Easter joy is about new life and victory over sin and death. But to arrive at Easter joy, we contemplate on the primal question of faith; who is Jesus? When we approach Jesus with an openness of heart and humility, He reveals Himself. This Sunday, we hear of religious leaders who contend with this question of who Jesus is, but with closed hearts.
The tension between Jesus and the religious leaders reached a new height when Jesus healed a man born blind on the sabbath day. Who is Jesus? Healing a man born blind, they argued, means Jesus is either divine, acting in the power of God or he is a sinner possessed by evil spirits. The blind man saw the illogic of the second possibility. Healing, and bringing wholeness are God’s divine acts of love and mercy. Instead of rejoicing that the formerly blind man was liberated from his disability, the religious leaders excommunicated him from temple worship and fellowship, based on the “illegality” of performing a miracle on the sabbath day.
In this Sunday’s gospel (John 10:22-30) the tension remains. Jesus enters the temple at the time of the Feast of Dedication, known as Hanukkah or the Festival of lights. Yet with darkened eyes, the religious leaders gather around Jesus. They demand, “If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus replies, “I have told you, and you do not believe.” Belief in Jesus goes beyond external facts. Belief begins by taking the risk of looking beyond the certainty of the physical world and discerning the powerful movement of God’s Spirit. Jesus, therefore, invites the religious leaders to contemplate on the works He does in the Father’s name, to understand His identity.
But the religious leaders, concerned for their own positional authority, could not recognize Jesus’ divinity. It is the humble, the weak, and the open-minded who discern Jesus’ identity and presence. Jesus uses the imagery of devoted shepherds who tenderly lead, protect and feed dependent sheep, to describe who He is and His relationship with believers. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who commits Himself to the unfailing promise of never leaving His sheep. He will always protect, nurture and guide them. When the pleasures of the world entice the sheep, the Good Shepherd who is supreme wisdom, assures His sheep of eternal protection even then, “no one will snatch them out of my hand.” Jesus, the Good Shepherd so loves the sheep that He gave His very life for His sheep’s salvation, then by His resurrection, He invites His sheep into new life; a re-birth into a loving relationship of spiritual intimacy, leading to the fullness of eternal life with the Father. His sheep are you and I, believers who hear and recognize His voice and zealously follow Him.
Prayer: Jesus, we have come to believe that you are the Good Shepherd, the Savior of our souls. Yet we confess that our faith sometimes waivers. We thank you for redeeming us and leading us into your eternal fold. Teach us how to recognize your voice more fully in the Sacred Scriptures, in the words of fellow believers, and in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Then use us as humble earthly shepherds to guide others towards your supreme, joyful vision of one flock under the dominion of our One Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Amen