherd. He is criticizing the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders. Already, the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders are so angered that they attempt to stone and arrest Jesus (see John 10:31 and 10:39). This controversy with the religious leaders continues until Jesus' death.
Set in a moment of tension and conflict in John's Gospel, today's Gospel reading is Jesus' answer to the question, “Are you the Messiah?” Jesus responds by saying, in essence, “If you have to ask, then you are not one of my sheep.” Then Jesus asserts his unity with the Father. At the conclusion of these words, John reports that the Jews intend to stone Jesus for blasphemy, but he escapes arrest.
We may be less familiar with the metaphors of sheep and shepherd than those to whom Jesus spoke. The image of Jesus as Good Shepherd and the community of followers as his sheep has endured over the centuries as a primary image in our faith tradition. Its power to describe the relationship between Jesus and his followers transcends direct experience with sheep. The image speaks to us about the protection, security, and care that shepherds represent for their sheep.
Today's Gospel speaks powerfully about the familiarity and intimacy between Jesus and his disciples, expressed as recognizing and knowing another's voice. Today's Gospel also speaks to the relationship between Jesus and the Father. In the Gospel of John, Jesus identifies so closely with the Father that he tells us that they are one—not just close, but actually one. To know Jesus is to know the Father. Jesus doesn't just bring us closer to the Father, Jesus puts us directly into contact with God the Father, removing all distance between us. Our relationship with Jesus is an invitation to share in the life of God.