Sunday 29th April (Easter 4B)

Psalm 23, a favourite for countless people over many generations, has inspired a vast array of hymns, works of art and devotional material. The sheep and shepherd imagery of this coming Sunday’s readings are so interwoven through our traditions it’s difficult to think of one without thinking of the other. In Ps.23, Isa.40 and other places God is ‘shepherd’, ‘Shepherd of Israel’; so when Jesus says “I am the good shepherd,” it reveals something more of his intimate relationship with God; it reveals something more of “who Jesus is”; it reveals more of Immanuel – God with us.

Jesus, the good shepherd, had a special relationship with the flock he tended for the sake of the one to whom they belong. “The Father and I are one”; so Jesus can say “my sheep.” This Jesus is the Shepherd who restores my inmost being; who heals; makes whole; whom we might encounter in worship; in reading the Bible or devotional material; in prayer; in an encounter with another person or group; and who refreshes and renews our life in God. The shepherd who brings me back to a right life, back from rebellion andwilful waywardness (Hebr.); a situation which reminds me of sheep on the side of the road – on the wrong side of the fence, frightened and skittish with no rest until the shepherd/owner returns them to safety. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, ventures into our deepest darkness with us to lead us through it, gathers and leads the flock along right paths – authentic, true paths – from darkness to life and light.

Twin traditions of shepherd and king lie deep in Israel’s theology, its understanding of God’s chosen one, the one to be instrumental in God’s great saving acts in history. The shepherd/king ushers in the kingom of God, the hospitality of God.
Despite our present difficulty, distress or suffering he spreads a table, a banquet at which experience a taste of the banquet that is to be: which marks final consummation of all things which he will bring:
This is my body…
This is my blood…

The good shepherd, the risen Christ, offers provision, protection and hope… to all.

        © Jeff Shrowder, 2012.   More for Easter 4B…