Monday, April 23, 2012


JESUS MAFA  The Good Shepherd
JESUS MAFA is a response to the New Testament readings from the Lectionary by a Christian community in Cameroon, Africa, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library

The 4th Sunday in Easter is always “Good Shepherd” Sunday. It gets this name partly from the fact that the appointed Psalm is the 23rd – ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ – but chiefly because, in each of the three years of the lectionary, the Gospel for the day is taken from John Chapter 10, in which Jesus applies the metaphor of a shepherd to himself.

The three passages all have a slightly different emphasis. Verses 11-18 provide the reading in Year B (this year), and in them Jesus dwells on the contrast between a shepherd tending his own sheep, and a hired hand who is merely looking after some else’s. When danger threatens the flock, the hired hand flees; the true shepherd stays – even to the point of ‘laying down his life’.

We might think this an exaggeration for even the most devoted shepherd, and perhaps it is, but hyperbole can still make a powerful point. Applied to Jesus it does, and importantly draws our attention not just to the Crucifixion, but the Resurrection. On the cross, Jesus hangs in complete abandonment. Fear and faithlessness has led every one of his followers to scatter. He is left alone, crushed by pain and surrounded by hatred.

Yet, amazingly, it is these same followers that the Risen Christ first seeks out. His love for those he has made ‘his own’ transcends an impossibly testing time. The Epistle draws the obvious lesson – ‘We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us . . . How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action’.

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