Year B 4th Sunday Easter: John 10,11-18

10:11   ‘I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.

10:12   The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and the sheep do not belong to him,

            abandons the sheep as soon as he sees a wolf coming, and runs away,

and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep;

10:13   he runs away because he is only a hired man and has no concern for the sheep.

10:14   I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me,

10:15   just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;

and I lay down my life for my sheep.

10:16  And there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and I must lead these too. They too will listen to my voice, and there will be only one flock, one shepherd.

10:17   The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.

10:18   No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will,

and as I have power to lay it down, so I have power to take it up again;

and this is the command I have received from my Father.’


The text of today is a fragment of a speech of Jesus. In the foregoing part he compared himself with the door of the sheepfold. Now he compares himself with a good shepherd. This speech is a commentary on the healing of the blind man (chapter 9). I think so, because at the end of Jesus’ speech some of the audience will call him possessed by a demon; others will answer, ‘Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’ There the commentary on the healing of the blind man closes.


Jesus called himself the door of the sheepfold, the only door. Anybody who enters in some other way is a thief, a brigand. We have to understand these words against the background of the Biblical way of thinking. There are only two ways: either a way of life or a way of death. There is nothing in between. Compare for example Psalm 1. Or Moses who says to his people: I show you two ways: one is the way of life; the other one the way of death. Make your choice (Deuteronomy 30,15ff). In the context of today’s Gospel story: there is a way to heal blind people, even on Sabbath day, and the other way is that you don’t. I am the door to be healed, says Jesus. Any other door does not lead to healing.

Today he calls himself the good shepherd. The shepherd who brings healing, new vision, new life. The shepherd who is even ready to pay with his life for the salvation of his sheep. If a shepherd doesn’t bring this he is not a shepherd but a hireling.

Thus Jesus places himself in the tradition of Abel, Abraham, Isaak, Jacob, Moses, David, Psalm 23, and in the tradition of the prophets.  He claims to be the fulfillment of the prophecies, for example the prophecy of Ezekiel (34:11-16) who proclaimed that the Lord himself would come to herd his people since the human herds didn’t take care of their sheep.


‘I am the good shepherd...’ This is one of the ‘I AM’ quotes of Jesus in John’s Gospel. There are seven of them: ‘I AM the bread of life’ (06:35); ‘I AM the light of the world’ (08:12); ‘I AM the door’ (10:07); ‘I AM the good shepherd’ (10:11); I AM the resurrection and the life’ (11:25); I AM the way, the truth and the life’ (14:06); ‘I AM the true vine’(15:01). The words ‘I AM’ remind us of God’s name, as it was revealed to Moses, ‘I AM who I AM...’ (Exodus 03:14). By using these words Jesus identifies himself with the God of the Old Testament. The God he consistently called ‘Father’. Perhaps in our ears such a word might sound pretentious. But let us not forget that God is grace, mercy and compassion. That is what Jesus showed by healing the blind man on Sabbath day. That is what Jesus showed when the whole world turned against him. When he was ready to pay with his life for the well-being of his sheep, as we hear in today’s Gospel.

Picture Meditation

This picture is taken in the mausoleum of Galla Placida, Ravenna, Italy. I had the privilege to visit it in the summer of 2016. The mosaics date from the 6th century. Even after fifteen hundred years the colours are still vivid and beautiful.

Jesus is pictured in the centre as a shepherd sitting on rocky ground. Reference to the Rock of Ages? He is clothed in a golden tunic and a purple toga. The colours indicate that he belongs to the highest class of society. A royal shepherd... The sun behind his head works as a halo. A holy royal shepherd. His shepherd cross actually has the shape of a cross: sign that he suffered for his sheep and gave his life for them. While he caresses a sheep on his left, he looks after the sheep on his right. All sheep are looking up to him. The stony, rocky mountain yields green pasture.

The beautiful sky above this scene is full of stars. Apparently it is night. The time that shepherds guard their flocks.

The artist composed this scene in such a way that I am standing just in front of Jesus. The distance is only some steps. From here I could go to him and talk to him. Asking him if I might be one of these sheep...; that I might believe that he looks after me and caresses me as he does with the sheep. Or asking that I might discern which people around me behave themselves as good shepherds. Or asking that I might learn to be a good shepherd as well for the people around me...

by Fr Dries van den Akker SJ