Rumbles At Tabernacles: A Personal Re- Introduction

CathedralThe backdrop of the week I have written about has been the Feast of Tabernacles.  It brought to mind in the Jewish people traditions by which they would remember their redemptions in the simplicity of living in booths and living day to day for manna [mysterious bread] from heaven. It was said in the time of Moses that this festival was based, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” It is not coincidence that this festival was in the ingathering time of the grain harvest which is used for bread and among the offerings this week was the todah (thanksgiving) through bread.

There was also an emphasis of Moses to shepherd the people of Israel.  It is likely in light of things like this, that Jesus continues on in his response to the Pharisees who have again presumed that they have the upper hand in discerning spiritual matters.  Jesus introduces himself for the first time— again after calling them blind in their self-righteousness.

“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them (John 10: 1-6).

Amen, amen– It has been said that this is a means to “mark the transition from dialogue to monologue” (CH Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel. p. 358).  Jesus is about to introduce himself in this pivot as the good shepherd which implies now a personal relationship different than light or I AM imagery.  The words and works of Jesus, as shown here, are seeds for the context of the Church he founded.

when Jesus leads off with the words verily, verily [derived from a Hellenized Amen of Hebrew]….He is not merely saying, “Believe me, this is true.” He is actually saying, “I know this is true firsthand.” Since many of these comments are on heavenly, spiritual, or godly issues, Jesus’ use of verily, verily is part of His consistent claim of divinity. Jesus is not merely aware of these truths: He is the One who originated them! (Got Questions.

does not enter a sheepfold through the gate-  This gate is really Jesus.  In this section the both/and of Jesus comes through. He is shepherd and gate.  But what is the flock?  It is visible and Augustin addresses this when commenting on this passage.

Keep hold of this, that Christ’s sheepfold is the Catholic Church.  Whoever would enter the sheepfold, let him enter by the door, let him preach the true Christ….for Christ the Lord is the low gateway : he who enters by this gateway must humble himself, that he may be able to enter with head unharmed (Augustine, Lectures or Tractates on the Gospel According to St. John, for Chapter 10).

whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep-  This can be seen as pointing not only to him but for any that are shepherds divinely installed by him.  In the New Testament the terms shepherd and overseer, or bishop, are used together.  That second term, overseer, could be translated as “over-scoper” and is mentioned as watching over the souls of many.

gatekeeper opens it for him-  One might think that this would be a local pastor stepping aside for Jesus to show up in his presence in a local church but that does not work in the context of how they serve. Jesus is here emphasizes here that any shepherds that bring direction with a voice the sheep will understand will do it because Jesus as the gate and gatekeeper allows them in.  Thus Jesus is might, loving and will be the ultimate leader of any sheepfold  that belongs to him.

as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out-  Now there is a reference to personal conversion that stands out in the marketplace of spiritual ideas and is personally worded for a reason.  In this Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus referred to himself as the light of the world and the I AM. Someone who accepted that would see a Jesus’ claim of being mighty but tender.  God the Father does call all to repent but Jesus speaks with a proposing theme.

he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him-  Jesus stands as a the ultimate shepherd for and giver and example of a divine life to live.  In return, the sheep stand as followers in simplicity not knowing which road will be taken but they will be taken care of.

while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God. Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:2-3).

In this manner, Jesus is laying out points of conversion and inferred credentials.  It comes together in the scandal, yet proposition, of the Cross.  This is what he pivots to as the shepherd who lays his life down for his sheep.


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