Reflections on the Readings for Sunday 29 April 2012
Acts 4:8-12; Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28-29; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18
The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is one of the best known and most beautiful. It tends to be sentimentalised, but in fact it is a powerful image of Christ’s love and commitment to us. In the Old Testament God was depicted as the shepherd of God’s people. Their leaders were also depicted as shepherds, but usually negatively. They were like the hirelings in Jesus’ parable, not necessarily bad leaders, but when the crunch came, they would choose their own wellbeing over that of the flock. I am struck by the words at the centre of the Gospel reading: “I know my sheep and they know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” To be so intimately known and so extravagantly loved takes my breath away.
The communion we have with Christ is likened to the mutual knowledge of Jesus and his Father. I can comprehend with wonder that Christ knows me like that, but how can it be said that we know Christ like that in return? John uses another metaphor, that of being God’s children. Once again, it is an image that stresses love and communion. He includes the concept of now-and-not yet. We are already God’s children, but we still are growing into the fullness of grasping what that means. Parents – their lives and motivations – are a mystery to small children. But that doesn’t mean that the little child does not know their parent. There is a deep bond there beyond words. The fullness of what it means to know and be known, that is still to be revealed. But we can live now in the promise of its certainty.
Peter gives us a practical example of how to live in the light of this. Only a few weeks previously, he had been terrified of the powerful, running away and even denying he knew Jesus. But now, because he is filled with God’s Spirit, he is utterly transformed. He had just healed a cripple, performing the same work that Jesus had, not just because he was mimicking Jesus, but because the spirit of Jesus was at work through him. And he is not afraid to bear testimony to that. He even reminds the leaders that they crucified Jesus. He isn’t doing this to condemn them, but to highlight the incredible salvation that is offered to them in the name of the very one they tried to get rid of.
The gratuitous love of God is mind-blowing. This encourages me when my self-knowledge condemns me. Nothing I have done or anything about who I am stands in the way of God’s transforming love. So we can proclaim the words of the psalm from hearts which are overflowing with gratitude.