Earlier in John 10, Jesus depicts himself as the good shepherd who willingly lays down his life for the sheep. He warns that one must enter the sheepfold by the gate, whereas thieves try to find another way. Indeed, explains Jesus, he is the gate: “Whoever enters by me will be saved” (John 10:9).
According to the Johannine text, many of the Jews dislike these claims. They are divided concerning how to understand the discrepancy between these strange words that run counter to Jewish expectations of the Messiah and Jesus’ actions of healing that display divine power. So, the Jews address Jesus saying, “If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly!”
How many times have we also cried to God, “Tell me clearly what to do, what to believe”? Too often we desire certainty. But certainty is not faith; indeed, it runs counter to faith. The author of Hebrews defines faith as the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (11:1). If something is certain, what need does faith fulfill? Things not yet in evidence require faith.
Yet a vast difference exists between certainty and conviction. Certainty grips firm control to secure a claim on truth, often to wield it for a particular agenda. It seizes power rather than relinquishing power to the Almighty. Conviction, however, grasps softly with the knowledge that the journey of faith is always under construction. Faith recognizes that all human knowledge is finite. At any moment God might reveal to us a deeper truth, a truth that could overturn parts of what we thought we knew. Likewise, some might claim certainty about who are the true sheep and who are not, but such certainty is not ours to claim; rather, we live by faith.
God, help me recognize where I have demanded certainty. Enable me to embrace the more difficult, more beautiful path of faith. Amen.
The imagery of sheep plays a prominent role in three of this week’s readings. Psalm 23 uses the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep as its guiding metaphor. The Lord is our shepherd and leads us to safe and fertile places. Even when we pass through a dark valley, the Lord is there protecting us with a shepherd’s weapon, a staff. In the Gospel reading, Jesus describes himself as a shepherd who calls his sheep. Because they are his, they hear his voice. In Revelation, Jesus becomes the sheep—or more specifically, the Lamb that was slain on our behalf. Those who endure will praise the Lamb forever. Acts is different in that it focuses on a resurrection story, a manifestation of God’s power working through Peter.
Read Acts 9:36-43. How can you be a witness and a vessel for God’s activity?
Read Psalm 23. Reflect on the questions the author poses in Tuesday’s meditation. Allow God’s guidance and correction to be comforting.
Read Revelation 7:9-17. How does knowing Christ as both Lamb and Shepherd help you work to bring about things not yet seen?
Read John 10:22-30. How does your faith allow you to hold gently your convictions without needing to grasp tightly to certainties?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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