How are we to hear the parabolic speech of Christ and God as our shepherd? “The Lord is my shepherd…” and “I am the Good Shepherd...”? In these passages of the third week of Easter and in the image of the Good Shepherd we are directed to attend to hearing and speech: “...they will listen to my voice.“.
Jesus’s speech about being the Good Shepherd is an allusion to Psalm 23, and thus we find ourselves in the midst of John’s subtle but persistent high Christology. Yet, also, Jesus takes a slightly different approach to this analogy. Jesus uses the economic investment a shepherd has in his flock to illustrate Jesus’ investment in us. Investment is elided with care. The shepherd will care for the sheep and defend them from danger in ways a hired hand simply wont. The hired hand doesn’t have the same investment in the sheep as the shepherd does.
What sort of investment does the Good shepherd have in his sheep? Life itself. God in Jesus Christ lays down his life, undergoes death. God invested God’s very life in us. This is even greater than any human shepherd will actually do for his sheep. a Shepherd may risk more in the face of danger than the hired hand, but actual death?. Here the analogy is exploded to give us an image in which God’s love for us can come through in its extra-ordinariness.
But what is the point of all this the laying down of the life to take it up again. A shepherds care, sheep responding to the shepherds voice and not the hired hand or the thief?
Is not the point love and relationship that leads to life. Is it not an appeal to continue to respond to God’s voice to as the psalmist says: “Today, oh that you would hear his voice! Harden not your heart, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness:”
God speaks to us a continual invitation into the life of the Holy Trinity. This Life will shepherd us in the way of life. But are we listening? Do we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, and the invitation into the community the fold of God? Do we trust and listen as sheep who know the difference between the one who really cares for them and the one paid to care for them?
Are our hearts softened by the voice of the Good Shepherd and do we turn to the voice? Are we transformed by our name being spoken and do we allow are hearts to be softened thus that we can love as the Good shepherd has loved us?
Are we in the fold? or have we wondered off? Are we in the fold of the very life and love of God, Father Son and Holy Spirit?
This is our life, this is the place of transformation : hearing God’s voice in our hearts, invited into the fold of God’s love.