Tuesday, April 24, 2012

John 10:11-18

This passage occurs in the RCL Easter Season, Year B, for "Good Shepherd Sunday" most recently Summer of 2015; but the basic idea of this passage connects with the parallel texts for this Sunday in years A and C of the RCL.

Summary:
This beloved text is not worth ruining with any fancy exegesis.  However, it is perhaps worth exploring the idea of "good."  It is an utterly unfitting word:  Jesus is not good, he is beautiful, wonderful and ideal -- what καλος means anyway.  On the other hand, he is entirely irresponsible, going and getting himself killed.

For those looking for something theological to chew on:  "Jesus receives his life back" is just as valid of a translation as "Jesus takes his life back."  How one translates that is probably a good Lutheran orthodoxy test ;-)
Key Words:
καλος ("good"; 10:11)  Good is an entirely understated way to put this.  The word in Greek means beautiful, ideal, model.  Try any of these out:  Model shepherd, beautiful shepherd, ideal shepherd.  They get closer to what is going on, although model shepherd can lead us astray pretty fast.  Good is also an entirely wrong way to put this.  What kind of shepherd goes and gets himself killed?  A very, very bad one.

τιθημι ("lay down"; 10:11)  This verb comes up at some very powerful times in John's Gospel:  John 13, when Jesus lays down his cloak to wash his disciples feet; John 13, where Jesus declares that no greater love exists to lay down one's life; John 15, where Jesus says he "placed" us down to bear fruit; and finally on the cross, when a sign is placed (down) on the cross reading "King of the Jews." All of these strongly suggest that Jesus here refers to his own death.  Moreover, Jesus clearly foretells his resurrection.  To put it another way, this is John's version of the messianic prophecies of the synoptics (...it is necessary for the son of man to...)


λαμβανω ("take"; 10:18)  This word means take or receive.  Which way you go really changes the meaning.  Does Jesus take back his life or does he receive it?   I think on how you look at this impacts how you look at the entire Christian life, especially as to how we are to embrace faith.  Do we take it or do we receive it?

Concept:  εγω ειμι (ego eimi)
In John's Gospel, Jesus has a number of "I am" statements.  Here they are.
6:35  I am the bread of life
8:12  I am the light of the world
8:58  I am
10:7  I am the door for the sheep (10:9 I m the door)
10:11  I am the good shepherd; lays down life; know voice
11:25  I am the resurrection and life
14:6  I am the way, truth and life
15:1  I am the true vine (15:5 vine)
In Greek, I am carries more significance than in English.  First, in Greek, because verbs are conjugated, you do not need the subject.  It is only for emphasis.  Sometimes people will make this:  I, I am, the true vine to show the emphasis in Greek conveyed here.

This "I am" is also the name of God.  Hence, see 18:5, where Jesus says, "I am" and they all fall to the ground.  John's Gospel is wheeling and dealing when it comes to the OT and names for God here!

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