The revolution that Jesus began in biblical Palestine turned out to be a revolution from below, a revolution with “miscreants” and “socially unpalatable” people. This is mainly the reason why he caught the Jewish establishment of the day completely off guard and totally unprepared for the outcome of this change process. They were quite unsuspecting and never believed that someone operating at the level of the shepherds of Israel or the peasants of Palestine could topple the entire Jewish system which had a formidable, influential and powerful priesthood. However, they got it all wrong. By the time the Jewish authorities of the time knew what was happening the Jesus movement has grown into a grass-root movement difficult and too late to stop or dislodge. By this time, the Jesus-movement was a “fait accompli” or mission accomplished. One of the instruments that Jesus used to evade the Jewish political, cultural, and religious radars was his extraordinary simplicity by which he identified with ordinary simple folks. One such group is the shepherds of Israel from the peasant population. And in today’s gospel reading we see how he defined himself in lowly and humble terms; in a terminology that would have been considered despicable and deplorable by a first century Jewish rabbi, who despised the ritually polluting status of the shepherd.
Jesus chose the model of the good shepherd to define himself and his compassionate ministry. The leaders of Israel in the Old Testament, took advantage of their subjects for their own selfish ends and finally they found themselves in captivity. Quite unlike the Old Testament leaders of Israel, Jesus gives his life for his sheep (John 10:11). As the Good Shepherd, he goes in search of the lost and needed to operate even under adverse conditions. His mission was to preach the good news to the poor, the blind, the lame, and the marginalized. Most of these people needed him to come to them. Jesus always seeks the lost, brings back the scattered, binds up the broken and strengthens and heals the sick. His ministry gives hope and strength to the sick, the downtrodden and marginalized. It is not simply a ministry for the best. Hence, the Church is not simply the Church of “those in the state of grace,” but the Church of “sinners and saints.”
In our gospel reading today, Jesus tells us that he is the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for his sheep, which a hired hand cannot do, because he is neither a shepherd, nor the owner of the sheep. Jesus wants us to understand that he is the Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep and his sheep know him. He knows his sheep in the same way that the Father knows him and he knows his Father. In this way, he will give his life for his sheep. Jesus goes on to say that, he has other sheep that do not belong to this fold, which he must also lead. They, too willhear his voice, so that there will be one flock and one shepherd (John 10:11-18).
As the good shepherd, Jesus has set down the pattern to be followed by every Christian leadership, and true discipleship. Following this pattern, filled with the Holy Spirit, St. Peter bore witness that it is in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, whom they crucified, and whom God raised from the dead that the crippled man was made wholesome. He made it clear that Jesus is the stone rejected by them, the builders, who has become the cornerstone. There is no salvation in anyone else, by which we are to be saved, except in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:8-12). In Jesus Christ, we come to recognize the great love the Father has for us, in whom, with whom, and through whom, we are called his children (1 John 3:1-2).
The benevolence and humane understanding of the good shepherd is needed most in our own days. How humane are those in authority to their subjects? Do we have rulers or leaders with the scent of the good shepherd, who readily admits outcasts into the fold? Do we operate with the mistaken belief that our human yardstick is the measuring rod of the grace of God? Isn’t it time to remember that God can raise up children for Abraham from stones? It is time to shed off the heart of stone, and wear the mantle of the Good Shepherd.
This is a soteriological pathway. It is time to join hands to heal people who are brokenhearted and to bind up their wounds. After his resurrection, Jesus commissioned Peter to feed his sheep and tend his lambs. Like Peter and the Apostles each of us is called to be a disciple of the Good Shepherd, and so, we have the responsibility to change our families and surroundings with Christlikeness. Each of us is called to be a good shepherd and to take care of the flock of Christ entrusted to us.