Saturday, 25 April 2015
Easter 4 2015
Jesus chose things to illustrate his teaching from the local area and from things that the people would have readily understood. Vines and wine production. The Temple, Lights, water, bread wheat flower and yeast… as well as sheep and shepherds.
Today we have heard one of his allusions to Sheep and Shepherding and it is an image quite familiar to us let’s be honest. We have it in one of our windows even.
We probably cannot hear or say the 23rd Psalm without thinking of Jesus being the Shepherd and the image of the Lost sheep in Jesus arms is very popular too.
Any time now in fact the lambs will be appearing on the crofts round about, and you can be sure that all sorts of folk will be taking pictures of the fluffy cute new born lambs. Watching them frolic and play can be a delight, and hearing their cries for mother are often heart rending.
But I think most of us realize that Sheep are not cute all the time, and the fluffy lambs soon grow up and become bedraggled sheep.
When Jesus used Sheep and Shepherds as an illustration in his teaching about himself and God, the people knew exactly what he was talking about. Their picture would have been quite real.
Whereas our image has been skewed by Victorian artists and poets who had a very romantic view of life in the fields and on the hills, the people of Jesus Day would not have been so easily fooled.
Another remarkable point is that Shepherds were outcast people by and large. Their occupation put them literally on the edge of society… this was what makes so remarkable the shepherds at Christmas.
They were unclean both religiously ad often literally. Their job meant exclusion from religious celebration.
And Jesus says today “I am a Shepherd!” (albeit a Good one)
So I invite us to ponder a slightly different image than our brains perhaps have worked with before.
Jesus as an outcast, one who we would not invite into our home or place of worship, caring for ugly dirty sheep on the edge of the community. Jesus himself being roughly dressed and sleeping rough on the hillside, doing his job really well yes but outcast and kept at a suitable distance from the Temple…. Incidentally a place that strangely relied on Shepherds for the sacrifices offered there.
Jesus said I am the good shepherd… I know my sheep and they know me.
Actually Jesus is not giving his hearers a comfortable image at all. Not only is he suggesting that he is the shepherd but that he looks after Sheep…. And that is us! (of course)
If we are sheep and he is shepherd lets us not over romanticise our own position either…. The lost sheep is not beautiful as we have heard before.. it is the one always escaping, the one with buck teeth, the one bedraggled and wet, and often the noisiest too!!
Throughout the Old Testament God is frequently described as a Shepherd to his wayward people, constantly calling them and always willing to be seen alongside them.
Jesus comes to us and promises that we also will never be left as lost or orphaned sheep or children.
In him we have life and life in all its fullness, we need not be shy about living this life and of knowing that God is calling us and is alongside us.