Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 3, 2020
Constantly On The Watch
TEXT: "I am the gate for the sheep. . . I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
- John 10: 7, 10
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is teaching His flock how to rescue themselves even from their worst nightmarish situation. "I am the way," says the Lord. "Follow Me and I will keep you safe, just as a good shepherd rescues his flock from harmful dark days and hurtful situations."
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want," the Psalmist sang with gusto. The imagery of sheep and shepherd was very real to those people. As a pastoral people, they knew from direct experience, that the well-being of the flock depends entirely on whether the shepherding is good or bad.
A good shepherd is one who delights in his flock and devotes himself to the care of his flock.
A good shepherd's greatest joy is seeing his sheep well-nourished and contented under his care.
A good shepherd protects his flock at whatever cost, from parasites and predators.
A good shepherd diligently guards each individual sheep against its own stubbornness, ignorance or foolishness.
A good shepherd is constantly on the watch for a "cast" sheep.
A cast sheep is one that blunders into the awkward position of laying flat on its back, unable to get up. This is how it happens ...
A heavy, fat sheep will lay down comfortably in some long, hollowed depression in the ground. It may roll out on its side slightly to stretch out and relax. Suddenly, the center of gravity of its body shifts, so that it turns on its back far enough that the feet no longer touch the ground. It may feel a sense of panic, and start to paw frantically. Frequently, this makes things worse. The sheep rolls over even farther. Now it is quite impossible for it to regain its feet. And, if the weather is hot and sunny, a cast sheep can die in a few hours.
A good shepherd will spend hours searching for a single sheep that is missing, fearful that the animal may be casting. He knows that, left to its own resources, it is powerless to right itself. It needs to be rescued. It needs to be saved.
To the people of Jesus' time, the sheep imagery He used delivered a powerful message, because they were on intimate terms with the ins and outs of shepherding. The imagery was clear and unmistakable:
God delights in His human flock.
God gives His all to His flock.
God rejoices in seeing His flock grow and develop.
God is on the watch, ready to rescue any individual member who, for whatever reason, is lost or in distress.
In other words, God cares. God infinitely cares. And Jesus has come as the Supreme Revelation of God's loving concern for each of us.
In today's Gospel Lesson, Jesus says to His disciples, "I am the Gate for the sheep ... Whoever enters by Me will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture ... I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:7, 8 and 10).
Follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd who shows you that the way to become the uniquely beautiful persons God made you to be is to love one another as He has loved each one of you!
An American traveling in the Middle East happened upon several shepherds whose flocks had intermingled while drinking water from the same brook. After an exchange of greetings, one of the shepherds turned toward the sheep and called out ...
"Manah. . . manah . . . manah." (Manah means "follow me" in Arabic.) Whereupon, his particular sheep separated themselves from the rest and one of the two remaining shepherds called out, "Manah . . . manah . . . manah," and his sheep left the common flock to follow him. The traveler then said to the third shepherd, "I would like to try that. Let me put on your cloak and turban and see if I can get the rest of the sheep to follow me." The third shepherd smiled knowingly as the traveler wrapped himself in the cloak, put the turban on his head and called out, "Manah . . . manah." But the sheep did not respond to the stranger's voice. Not one of them moved toward him. "Will that flock ever follow someone other than you?" the traveler asked. "Oh yes," the shepherd replied. "Sometimes a sheep gets sick, and then it will follow anyone."
Sick or well, we are called to follow the Lord Jesus, our one, true Good Shepherd.
Sick or well, we are called upon to hear His voice.