Today’s reading: John 10:1-21
Often times we read the Bible and because many of the stories are familiar to us we can read through the text and miss things that are there because we think we know the main point of an episode and therefore presume the rest to be irrelevant. However, if we slow down and read carefully Scripture will reveal details we never noticed before. Often you will hear about reading the Bible people say things like, “I had read that passage a dozen times but never realized it said ….”.
Such is the case with today’s passages. Everyone knows that Jesus declares himself, “the Good Shepherd”. Everyone knows we are the sheep. Everyone knows the sheep here the shepherd’s voice and follow him. Everyone knows the Good Shepherd will lay down his life for the flock and that that is an allusion to the Crucifixion.
However, if we look closely we can see something more. What is the “sheepfold”, in which the sheep are kept? I would argue that it is the Church. It is not the world because Jesus says that there are other sheep outside the sheepfold that are to be brought into the sheepfold. Those other sheep are most certainly the gentiles. Thus the sheepfold is likely not the world but is the Church in which the Jews and the Gentiles will come together to make one flock. Notice what Jesus says about this:
And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. John 10:16
If there is to be one flock, that flock will be kept in one sheepfold. In other words, there will be one Church. Jesus will be the head of that Church. When Protestants leave the Church they leave the sheepfold. When a Protestant pastor seeks to shepherd a flock apart from the one flock he does so not as a shepherd but as “the wolf snatches them and scatters them.” John 10:12
Wait a second you might ask. If Jesus is the one Shepherd how can Catholics claim that there is a visible head of the Church, a Pope, which is to shepherd all Christians? Doesn’t Jesus say in this very passage:
He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees… John 10:12
As usual, the Lord accounted for this. For later in the Gospel of John, in chapter 21, he will give Peter the explicit instructions to “feed his lambs” and “tend my sheep”. Notice, Jesus is saying there can be other Shepherds. The difference is that Shepherd’s stay with the sheep and they return them to the sheepfold. Hired hands allow the sheep to be scattered – outside of the sheepfold – separated from the Church.
Tomorrow: John 10: 22-42