Biblical Words 
Shepherd, glorified in power, brings new
life to God’s people who are in his care.
The fourth Sunday of Easter season is the Pastor’s day. (“Pastor” in Latin means “Shepherd.”)
Each year Psalm 23 and a portion of
In the New Testament readings it is the Risen Lord who does this shepherding of the believers, though in the first reading it is Peter who carries forward the shepherd’s work.
. Acts 9:36-43
In the Acts story, resurrection spreads among the people.
In the larger
Peter is staying at Lydda when he is called to Joppa (10 miles away) to share the grief at the death of a prominent woman disciple of the church in Joppa. (This is the only New Testament use of the feminine form of the noun “disciple.”)
Peter’s action is presented as a repetition of great acts of resurrection in the past. It repeats what Elijah did for the Sidonian widow who helped him during the famine (I Kings 17:17-24); it repeats what Elisha did for the woman of Shunem to revive the son miraculously born to her (II Kings 4:18-37); it repeats Jesus’ action in raising the daughter of Jairus (Luke 8:40-42, 49-56); and it repeats Jesus’ raising of the son of the widow of Nain near Nazareth in Galilee (Luke 7:11-17).
raising of Dorcas showed that great prophetic and Messianic power was
continuing for God’s people. All of these
resurrection stories are set outside
The Psalm reading is the quiet but powerful affirmation of personal trust in the Lord, presenting God in the image of the Shepherd. Here are the familiar images as given in the Common English Bible translation (CEB, 2011):
(Shifting the imagery now to that of a great ruler who hosts his faithful subordinates at a feast at the royal palace, where they will always find access and security …)
. Revelation 7:9-17
The Epistle reading continues the heavenly liturgy from the book of Revelation. (This is a bit complicated, but the dramatic vista is impressive if you stay with it!)
The seventh chapter of this book presents two hosts of peoples before the heavenly throne while the impending doom for the old world is suspended for this heavenly presentation. (The suspension of the doom is commanded in verses 1-3.)
The first group of
people (prior to our reading) are the faithful souls of the past from the
twelve tribes of
Our reading begins by presenting the second group of peoples. They are an unnumbered multitude from all the nations and peoples of the world.
These folks wear white robes and have the palm branches of praise and the festival-shout in their hands. When we see them, they are gathered in masses around the vast heavenly auditorium and a three-fold sequence of song and praise unfolds.
First, this multitude itself sings out, “Salvation belongs to our God…” (verse 10). [This is a superb anthem the Pomona College Men's Glee Club used to perform in the 1950's.] Then, the great choir of angels responds with a seven-fold acclamation of God, enclosed between two Amens (verses 11-12). The third phase of the song and praise is a solo, by one of the twenty-four elders who are close to the divine throne.
Before the singing there is a recitative dialogue in which the elder asks the seer (John, the one who has received these visions) who are these folks massed in the white robes.
The seer politely replies that the elder will know and say. He then explains that these unnumbered masses are the people who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, which means that they have held fast in their confession of Jesus as the Christ to the point of death.
This is the cue for the elder to sing his solo celebrating the glory and reward of these faithful witnesses. It is at the climax of this solo that we hear of the work of the heavenly Shepherd, who (by a curious twist of imagery) is the Lamb.
The caring and comforting Shepherd is the climax of the pilgrimage of the humble ones who followed Jesus, even to the death.
The Gospel reading
presents Jesus speaking to Judean people who demand to know whether he is the
Anointed One or not. His reply is the
conclusion of this chapter, which has already presented Jesus as the Gate for
the sheep (10:7) and as the Good Shepherd (
Here the focus
is on the sheep. There is a special
link between the shepherd and the sheep:
he knows them, each and every one (see
The first emphasis in this passage is that these “sheep” are in contrast to the Judean questioners, who do not believe either Jesus’ works or words. This passage, like so much else in the Gospel According to John, reflects serious differences and disputes between Judean disciples of Jesus and their non-believing Judean opponents.
The last part of the selected reading emphasizes the
final blessing of the sheep who know Jesus’
voice and follow him. “I give them
eternal life, and they will never perish” (verse 28). This is the ultimate blessing in John’s
Gospel. The keeping and protection of
these humble ones, the sheep, is God’s own special concern, given to the
heavenly Jesus as an assignment.
“What my Father has given me is greater than all
else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand” (verse 29,
And the concluding affirmation separates Jesus most
decisively from his Judean dissenters:
“The Father and I are one” (verse 30).
The Lamb and the one who sits on the heavenly throne (in the language of
Revelation) are united in the saving work of the Shepherd.