Thursday, May 12, 2011

Does Jesus Really Know Us?

Our scripture texts this week are Acts 2:42-47, 1 Peter 2:19-25, and John 10:1-10, which you can read in full here.

The fourth Sunday in Eastertide is traditionally "Good Shepherd Sunday," a time for us to contemplate the idea of the risen Christ as "the shepherd and guardian of our souls," as Peter's epistle describes him, or as the One who calls the sheep by name and leads them out that they may find pasture, as John's Gospel describes him.

Our Wednesday night prayer and meditation group spent some time with the Gospel text last night, and though this is a text I have read innumerable times (because I find John 10:10 one of the most significant and mystifying verses in all of scripture), I was struck by something I had never been struck by before. I'm still turning it over in my head this morning, so as I shared it with the group last night I will share it now with you:

In verse 8, Jesus says, "All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them." This is in a similar vein to the claim Jesus made back in verse 5 about his sheep: "They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers." I read this last night, and alarms began to go off in my head for what now seems a ridiculously obvious reason: Um, Jesus...I don't know if you've noticed or not, but we listen to thieves and bandits constantly. We run after strangers like it's our job, if it seems like they'll lead us somewhere that will satisfy our needs. So how can you say we have not done this in the past and will not do it in the future? You claim to know us...but these two verses make me wonder if you really do.

So what is Jesus doing here? Is this the power of positive thinking? Does Jesus think that if he plants seeds of a different way in our minds, we'll begin to realize there is another way and live into his words? This makes sense for the passage about our future...but what about what he said about our past? Is this a statement of forgiveness--that Jesus is just not even going to remember that we listened to the thieves in the past, is giving us a fresh start, clean slate, new way to live?

What do you think? I really am intrigued by this. I'd encourage you to read another blog post I ran across last night that asks some of these questions at The Hardest Question, a lectionary site whose honesty I really appreciate. Then join us on Sunday as we seek to know better this Shepherd who claims to know us intimately, to figure out how to shape our futures together in a way that reflects His character in our matter how wayward and misled we may have been in the past.

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