Fourth Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:14a, 36-41; 1Pt 2:20b-25; Jn 10:1-10
To better appreciate Jesus’ image of himself as “the Gate for the sheep” it’s helpful to know a little bit about Palestinian shepherds of the time. During the daytime, being a shepherd was monotonous but not so risky. Sitting on a piece of higher ground, the shepherds kept careful watch over his sheep as they peacefully grazed on the pastureland.
At night it was a different story. Any shepherd who left his sheep out in the field at night would wake up to a pasture full of lambchops. That was when the wolves came out of hiding to ttack the defenseless flock. This is the reason the shepherds were out in the fields keeping watch the night that Jesus was born.
Most of the time, however, the shepherds didn’t keep their sheep in the fields. That required too much coordination with other shepherds and would only really be necessary during the lambing season when the bigger sheep might crush the newborns if they were all crammed together. Most of the time, a shepherd lead his flock to one of many stone enclosures dotting the landscape. The enclosure generally was surrounded by stone walls – higher than a wolf could jump. There was only one entrance; the sheep gate. When the flock was safely inside, the shepherd would make a fire, place his club near his body (in case he needed to whack a wolf on the snout), lie down across the opening and go to sleep. Any wolf with evil intent would have to deal with him first.
Such an image, closely related to the image of the good shepherd, provided the first Christians with tremendous comfort. We may wander, but Christ will never lose sight of us.
Whose afraid of the big bad wolf – in whatever form he takes? Certainly not us. God has our backs.
Jim Philipps (3rd millenium pilgrim)
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