The Good Shepherd

Let us pray (in silence) [that we hear and follow Christ the Good Shepherd]


God of peace,
by the blood of the eternal covenant
you brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus,
that great shepherd of the sheep;
make us perfect in every good work,
and work in us that which is pleasing and good;

through Jesus Christ [to whom be glory for ever and ever]
(who is alive with with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.)

NZPB p.597a

The “Good Shepherd” chapter of John’s Gospel (Chapter 10) has Jesus responding to the Pharisees criticism of his giving sight to the man born blind. There is no break between chapters 9 and 10. Previously in John there was a reference to the festival of Booths. In the Year C reading (vv 22-30) there is a break with the announcement of the festival of the Dedication (Chanukka).  This has been celebrated since 164 BCE – this is the first mention of Chanukkah in literature – and the only case in the Bible. There is also a shift in John here from seeing to hearing.

Shepherds can have a positive image in the scriptures. They were also commonly regarded as rogues, thieves, not fulfilling the religious law. Hence “good shepherd” over against a possibly common image of “bad shepherd”.

The fourth gospel has Jesus as Lamb of God (1:29) and has already mentioned the Sheep Gate (5:2) in co9nnection with the pilgrim festival (5:1). The gate through which the sheep are taken up to be sacrificed in the Temple now undergirds the image of “the one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep” (10:2). The Good Shepherd identifies with the sheep. And as sacrificial victim.

That the Johanine community realises that it needs to unite with other quite different traditions following Jesus (10:16) might translate into our new context with a realisation that Jesus brings not primarily a new religion, but the end (as in also goal and purpose) of all religion. Christianity included alongside other world religions.

The Judeans (mistranslated “Jews”) pick up rocks to try and stone him. They tried to arrest him but he escaped. Not only is Jesus the shepherd identified with the sheep, he is the son identical with God his father.

The Missal of 1570 and the 1549 Book of Common Prayer was the first to pick up a Good Shpherd Sunday on the third Sunday of Easter (second Sunday after Easter) although the collect had no connection to this theme. Modern Collects (South Africa 1972) drafted a collect which was adapted above based on Hebrews 13:20-21:

Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

The infelicitous repetition of "work" might be improved by rewriting as:
...make us perfect in everything good
and work in us what is pleasing in your your sight.

Massey Shepherd drafted a collect for BCP (USA) but it has not been picked up by other provinces:

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people:
Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who
calls us each by name, and follow where he leads;
who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Roman Catholics use a collect originating from the evening prayers for the Easter Season in the Gelasian Sacramentary:

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus,
deduc nos ad societatem caelestium gaudiorum,
ut eo perveniat humilitas gregis,
quo processit fortitudo pastoris

Almighty and ever-living God,
give us new strength
from the courage of Christ our shepherd,
and lead us to join the saints in heaven.
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