This is the Sunday before ANZAC day and the reading from John’s Gospel (John 10: 11-18) has a theme which is suited to this day remembering the efforts and sacrifices of previous generations which have resulted in the great lifestyle opportunities that we have today. The theme of the reading is the good shepherd and it starts with Jesus drawing a distinction between the good shepherd and the bad shepherd. The bad shepherd just did the work as a job for a salary which was what motivated him. He had no commitment to his flock. For the good shepherd it was his calling to care for the sheep with which he had formed a relationship and would risk his life to protect them from dangerous wolves or thieves which threatened them.
However, there was a further challenge here. It is one thing to be a good shepherd to our friends and neighbours. Jesus was called to be the good shepherd to all, not just those who thought they were exclusively God’s people. Certainly, he needed to win over his own flock first, but the greater goal was to win over wider world. He was to be the one shepherd and a focus for unity in our world. This sets our agenda to play our role as missionaries, spreading the Gospel to the world.
The theologian, William Barclay tells the story from the First World War of a young French soldier who was so badly wounded that he needed his arm amputated in order to save his life. The surgeon was so upset that he had to amputate that he sat by the soldier’s bed to give him the news personally. When the young man awoke the surgeon said. “I am sorry to tell you that you lost your arm”. “Sir,” said the man, “I did not lose it – I gave it for France”.
Jesus speaks of laying down his life for his people as God’s will had required. But here it is important to realise that Jesus did not lose his life because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and fell foul of the Romans, he laid down his life voluntarily, of his own free will in order to save his flock from their sins. He did it so they may have life and have it in all its fullness. Against that sacrifice of the good shepherd how could we behave in any other way but by being good shepherds to each other.