sexta-feira, 13 de fevereiro de 2015


I am the good shepherd.
The good shepherd
lays down his life
for the sheep.

John 10:11 (read 10:11-18) - NIV

We romanticize the Bible. We often ignore the down-to-earth side of the images used. This passage uses the figure “shepherd” (sheep herder). Herding was (and still is) an economic activity. The sheep were the livelihood of their owners. They provided food and clothing (meat, milk and wool). The shepherds gave them protection and shelter in return for what they provided for their owners. Wolves were enemies of the herd owners because they threatened their livelihood. The shepherds’ battle against wolves was to protect their own means of support. Rich owners could hire employees to take care of their flocks, but they would not have as much at stake as the owners, because the sheep weren’t theirs. The bottom line is that the sheep were "objects of production" for the well-being of the owners.

The Gospel of John presents Jesus as a “Friend Shepherd” (Good Shepherd) as a contrast to a commercial shepherd. In commercial terms a Friend Shepherd would be a failure. To give his life for his sheep would be insane. Instead, the sheep always gave their lives for the shepherd. The Friend Shepherd figure would ruin the economic scheme.

Commercial shepherds, whether owners or employees, could represent religious structures that put economic values above human values. Religious organizations are sacred, and the people (sheep) were the means of supporting them. The people (sheep) had value to the extent that they made sacrifices for the benefit of the institutions. In contrast, the Good Shepherd had the spirit of a friend putting the welfare of people in the foreground, above that of institutions.

The treatment of Jesus as the "Good Shepherd who gives his life for the sheep" is academic and abstract. It is dogma that is not put in practice. In practice, the Jewish temple was replaced by the Christian Church. Christians say that they are the Church that Jesus founded. As "Church", they move away from the suffering world and form closed flocks. They feel that they need to preserve their identity. They are more interested in showing how they are different from others than by identifying with the "lost" in our society. They demonstrate their spirituality with external signs: pharaonic buildings, ability to manipulate the masses with large concentrations and gain political power. Most of the offerings and gifts go to maintain the structures. Feeding the hungry and housing the homeless are not priorities. The wolves attack and they take refuge within our folds. They are afraid of losing ground.

The great challenge for the Church is to fulfill the role of the Good Shepherd (Friend Church), remembering that the fold is the world. John Wesley captured this spirit when he declared: "The world is my parish”. Be the continuation of Jesus in the world requires a lot of courage. The Friend Church would not be afraid to die for the world because it would have to trust that death is not the end. The resurrection is the divine response.


John 10:11-18 – New International Version (NIV)

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

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