Good Shepherd v. Hired Hand

22 April 2018 – Fourth Sunday of Easter

In assessing the contradiction between the Good Shepherd who lays down his own life for the flock and the hired hand who runs away at the sign of danger, we face the polarities of good and evil. We can easily come up with examples of people even in our own time who have laid their lives on the line for others.

Perhaps the preacher can find an avenue into this well-known image of Jesus’ love by exploring the motivations behind the willingness to die or to run away. For those who take the risk and stay to protect others: What dies? And what is left? For the one who runs away, as well: What dies in that act? What is left?–– Melinda Quivik

John 10:11-18

Arguably one of the most famous passages of John's gospel, Jesus' identification of himself as the “good shepherd” follows the healing of the man born blind in chapter 9. In that story, the man comes to deeper and deeper insight about who Jesus is: He is a man (v 11); he is a prophet (v 17); he is from God (v 33); he is Lord (v 38).

In chapter 10, Jesus . . . echoes God's identity as the shepherd of Israel in Ezekiel 34. But where God contrasts himself with the bad shepherds who did not pay heed when the sheep were attacked, Jesus adds the adjective “good” to his identity and contrasts himself with hired hands (those who are not the shepherds and care more for themselves than for the flock).

In addition Jesus will gather sheep “that do not belong to this fold,” a reference to the gentile community, and “there will be one flock and one shepherd.”

Ezekiel's vision included a united Israel under one shepherd, David; John appropriates and expands on that vision. –– Mary Katharine Deeley

Acts 4:5-12

In the early life of the church, the apostles' miracles were often sources of controversy, not because they healed people but because they insisted on attributing the miracle to Jesus and preaching him as already raised from the dead. The leaders of the synagogue considered such talk heretical.

The Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead, but concluded that it would happen on the “day of the Lord” (Joel 2:1b) and would be the reward of the just and faithful Jew, certainly not to someone who had been branded a blasphemer. . . . Sadducees . . . did not believe in resurrection of the dead at all, considering the concept to be utterly foreign to Mosaic Law. In addition . . . Peter flatly contradicts the Roman claim that the emperor is a source of salvation.

Winning friends and influencing people was not the apostolic agenda. Proclaiming what they had seen and heard was. –– Mary Katharine Deeley

1 John 3:16-24

The first letter of John challenged first-century Christians to connect the depth of their relationship with God with the depth of their love for one another. In John's theology these two concepts are inseparable and those who think they can love God without loving their brother or sister are branded liars. The letter also corrects false ideas about Jesus that were circulating at the time—that Jesus was not the Christ or was not truly a man. For John, authentic love and moral behavior is known only in the context of the crucifixion and revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 John 3 points to the incarnation as proof of God's love for us and exhorts everyone to be righteous as Jesus is righteous. Two extremes are contrasted—righteousness in God versus the lawlessness of sin. Either we are in Jesus and without sin or we have not known Jesus and we sin. Our belief in Jesus is evident, not only in what we say, but in what we do as well. Our life in faith will show the truth of God's word. –– Mary Katharine Deeley


Mary Katharine Deeley is the director of Christ the Teacher Institute of the Sheil Catholic Center, the Roman Catholic campus ministry at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. She is the author of many books, a frequent speaker on diverse topics, and a pastoral advisor.

Melinda A. Quivik, an ELCA pastor and former professor liturgy and homiletics, is the Editor-in-Chief of Liturgy.

Homily Service 39, no. 6 (2006): 2-11.

David Turnbloom