St. Mary of the Angels
October 8, 2021
John 10:11: “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”
The Greek word for “good” used here is καλος which means ideal, model, or paradigm. He is the highest exemplar of the “good shepherd.” All other “good shepherds” are similitudes and that means that they are “good” and are “shepherds” to the extent that they are like Him.
Compare with Genesis 1:26-27: “Then God said, Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” So man is a man to the extent that he is like God, just as a good shepherd is a good shepherd to the extent that he is like the Good Shepherd. When we fall away from God, we lose something of our humanity as well as our relationship with Him. We are less who we are meant to be. To that extent, we are “evil,” for evil is not something in itself, but rather the absence of something – namely, the absence of what is good (καλος) or Godlike. See how St. Augustine defines “evil” in “The City of God”: “Sin is to a nature what blindness is to an eye.”
The Good Shepherd is an oft repeated phrase in the Old Testament meant to indicate that God Himself will be shepherding His chosen people from the afflictions ahead. See Micah 5:4: “He will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majestic Name of the Lord His God.” Christ Jesus is the Good Shepherd because He alone is the Incarnate God, but also because He also is fulfilling the will of His Father (“in the majestic Name of the Lord His God”). He is the Good Shepherd because He is all powerful (expressive of His divinity) and because He is totally obedient to His Father (expressive of His manhood being the redemption of Adam’s manhood, the latter having fallen away from God precisely because of his lack of obedience to his Father).
Moreover, in being the Good Shepherd, Christ Jesus is the substitution for Adam. As Adam had fallen away from his obedience, so Christ Jesus is obedient even unto His own death. As Adam had allowed his flock to fall prey to a predator (the devil), Christ Jesus will do whatever it takes to protect His flock from that predator (the devil). See 1 Samuel 17:34: “But David said to Saul, Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him.” Originally, Adam had had this same authority and power – first, to protect all that had been entrusted unto him and then, in so doing, to defeat the devil (see Genesis 1:26: “…and let [Adam] have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”). Adam lost that ability because Adam sinned (Adam being “evil” in that he lost that authority and power intended for him). In giving His life for the sheep, Christ Jesus is doing more perfectly for His Father what David did for his father. He is dying, while David only came close to dying. He is defeating the devil once and for all time, while David only kills one among many predators. In substituting for Adam, He is the New Adam, and so His legacy will be what Adam’s would have been but had lost. Indeed, His legacy will be even more than Adam’s would have been, for Christ Jesus is God, while Adam prior to his fall into sin had been at best only “in the likeness” of God (see Romans 5:4: “Death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the sin of Adam, who is a type of Him who is to come.”). So Christ Jesus is in substitution of Adam and, even more so, transcends whatever Adam could have been. Therefore, in Christ Jesus, we can be higher and better than even the sinless Adam could have been (See St. Augustine: “For God would never have created any [man], whose future wickedness and sin He foreknew, unless He had equally known to what uses on behalf of the good He could turn him.”).
John 10:12: “But he that is an hireling…”
Because of his sin, Adam has reduced himself from the position of “good shepherd” to that of an “hireling.” He has lost his former dominion over his flock, and so they have lost their former affinity for him. He is estranged from himself and from that which had been entrusted to him, and the flock in turn is estranged from him. For this reason, Eden is no longer a proper home for Adam, for Eden is meant to be the place where Adam is the good shepherd for the natural world entrusted unto him. He must be banished from his proper home, which only adds to his estrangement and sense of loss. This is the legacy imparted unto all men, for even Adam’s son will be scattered far from him (See Genesis 4:12: After Cain has murdered his brother, God sets forth his sentence upon Cain: “When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.”). Genesis 4:12 is not just Cain’s punishment for having committed murder. It is also the legacy he has inherited from his father in sin, Adam, as indicated in the fact that his punishment is the same as what is given unto Adam (Compare with Genesis 3:17: “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat, cursed is the ground then because of you; through toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.”).
John 10:12: “…and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.”
The wolf is the devil. He could devour the lost sheep, but he does worse than that. He takes the sheep from the hireling and scatters them. If he simply devoured the sheep, the mayhem would be localized to a particular place and time, and only the sheep devoured would be afflicted. By scattering them, the mayhem is spread far and wide. Man sins, but the devil augments as much as possible the depth and the reach of man’s sin (See Ephesians 6:12: “For we wrestle not just against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the demonic rulers of the darkness of this world, against a spiritual wickedness in high places.”).
John 10:13: “The hireling fleeth because [he] careth not for the sheep.”
Because of his repeated sin, man’s heart has been hardened. He is disobedient because He has lost the love he should have for doing God’s will. He simply does not care enough. The end of sin is not vitriolic rebellion so much as uncaring and lazy resignation (See the conclusion to T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men”: “This is the way the world ends/This is the way the world ends/This is the way the world ends/Not with a bang but a whimper.”).
John 10:14: “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.”
By repeating “I am the good shepherd,” Christ Jesus is repeating the refrain from verse 11. This is similar to the D.S. (dal segno) sign in musical notation, which means to repeat back to a prior sign. Verses 11 and 14 form an integrated loop: Because Christ Jesus gives His life for His sheep, He knows His sheep and is known by them. Because He knows His sheep and is known by them, He gives His life for His sheep. Man’s sin, if unvanquished, will cause him to whimper away into an uncaring, lazy, resigned creature totally susceptible to the wolves (the devil). Christ Jesus, on the other hand, is heroic even unto the point of sacrificing Himself for His own. If we are caught up into Christ Jesus’ heroic life and death, if we are caught up into this integrated loop, we shall be as heroic as Him. He will be our example: teaching us to be Sons of God (we sheep over time shall come to know Him) and showing us His Father (we sheep over time shall follow Him back home). The integrated loop is an invitation to us to set aside our old weakness for His strength.
11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.