Jesus is the source of our safety and confidence

by Susanna Mak

The Fourth Sunday of Easter, better known as the Good Shepherd Sunday, reminds us that Jesus is our true refuge and only in Him that all our needs and desires can be fulfilled; there is nothing and no one in this world that can accomplish this for us. We live in a world flooded by a multitude of voices that often confound rather than enlighten us. Voices of anger, fear, despair, doubts, dissent, and self-preservation often dominate the narrative; drowning out any other voices that dare to contradict.

This week’s Gospel reading picks up from the story of Jesus healing the man born blind; how the Pharisees are deeply offended by Jesus’ tenacity of contradicting the code of conduct under Moses’ Law regarding the Sabbath, and the boldness of the man’s testimony whose sight have been restored, “If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything” (Jn 9:33). Jesus’ action, deemed miraculous and benevolent by all accounts; however, challenges the authority of the Pharisees. Jesus, in the eyes of the privileged, is deemed even less than a nobody; how does a Nazarean dare to disturb the social and moral order that is so carefully guarded and preserved by the Pharisees?

Hearing the discontent whisperings of the Pharisees, “Surely we are not also blind, are we”, Jesus knows that His teaching about blindness has completely gone over their heads; perhaps their hearts have already been hardened by insecurities and pride (Jn 9:40). He then uses the analogy of the shepherd, the sheep, and the sheepfold to reveal the truth about Himself, who is the source of all safety and confidence.

In the story, Jesus identifies Himself as both the shepherd and the gate. While the shepherd knows each one of his sheep and “calls his own sheep by name”, the sheep also “recognize his voice” and “will not follow a stranger”; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize the voice of strangers” (Jn 10:3-5). Jesus also identifies Himself as “the gate for the sheep. All who came before [Him] are thieves and robbers” (Jn 10:7). Jesus is clearly pointing towards the Pharisees who have weaponized the Law of Moses to mislead the people with their own brand of piety and morality. They are the “thieves and robbers” who try to steal the sheep from the sheepfold. A good leader leads with love, and compassion; one who listens and even gives up his/her life for those in his/her care. Jesus comes so that his sheep, all of us, “might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10). Contrarily, the Pharisees lead with an iron fist and judge everyone with what they believe to be impartiality according to the Law of Moses. Fearfully hiding behind the Law, they refuse to accept an alternate and a way more beautiful reality proposed by Jesus. Imagine what could have happened if they decided to let go of their insecurities and follow Jesus?

The truth, indeed, can “cut to the heart”, Luke writes in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:37). When Peter proclaims to the house of Israel that they should “know for certain” the one they have crucified is indeed the one whom “God has made [...] both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36). Upon hearing this, “they were cut to the heart”; many of them have decided to repent and be baptized right away! As written in the First Letter of Peter, “By [Jesus’] wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls” (1Pt 2:24-25).

When we hear Jesus calling us each by our name, we have a choice: follow the voice of the Good Shepherd or the other voices that lead us astray. As the Psalmist proclaims, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Ps 23:1). This Jesus, whom we crucified with our sins and insecurities, is the only one who can fulfill our every need; He “restores my soul” and “guides me along right paths” (Ps 23:3-4). Though we may still be struggling with the ups and downs of life, Christ is our ultimate comfort and refuge. Let us not be afraid to follow Jesus’ voice in a world that keeps telling us that our faith is foolishness.