John 10:11-18 - Becoming the Good Shepherd, in spite of hired servants

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Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”


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This is the Gospel selection for the fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. A mandatory reading from the Acts of the Apostles [Acts 4] will begin the readings, where Peter is shown stating, “This Jesus is `the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.'” That is followed by Psalm 23, which sings, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Then, the First Epistle of John is read, where he wrote, “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us-- and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” Because of the theme clearly established in the Gospel and Psalm, this Sunday is referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday.


This first thirty verses of this chapter of John deals with elements of shepherding. The fourth Sunday of Easter is set aside as Good Shepherd Sunday, so those thirty verses will be divided up into the three years of the lectionary cycle, such that Year B is when the middle verses are read aloud. This middle portion places focus on the difference between a “good shepherd” and a “hired hand.”


There is nothing written in the Greek of verse 11 that says, “Jesus said.” Because the Episcopal Church has divided this chapter up, so the first ten verses are missing, they are referring back to verses six and seven, where this is written [NRSV]: “Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them. Therefore Jesus said.” In that translation, John only referenced “them” as who Jesus was speaking to, so the assumption has been made [by the NRSV people] that “them” were “Pharisees.” Because no such specific designation is written, it can just as easily mean “everyone” who heard Jesus speak then, which included Pharisees and disciples. Today, it must be understood that “Jesus said” this to the reader, now and always.


The greatest failure I see in Christians today is seeing Jesus as a god and worshipping him, rather than seeing Jesus as the Son of God, who repeatedly said [paraphrased], “I do not speak for myself, but what the Father tells me to speak.” This means that every time Jesus is quoted in the Gospels, it is the voice of Yahweh speaking through the Son. That is very important to remember here.


In the verse not read today, which refers to what Jesus was saying, John wrote, “Tautēn tēn paroimian eipen autos ho Iēsous.” That literally says, “This that figurative discourse spoken to them this Jesus.” In that, the word “paroimian” is translated as “figurative discourse,” where the definition says, “a byword, a parable, an allegory.” (Strong’s) The usage of the word can mean what I translated, as well as “a proverb or a cryptic saying,” (Strong’s Usage) also “a maxim.” Because the reading selection above repeatedly says, “I,” the “allegory” must be seen as Yahweh speaking in the first person, as the “shepherd,” with all human beings then compared to “sheep,” “wolves,” and “hired hands.”


In this regard, verse 11 actually begins by stating, “Egō eimi,” where the capitalization of “Egō” takes “I” to a divine level of meaning. “Egō” is Yahweh. When the second word [“eimi”] is seen to be another statement of “being,” as “I am, I exist,” the two words state “I am,” which is the name Yahweh told Moses to tell the Israelites who sent him: “I AM THAT I AM.” [YHWH]


Seeing that identification as stated, look then to the word “kalos,” which is translated as “good.” In Matthew 19:16-17 is found an exchange between Jesus and a rich man, who asked Jesus what “good” he must do, in order to gain eternal life. Jesus replied, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good.” In that reference, the Greek word “agathos” is the word translated [correctly] as “good.” This means a closer inspection of “kalos” is necessary.


The word “kalos” translates as “beautiful, good” (Strong’s Definition), while implying “beautiful, as an outward sign of the inward good, noble, honorable character; good, worthy, honorable, noble, and seen to be so” in usage. This means the statement spoken by Jesus, “Egō eimi ho poimēn ho kalos” says first “I am this shepherd this good.” That says Yahweh is the shepherd, who is not simply “intrinsically good” [the definition of “agathos”], but is the inner source that makes a human being be “noble, honorable and worthy.” Therefore, the difference here is Yahweh saying He is the shepherd that emanates from within certain human beings, who are then recognized by others as being godlike or good [“agathos”] – Saints who wear auras or halos.


In the Greek text, that initial segment of words is separated from the next segment of words, which then repeat “ho poimēn ho kalos,” separated by another comma. While this repetition is seen in the NRSV translation as Jesus making a statement about what he was, then repeating that what he was is defined by putting his life on the line for sheep, that is not the truth. By repeating, “this shepherd this good,” Yahweh has first said, “I am this shepherd this good,” followed by Yahweh saying Jesus is “this shepherd this good,” in whom Yahweh is the source. This is an important repetition to take note of.


The next segment of words is then where Yahweh is still speaking through the lips of Jesus, saying “the life of him lays down for the sheep.” In that, “psychēn” is translated as “life,” when it must be read as “soul.” The use of “tithēsin” as “lays down” is then better read as “establishes.” Finally, the word “probatōn,” translated as “of sheep,” must be seen as the metaphor for “humanity.” Thus, what is said is this: “the soul of him establishes for the sake of those of humanity,” which means the soul of Jesus has allowed the Holy Spirit of Yahweh to become established in his body of flesh, for the benefit [goodness] of humanity.


With that seen, verse 12 then addresses “this hired servant” or “hireling,” implying a “hired hand.” Here, the Greek word “misthōtos” must be understood as a separate statement [a comma sets it apart as a single point of focus] that addresses one who is paid for services rendered. If the metaphor of a shepherd and sheep is seen in the context of religion [part of the allegory or cryptic speech John noted], the element of someone hired were then the people of the Temple, who made a nice living off knowing the Law. From that expertise, they all became very wealthy, powerful, and influential. In the same metaphorical sense, the word applies nicely to all who are paid for service rendered in religions today [complete with income tax allowances especially created only for clergy members]. This separate statement about “this hired servant” says nothing [yet] about one's ability to act “good” [of the “agathos” variety], or lack thereof.


That somewhat comes in the next segment of words, which is begun by the word “kai.” That word indicates an important announcement is now being made, relative to a “hired servant.” That importance points a laser light beam on “not,” as “a hired servant” is “not” one whose soul [his or her “being” or “existence”] is that of a “shepherd.” In that, the use of “ōn,” which is the present participle form of “eimi” [seen prior as “Egō eimi”], has a higher purpose than simply stating “is.” It is comparative, as to what is not one identified as “I am this shepherd,” such that within a “hired servant exists not shepherd.” Jesus [and all like him] become those identified as “this shepherd this good,” descended from God. That implies being a “hired hand” is not filled with all that is “good” of Yahweh.


In the following segment of words, which the NRSV translates as “does not own the sheep,” here the word “does” is another that conveys “existence” [as “estin” of “eimi”]. The literal translation says, “of him [or her] not exists to the sheep one’s own.” The Greek word “idia” must then be seen as being less about ownership of sheep and more about a “hired servant” being an “outsider.” While ownership could be tied up in the payments made by someone, to one hired to keep watch over an investment, the implication is the owner does not use a ‘promote from within’ policy when it comes to employing watchdogs. That analogy means a “dog” is not one of the “sheep.”


The next segment places focus on the dangers of the world, where “sees the wolf coming” is metaphor for perceptions known of the destructive nature of the world. Again, returning one’s eyes to the “cryptic language” being used by Jesus, where the metaphor is relative to religion, the “wolf” is anything that can carry one of the flock away from Yahweh, as the traps of sin. For the lawyers of the temple, and for the memorizers of scripture today, the purpose of religion is to keep souls from being destroyed by the sins of the world. Therefore, all know what “wolves” exist and why; but knowing what is a danger and preventing a danger from happening are two different things.


After a comma of separation, the next segment begins with the word “kai,” which places important focus on the act of “leaving.” Here, the Greek word “aphiēsin” [properly as “leaves”] is not something simple, such as being reassigned to another parish or synagogue, as a step up the ladder of success. While congregations have become accustomed to here a priest, then “leaves” a priest … usually for greener pastures [can you say elected to bishop even?], the reason for "leaves" can be varied.


The “kai” says this is an act of abandonment, at the first sign of danger. Still, the same word can be seen as a statement that “a hired servant” was never for the flock, but only a pretense that always “leaves the sheep” without anyone capable of defending the flock, nor teaching the flock how to defend themselves. Everyone is “left” alone, in that regard.


To add to this cold reality, the comma then leads one to another “kai,” which importantly marks one word only: “pheugei” or “flees.” This Greek word can also translate as “escapes” or “shuns,” which places emphasis on one sent to protect, who fears for his or her own safety. In addition to abandonment, the “hired servant” fears everything in the world, because he or she is not married to Yahweh; when so merged, then one’s soul only fears Yahweh. The importance placed on this word even allows one to see how a “hired servant” can be an agent of evil, whose self-worth is so diminished that he or she fears being exposed as worthless. Those fears then create a distance between the “hired hand” and the flock, such that rather than embracing them, he or she runs away from close contact with them.


Following a long dash [“---“] as a separator mark, the next segment again begins with the word “kai,” where importance immediately falls upon the “wolf” once more. John wrote that Jesus used the word “harpazei,” which translates as “snatches.” The word can equally mean “seizes, catches, or obtains by robbery.” All translations apply, when the “wolf” is seen as metaphor for an evil world. Here, the generic word “them” [from “auta”] means the “hired servant” is included, as neither he nor she is fast enough to outrun evils that are feared. Still, on a deeper level of meaning, “auta” becomes a statement of “selves,” which is another way of saying “souls.” Without a guardian who fears only Yahweh to watch over the souls of the “sheep,” all souls will be “snatched” away from their own control.


The last word in verse 13 is another preceded by the word “kai,” being “skorpizei” or “scatters.” Here, the importance must be seen as relative to the remnants of Israel and Judah, who are known as those who were “scattered” to the four corners of the earth. (Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Isaiah) The importance places emphasis on this being a natural outcome that is the result of placing “hired servants” in positions of authority over the masses. They will not have divine protection. Therefore, all flocks will become just as lost as were those of Israel and Judah, having lost all claims to worldly possessions, “scattered” to the winds.


Here, another long dash is found, which sets the last two segments begun by “kai” together as one long statement standing out importantly, stating “--- and the wolf snatches souls and scatters ---“. When the totality of this ‘inset’ is seen, “scatters” implies a state of “souls” not totally devoured by the evils of the world.


The element of Judaism that still remains [in the scattering since their land was lost to invaders] is they flock together in neighborhoods, so there is safety in numbers. Those souls who are considered Gentiles by Jews include the scattered remnants of Israel, many of who stopped living set apart, in communities that promoted one faith only. They blended with others, so they took on the distinction of being Gentiles. The element that “scatters” means “souls” mix with other “souls” that have been torn apart by the wolves of the world, so the only safety possible is to act like one has also been torn to shreds. The hope then is that one’s soul is still free to marry Yahweh. That is then speaking of the lost souls being mixed with the sold souls.


This state of danger then leads one to the first segment of verse 13, which states, “because a hired servant is.” Here, again, we find the Greek word “estin” written, which is a word stating “existence” or “being.” The “cause” of being “snatched and scattered” is relative to a “hired hand” having authority over “the sheep.”


This is further explained in the next segment of words, which also begins with the word “kai.” Here the importance is placed on “concern” or “care,” such that a “hired hand” is “not” worried about the welfare of “the sheep.” This is “because himself is concerned of him.” That becomes a statement of selfishness, where it must always be seen that “self” refers to one’s soul [“life breath”], which has never been married to Yahweh.


At this point, where failure is said to be a lack of commitment to Yahweh, verse 14 then repeats what was stated in verse 12: “Egō eimi ho poimēn ho kalos”. The same meaning applies, as Yahweh speaking through the mouth of Jesus, saying “I AM.” That is then followed up as a statement of why souls are lost, by saying, “Yahweh is here, the shepherd that saves souls. Yahweh is good.”


After that is a semi-colon, which then introduces a relative statement that is begun by the word “kai.” The importance conveyed is then focused on the “knowledge” of Yahweh, such that “I know my own” [from “ginōskō ta ema”] is a powerful statement about relationship with Yahweh. Here, the ‘Biblical’ meaning of “to know” [a personal experience that explained the intimacy of a marriage consummation act] means Yahweh has married souls, merged them with His Holy Spirit, so through that “knowledge” those souls have become spiritually possessed by Yahweh. The become his “own” through marital relationship, where the flesh becomes reborn as His Son [the one speaking these words of the Father].


Following a comma mark, another use of “kai” introduces the statement, “am known I those mine.” While it becomes easy to fall to the urge to paraphrase that as “I am known by mine” or “my own know me,” the literal actually is the best statement for truth to come forth. The Greek word “ginōskousi” is the third person plural active indicative, so the statement importantly begins with focus on what “they know.” The use of “me” is a form of “eḡo,” as “me, I, my,” but the same Greek word “με” can translate as a preposition, being “by, with, or on.” The last two words state, “these mine” [from “ta ema”], such that the words written can just as well say, “they know with these mine.” That becomes an important statement of marriage, when “with” acts as a statement of union, such that through marriage what “they know” is knowledge that is “mine.” That becomes a statement of marriage bringing about the Christ Mind, which is what spoke through the mouth of Jesus.


Relative to that condition being “with” Jesus, verse 15 then states two segments of words that are commonly heard spoken by Jesus. The NRSV translates these two segments as: “just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” In that, the second segment is introduced by the word “kai,” saying that what Jesus “knows” is that sent to him by the Father, which is the Christ Mind Jesus possessed. Whatever the Father wanted to say, the Son said it. When the NRSV translates in the middle, “and I,” that comes from the Greek word “kagō,” which is like a contraction of “kai eḡo.” That word then makes that same importance be implied, while stating what Jesus knew [“I know”] what the Father knows.”


With that now made clear by Jesus [albeit well over the heads of those hearing his words], a semi-colon sets those two segments apart, so a relative statement can ensue. Yet again another segment is begun by the word “kai.” Here, the importance is placed on “the soul of me” [from “psychēn mou”], where “soul” is vital to be seen as replacing the translation of “life.” By seeing that replacement word, the “soul” of Jesus is what “establishes” opportunity for all who would later become Christians. Rather than “the life of me I lay down” being read as Jesus predicting his death, the reality says Jesus knew the Mind of the Father, such that his “soul” had been “established” by Yahweh [knowing “tithēmi” means “put, place, lay, set, fix, establish”] “on behalf of” [from “hyper”] “these sheep” [or humans still in possession of their souls, only lost in the world].


With that most important statement realized, verse 16 then begins with another “kai,” placing importance on “other sheep.” Here, the Greek word “alla” can mean “other, another, or different,” where the greatest impact comes from reading this as “different sheep.” Knowing that Jesus is speaking in Jerusalem, near if not during the Festival of Lights [Feast of the Dedication], the importance says Jesus is announcing [metaphorically] that Yahweh has sent His Son’s soul as an established source of salvation for Gentiles, who are the “different sheep” that Yahweh “possesses” or “holds” [from “echō”] those souls from the teeth of the wolves of the world.


Following a comma mark, those “different sheep” are then said to be those “that do not belong to this fold.” [NRSV] In that translation, the Greek word “aulēs” is translated as “fold,” largely due to one’s mind having been set upon sheep. The word can imply that, but the standard definition is as “a courtyard, a court.” (Strong’s) HELPS Word-studies says of this word: “a building with an interior courtyard; an uncovered, walled area that is enclosed but without a roof; an open-air (interior) courtyard of a mansion or palace.” That says Yahweh just said through Jesus’ lips that He had “different sheep” that were not allowed entrance into the Temple of Jerusalem [where “sheep” means humans still in possession of their souls].


Following a semi-colon, a relative statement says of those “different sheep,” “that over there is necessary me to lead.” In this literal translation of the Greek, the word “dei” is used as an indicator of that which must happen. It states what is necessary and inevitable, while also stating what is proper to do, as a duty and an obligation. When that simple little words is read deeply, it is Yahweh saying through His Son, “Well I sent Moses to teach you to go out and save the world, but you wasted everything by thinking I sent him to make you special, selfishly squandering everything I gave you; until you lost everything. So, since you won’t save the world, I will have Christians do it.”


That powerful statement is then followed by a separate segment of words, also begun by the word “kai.” The importance now shines on the “voice” of Yahweh, speaking through His prophets. It says there will be human beings with lost souls that seek to be found. When a Saint or Apostle is led to where seekers are lost, they will hear the Gospel [i.e.: the Truth], which will speak loudly to their souls. Thus, “they will hear” the Word that had previously been denied them, because they were “different.”


Following a semi-colon, another segment of words begins with the word “kai,” importantly stating, “there will be one flock.” In that, the Greek word “genēsontai” is shown with an asterisk. The word itself is the third-person singular future middle indicative form of “gígnomai,” meaning “they will be born.” Without the asterisk [which is undefined, so I wing this completely now], the meaning could be reduced to simply stating, “they will happen, they will become, or they will come into being,” which is the simpleton concept of Christianity being some social club one can join, which is only slightly harder than becoming a convert to Judaism [for males already circumcised]. The asterisk then forces one to stay focused on the aspect of birth, where all future members of a flock established to be merged with the soul of Jesus must be reborn in that name, spiritually married to Yahweh [nothing less]. That unifying factor will then be how there will be “one flock.”


Verse 16 then ends with the segment that says, “one shepherd.” While there is no indicator mark of importance, it is worthwhile to recall how twice has been stated, “I am this shepherd,” where the capitalization of “Egō” makes the “shepherd” be Yahweh. While there was the repetition in verse 11 that said “this shepherd this good,” which was Jesus, one must see how Jesus was the shepherd good because he was married to the Father and the Father was the shepherd in him. Therefore, there can only be “one shepherd,” with that only possible as God, although whoever’s soul marries Yahweh’s Holy Spirit will be reborn as Jesus, so Yahweh will become the one shepherd as Jesus in all of His one flock.

Verse 17 then begins with the capitalized word “Dia,” which says, “On account of,” “Because of,” or “Through,” which reflects back on “one shepherd,” while also projection upon “this” [“touto”]. “This” is then Yahweh being the “shepherd,” which will always manifest in the flesh of souls He marries as His Son reborn – Jesus.


The next segment of words identified this as saying “me this Father loves,” where the use of “me” can once again be a preposition saying, “with this Father loves.” In both cases, the point made is marriage between a soul and the “Father” makes one the wife out of “love” [“with”], while also meaning that soul has been reborn as Jesus [“me”] out of God’s “love.”

This possibility of being Jesus reborn is then restated as “because I establish this soul of me,” where “egō” is the identify of the name Jesus. Again, “tithēmi” is not a reference to dying [laying down dead], but the “placing, setting, establishing” that entity, through the “life” [where “psychēn” is “life” and “soul”] that inhabited flesh that was [like all flesh] temporal and bound to die, releasing the “soul,” so it could be reproduced in countless marriages between Yahweh and “other sheep.”


This realization then leads to the next segment of words that say, “in order that again I might take it,” where “it” implies reborn “life.” In this, the Greek word “labō” is the aorist active subjunctive form of a root verb meaning “take, receive, obtain.” The word translated as “it” is “autēn,” which properly means “-self” of “same.” This means “it” is another “life” in a body of flesh [a “soul”], where the condition [“I might receive”] says that soul must marry Yahweh first, for that rebirth to take place. The subjunctive conditional established her becomes the reason the asterisk appeared on the word stating “will be born.”


Verse 18 then begins with a segment of words that state, “no one takes self [soul] away from me.” This must be seen as being stated to confirm the conditional, with the Greek word “airei” not only meaning “takes,” but also means “raises” or “lifts up.” Those words designating an elevation of a soul to a higher plane of existence are better choices of translation, in order for one to see that one cannot simply say, “I love Jesus, so I am a Christian” and become righteous and a soul married to Yahweh, reborn in the name of Jesus Christ.


This is then further explained by Jesus, as he said, “on the other hand I establish soul from myself.” Here, the repeated word “tithēmi” says the “same” will be “set” upon the soul [“-self”] of one who has sacrificed itself to be reborn as Jesus.


After a period mark, a new line of thought is begun by Jesus saying, “power to act” or “authority” is given to Jesus after he has taken “possession” of the flesh, whose soul has married the Father [from “echo” meaning “I have, I possess”]. Once Jesus “has authority” from the Father, then he “establishes self” [from “tithēmi autēn”] in that flesh.


This then leads to a segment of words that begin with the word “kai,” stating the importance of “authority I have again to obtain self.” Here, the same words are repeated, as found in the segment, with the addition of “again” [from “palin”] becoming a statement that the “self taken” has been born “again.” This makes the rebirth of Jesus be the importance, as Yahweh grants His Son the authority to possess a soul divinely.


The last segment of words in verse 18, and thus the end of this reading selection, then states, “this that direction I received by the side of this Father of me.” In that translation, the Greek word “para” translates as “from beside, by the side of, and beside,” while also bearing the meaning “in the presence of.” This distinction needs to be seen as two souls merged together as one, with Jesus the controlling soul and the other that submissive wife married to the Father. The translation as “by the side of” then allows one to see this union, two as one, such that both take on the identity of the “Son,” both becoming reborn in the name of Jesus.


This selection as the core reading for Good Shepherd Sunday then says that Yahweh is the shepherd, such that only Yahweh bring about that ability to be deemed “good.” That identity then goes beyond the person in the flesh that was Jesus and brings Jesus to Christians, who are those who were “different sheep” in the “one flock” known by Yahweh to be His souls. The purpose of this reading, along with the others that direct oneself to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit and resurrections of Jesus, all Anointed ones of Yahweh, we now see how we must be reborn as Jesus, in order for our flesh to guide others to the Lord.


As a reading during the Easter season, when one is expected to have already become in submission to Yahweh and reborn as His Son [regardless of human gender], this period is when one ripens with a new soul presence leading us to act. In order to do that, a soul in the possession of Yahweh must practice allowing Jesus to come forth and develop a deep sense of faith and trust.