Before discussing the rich teachings of John 10, I believe it is important to read through the chapter once or twice, and then look carefully at other Scriptures which give a background to what is happening in this portion of St. John’s narrative. These Scriptures are “must” reading: Ezekiel, chapter 34 (the whole chapter); Psalm 23; Isaiah 40:6-11; and Jeremiah 23:1-4. As we read these portions of the Old Testament, we realize that these were, all of them, important Scriptures in Jesus’ own life as he matured as a Jewish young man. And it is awesome to speculate just when it became clear to Him that these prophetic words actually referred to His own mission and ministry and person as the Christ, the Messiah of Israel and the whole world. At what point, one wonders, did He recognize that He Himself was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets? When, and how much, did Mary and Joseph share with Him the events and prophecies surrounding His birth? Was He very young when His awareness of His Heavenly Father and deep communion with Him became a regular aspect of His being? By the time we hear His discourse in John 10, we know He knows everything; we know He is aware of what awaits Him; we recognize His divine authority, the Living Word He speaks, and the judgment which has come upon the world simply by His being in it. And His presence in the world unleashes violent, irrational attacks on the part of those whose hearts have become hardened, and whose prayers have become nothing but an empty show of piety.
The passionate seriousness with which Jesus contrasts the good shepherd with “all who came before” (v.8), the “thieves and robbers,” also described by Him as strangers and hirelings who climb into the sheepfold by lifting themselves over the fence, rather than entering by the gate, reflects the Lord’s earlier judgments in Scriptures such as Jeremiah 23:1-3 and Zechariah 11:17. St. Matthew’s gospel reveals to us more of Jesus’ righteous outrage in Matthew 23:29-33, while He speaks to the very people who claim to be shepherds of the flock in John 10.
A careful reading of verses 1-11 reveals that Christ Himself is both the door and the good shepherd; but is He also the gatekeeper? St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that there are various interpretations: the gatekeeper could be the Holy Spirit (doing the very work of Christ Himself, again); or, the gatekeeper could mean Moses and the very Law/Scriptures through which anyone claiming to be a shepherd must find his mission and true authority. I must say that becoming Catholic has enriched and clarified some of the “problematical” aspects of Jesus’ being both the door and the shepherd, which never made complete sense to me, before. Now, in recognizing the Office of Peter, the first appointed shepherd of the Church, the multifold picture of true shepherding in Christ’s sheepfold becomes clear. Numbers 27:16-18, IISamuel 5:1,2 and the CCC754 are all worth looking at, to enrich the picture being painted in John 10 of the shepherd’s identity and importance throughout history.
Staying with this thought awhile longer, adding to CCC754, the other Catechism sections CCC553 and CCC811-822, enriches our understanding of Jesus’ speaking of “one flock, one shepherd” in John 10:16. John 17:11 and Ephesians 4:4-6 are also important Scriptures concerning the oneness about which Jesus is intensely concerned when it comes to His flock.
Next Friday I’ll have more for you to read and ponder before our upcoming Faith On the Ferry first Wednesday get together, May 1. JC