Fouth Sunday of Easter

Fouth Sunday of Easter

Gospel: John 10:11-18

A reading from the Gospel of John.
Glory to you, O Lord.

[Jesus said:] “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own 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 do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.

Now let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, our strength and Redeemer


Have you ever heard the word vocation before? Sometimes when we hear this word we think of someone’s particular job or career, but it’s really much bigger than that! Sometimes it helps to think about vocation as your unique calling. God has created each of us with strengths and gifts—things that we are good at.  In the same way, we each have different things we are passionate or care deeply about. Maybe it’s an issue of injustice that you see in your community. Perhaps it is something that you just love to do! When we combine our gifts and skills with the things we are passionate about, we may find our calling, our vocation. 

We each have multiple vocations. We have vocations in our families: to be a child, parent, family friend, or guardian. In our daily lives we might have a have vocation to be a student, scientist, athlete, or grounds keeper. These vocations may change throughout our lives, but all Christians share a special baptismal vocation to use our gifts and passions in service to our neighbor and world. When we live into our vocations, we receive a greater sense of meaning and purpose for our lives. 

I’ll get back to this idea of vocation, but first I want to look at our texts for this weekend.


In Acts 4:5-12, it seems that the whole gang that railroaded Jesus to the cross has gathered again to hassle Peter and John over more shenanigans at the Temple. (You know, healing and such). They are a suspicious lot, demanding to know what power these guys were using to make lame people walk. Maybe they were some sort of magicians, or the guy who “couldn’t walk” was in on it and had been faking every day for the last 50 years or so. At any rate, the questioning is a perfect opening for Peter, who preaches the gospel yet again. “Nope, we don’t have any other names or spells or secret incantations—just Jesus.”

1 John gives us a very straightforward idea: Jesus has loved you, so you should love others. Almost like he read that “Great Commandment” story in the gospel (you know, loving God and loving neighbor?)

On Gospel lesson tries to sort out Good Shepherd from hired hands. Seems the main way is to watch their response in times of trouble. Good shepherds stick around and take responsibility for the flock. 

The cheesy leaders abandon ship and worry more about themselves than anybody else. I believe this is where we begin to sort out what vocation is also.


Raise your hand if you memorized Psalm 23 at some point in your childhood. Now raise your hand if, like me, you took a while (decades) to realize that the shepherd in this psalm isn’t actually Jesus. See, we’re getting it backwards. The New Testament references to Jesus as the Good Shepherd are referencing the psalm, not the other way around. My confusion, I’m sure, came from the fact that I memorized this psalm before I understood in any meaningful way the difference between the Old and New Testaments. 

I’m also guessing Sunday school and Bible school story illustrations contributed to this childhood image of Jesus as the shepherd of Psalm 23. An internet image search for “the good shepherd” yields a vast array of both classic Bible illustrations and Eastern Orthodox icons. While many things could be said about the theological aesthetics of these images, I want to reflect on what is lost and what is gained when we use these various shepherd images and references. 

Since Psalm 23 precedes the incarnation, referring to God as our shepherd is clearly meant to invoke a metaphorical image of God. We know herding was incredibly important to and prominent among the characters we meet in the Hebrew Bible. Again thanks to the imprinting of Sunday school curricula and their illustrations, when we think of shepherds, we think of boys and men—Abraham and David being chief among them.

But we also know that shepherding wasn’t solely done by men. There are studies of the preindustrial Near East that paint a picture of shepherding as work done by girls and young women as well as boys and men of varying ages. 

Rachel (Genesis 29:9) is a biblical example of a young woman who is a skilled shepherd. This work involved being able to safeguard one’s flock with a slingshot and staff.

Since shepherds weren’t by definition males—and in fact by definition both males and females—then Psalm 23’s metaphor of God as a shepherd need not be limited to being represented as a male shepherd. But we do limit this image when we use Jesus with the psalmic shepherd, making them one and the same rather than underscoring the metaphor.

So as we look at this correctly then. We are like sheep, and God is like our shepherd. Jesus is like a good shepherd. This gives us space to use these various references to female and male shepherds to name the qualities of shepherds that characterize Jesus and the Triune God. 


Like us, Jesus had many vocations. He was a son, friend, and teacher. Jesus used the gifts of God and the movement of the Holy Spirit in his life for the betterment of the world.  He brought those cast aside into community, healed the sick and hurt, and, ultimately, brought new life from death. 

In our gospel reading for today, we hear about Jesus’ vocation as the Good Shepherd. There are things that any “good” shepherd does: tending to the sheep, keeping them safe from danger, bringing them to better pastures to eat.  But this story speaks of Jesus as a shepherd who does more than just care for his flock’s basic needs. 

Jesus knows each of his flock by name; he seeks out those on the margins of the pasture and brings them back. Jesus lays down his life, risking everything for his flock. Even a “good” shepherd wouldn’t take that risk, but Jesus did. God did.

Jesus’ vocation as the Good Shepherd helps us to better understand God’s deep love and care for us, God’s flock. 

  • Through Jesus, God went through the depths of human life for us. 
  • Through Jesus, God was vulnerable. Because the thought of even one beloved child being lost or alone was too much to bear, God risked everything so that we experience healing, togetherness, and new life. 
  • God loves us too much to leave us behind.

It is sometimes intimidating to think of our vocation, or calling, as followers of Jesus. The invitation to care for our hurting world is overwhelming and we may feel utterly un-equipped to do so. There will be times when we surely do not live up to this vocation or the other callings in our lives. We may stumble, feel lost, or fail. But remember this: There is no failure, mistake, hurt, regret, or burden which can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Good Shepherd.