12 May 2019
Fourth Sunday of Easter
(Good Shepherd Sunday)
Easter 4C (RCL)
The Gospel reading for this Sunday comes from that section of John’s Gospel often called the Good Shepherd Discourse. In the discourse, Jesus speaks one of the great I AM statements: I AM the Good Shepherd. In the passage we will hear on Sunday, he does not use this phrase, but says only, “You do not trust me because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice.”
The discourse follows on the end of the healing of the man born blind, and is directed at the “Pharisees” who think Jesus has just told them that they blind. He starts out by saying that he is the door, and anyone who climbs into the fold over the wall must be a thief. This passage begins with him walking about (peripatein) in the Stoa of Solomon. The followers of Aristotle were often called peripatetic philosophers, because they taught while walking about, and the Stoics so-called because they taught in the stoa. Jesus is portrayed here as a philosopher.
The Pharisees ask, “How long will you lift our souls away from us? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus responds that the works he does in the name of his Father testify to him. He opened the healing of the blind man by saying that he must be working the works of his Father while it is day. The healing of the blind man testifies to Jesus as a work of the one who sent him.
To know Jesus is the Christ, then, requires discernment. The resurrection stories we have just heard the last three weeks remind us that those who encountered the risen Christ did not at first recognize him, but only came to that knowledge as the result of being called by name (Mary), touching the wounds (Thomas), or the miraculous catch of fish (Peter). We could ask how the Christ shows up in our communities. The Pharisees are looking for something which they can’t see.