The ideal shepherd
“Truly, anyone who tries to get into the sheep pen by any way other than the gate is a thief and a robber. The shepherd enters by the gate. The gatekeeper opens it for him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls each of them by name and leads them out of the pen. He walks ahead of them after he has brought all of his flock out. The sheep follow behind him because they recognize him by his voice. Sheep will run away from a stranger rather than follow him because they don’t recognize his voice.”
Jesus gave this example but they didn’t understand what he meant.
The good shepherd
Jesus said, “Truly, I am the gate. All those who came before I did are thieves and robbers, but the sheep ignored them. I am the gate. Those who enter by way of me will be saved and will be able to come in and go out and find green pastures. Thieves are there only to steal, kill, and destroy. I am here so that my flock may have life in abundance.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd will sacrifice even his own life for the sheep. A hired man will run away and leave the sheep defenseless when he sees a wolf coming. He doesn’t own the sheep and doesn’t care about them like the shepherd does. The wolf will enter and savagely attack the sheep.
I am the good shepherd. My sheep know me, and I know them, in the same way that the Father and I know each other. I sacrifice my life for the sheep. But there are other sheep that belong to me who are not here. I must gather them as well, and they will recognize my voice. Then the flock will be together with one shepherd. The Father loves me because of this, because I will sacrifice my life so I can take it back again. No one steals my life from me; rather, I sacrifice it voluntarily. I am empowered to lay it down, and I am empowered to take it back up again. The Father has given me this order.”
The Jewish leaders were divided in their opinion about him after hearing these words. Many said “He must be possessed or insane! Why listen to what he has to say?” Others said “He doesn’t sound like someone who is possessed. Can someone who is possessed heal someone from blindness?”
Jesus at the Feast of Lights
It was winter, and Jesus went to the Feast of Lights (Hanukkah) celebration that was taking place in Jerusalem. Jesus was walking in a part of the Temple complex known as Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jewish leaders surrounded him and asked him “How long are you going to make us wait? Tell us openly if you are the Messiah.”
“I’ve already told you and you didn’t believe me,” Jesus answered. “All the miracles that I do in the name of my Father speak to the truth about who I am. But you don’t believe because you are not part of my flock, like I’ve said. My sheep recognize my voice. They follow me and I know them. I give eternal life to them so that they will never ever perish. No one will steal them from me. My Father has given them to me and is more powerful than anyone. No one can steal them from the Father. I and the Father – we are One.”
Renewed efforts to stone Jesus
The Jewish leaders again picked up rocks to throw at Jesus.
He said “You have seen me perform many good works that are from God. Which one of those are you trying to stone me for?”
The leaders replied “We aren’t stoning you because of good works. We are stoning you because you are committing blasphemy because you – a human being – are saying you are God.”
Jesus replied, “Isn’t this written in the Law: ‘I said, you are gods’? The Scriptures are never false. Since God called prophets ‘gods’, are you really accusing me of blasphemy – me, the one sanctified and sent into the world by God – because I said I am the Son of God? Don’t believe in me if I’m not doing my Father’s works. If I am doing them and you still don’t believe in me, then believe the works. Through this you will understand and know that the Father and I are one.”
They again tried to arrest him but he slipped out of their hands.
Many beyond the Jordan believe
Jesus left and stayed at the site across the Jordan where John had earlier baptized people. Many people came to him there and said “John never performed a miracle, but everything he said about Jesus was true.” There were many people in that area who believed in Jesus.
Jesus and Herod Antipas
Then some Pharisees told him “Leave here! Herod wants to have you killed!”
Jesus replied, “Tell that fox that I’m busy casting out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and I’ll be through on the third day. But I have to travel for the next three days because prophets can die only in Jerusalem!”
A Sabbath controversy
The Pharisees were watching Jesus closely when he dined at the home of one of their leaders one Sabbath. There was a man there whose body was swollen with fluid because he had edema. Jesus challenged the Pharisees and the experts in the Law by saying, “Is it permissible according to the Law of Moses to heal on the Sabbath or not?” They did not answer him. Jesus brought the man to him, healed him, and then sent him on his way. He turned to them and said “Who among you, if your son or ox fell into a well, would not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” They had no answer to this.
Teachings on humility
Jesus told a parable to those who were invited to an important dinner. He noticed that people were choosing to sit near the head of the table where the best places were. He said “If you are invited to an important dinner such as a wedding feast, don’t go to the best place and sit down. If someone with a higher status than you is invited, the host may come up to you and ask you to move. Then you, in humiliation, will have to go take the least important seat.
It is better to do this – go and sit at the least important seat so that it gives the host a chance to invite you to move up to a more prestigious position. You will then be honored in front of all the other guests. Everyone who tries to raise himself up will be brought low, and everyone who humbles himself will be raised up.”
Then he turned to the host and said “Don’t invite your friends, relatives, or rich neighbors when you have a dinner party, because they can return the favor and invite you back. Instead, it is better to invite those who are poor, maimed, lame, or blind when you host a banquet. You will be blessed when you do this because they cannot repay you. Instead, you will be repaid by God at the resurrection of the righteous.”
A man who was reclining at the table when he said this said, “Blessed is he who will eat bread with God in His kingdom!”
The parable of the large banquet
Jesus said “There once was a very wealthy man who decided to give a large banquet. He invited a lot of people. On the day of the banquet, he sent his servants to go remind everyone who had been invited because everything was ready.
Without exception, all of them sent excuses instead of coming. Some of them said they had to work on their farm, some at their business, and some said they had just gotten married. All of them were too busy to show up to this feast that they had been invited to a long time ago. Some of the guests were quite abusive to his servants as well.
When the host learned the news, he told his servants to go into the streets and alleyways of the city and invite anyone they could find, including the poor and handicapped. The servants did this and there was room for even more people, so the host sent them out to get even more guests. The host was determined that none of the original guests would enjoy his banquet.”
MT 22:1-10, LK 14:16-24
“When the host came in to look at his guests, he saw a man who was shabbily dressed – not appropriate for a grand feast such as this. He asked him how it was that he was admitted in without appropriate clothing. The man didn’t know how to answer, so he didn’t. Then the host told his servants ‘Tie this man up by his hands and feet and throw him out with the trash. For many people are invited but few make the cut.’”
The cost of following Jesus
“Who among you would try to build a tower without making sure he has enough money to finish it? Otherwise people will mock him when they see that he has laid the foundation and can’t complete it, saying ‘This person started something he couldn’t finish.’ Doesn’t a king going to war analyze whether he has enough soldiers to go against the other king? If he doesn’t, then he sends a peace delegation ahead while the other army is still far away. In the same way, only those who renounce their possessions are able to be my disciples.”
The parable of the lost sheep
Tax collectors and sinners were coming to Jesus to listen to what he had to say. The Pharisees and scribes complained about this saying “This man welcomes sinners and dines with them!”
(People also questioned why Jesus would bless small children.) “Be careful that you don’t belittle young children. You need to know that their angels constantly see my Father in heaven. The Son of Man has come to rescue the lost.”
“Consider this, if one of you has a flock of 100 sheep, and one of them wanders away and gets lost, don’t you leave the 99 on the hillside to go find the one who wandered away? I assure you: if you find it you’ll joyfully put it on your shoulders and come home, calling your friends and neighbors together to rejoice with you that you have found your lost sheep. You’ll celebrate over that one sheep more than you will about the 99 that stayed. In the same way, your Father in heaven will celebrate more about one sinner who returns to Him than over the 99 righteous people who never turned away. It is not the will of your Father in heaven that anyone should perish.”
MT 18:12-14, LK 15:3-7
The parable of the lost coin
“What woman doesn’t light a lamp and thoroughly search the house from top to bottom if she loses a single silver coin out of the ten she has? She will call together her female friends and neighbors when she finds it, saying ‘Let’s celebrate, because I’ve found my lost coin!’ Truly, the angels before God are just as joyful when one sinner repents.”
Parable of the lost son
Jesus said “A father had two sons. The younger one said to him ‘Father, give me my inheritance now,’ and his father honored his request. Not long afterwards, that son took all of his belongings and traveled far away to another country, where he spent all he had living large. When he was penniless, a famine broke out there and he became needy. Then he found a job working for a local citizen who sent him to feed the pigs in his fields. He desperately wanted to eat even the seed pods that the pigs were eating but nobody would let him have any.
When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself ‘All of my father’s workers have plenty of food, and I’m starving to death because of this famine! I should get up and travel back to my father and say to him, Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son. Please take me on as a hired hand.’ He then got up and started to walk back to his father. But while he was still very far away, his father saw him and was overcome with compassion. He ran to him and hugged and kissed him. The son said ‘Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’
But the father called to his servants, saying ‘Hurry! Fetch the finest robe we have and put it on him; bring a ring and sandals and put those on him as well. Then slaughter the fattened calf and let’s have a feast of celebration, because my son was dead and has returned to life. He was lost and has been found.’ And thus the party began.
Meanwhile, his older son was in the fields. When he approached the house, he heard the sounds of music and dancing. He called one of the servants to him and asked what was going on. The servant said, ‘Your brother is here, and your father had us slaughter the fattened calf to celebrate that he has safely returned.’
The older son then became very angry and didn’t want to go into the house. His father came outside to plead with him. But the son replied, ‘Look I have worked many years for you and I’ve always obeyed your orders, yet you never even gave me a young goat so I could have a feast with my friends. But when this son of yours shows up, the one who threw away your money on prostitutes, you have the fattened calf slaughtered for him!?’
‘Son’, he said, ‘you have never left me and all I have is yours. But we had to rejoice and celebrate because your brother was dead and has returned to life; he was lost and is now found.'”
The Pharisees (who loved money) were listening to what Jesus was saying and mocking him.
Jesus told them “All of you justify yourselves in front of others, but God knows what is in your heart. What people admire the most is what is repulsive to God. The words of the Law and the Prophets were followed until John came. Ever since then, the good news about the kingdom of God has been declared, and many people are crowding in. But even the smallest letter of the words of the Law and the Prophets are still valid.”
The wealthy man and Lazarus
“Once there was a very wealthy man who dressed in royal purple and fine linen, and he ate a lavish feast every day. A poor man named Lazarus was left at his gate. He was covered in sores. He would have been grateful to eat even the scraps that fell from the wealthy man’s table, but dogs came and licked his sores instead. One day Lazarus died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The wealthy man died on the same day and was buried. While he was being tormented in Hades, he looked up and saw Abraham very far away with Lazarus reclining next to him. He called out ‘Father Abraham! Show mercy to me and send Lazarus to cool my tongue with a taste of water from his fingertip. The flames here are agonizing!’
‘Child,’ Abraham replied, ‘remember all the good things in life that you had, while Lazarus had only bad? He is getting his share of comfort now, while you are in torment. In addition, there is a huge chasm between us and you, so that even if someone wanted to travel to the other side, they couldn’t.’
‘Father,’ the wealthy man begged, ‘then please send him to my father’s house to warn my five brothers so they won’t end up here.’
Abraham said, ‘They should listen to Moses and the prophets.’
The wealthy man then said, ‘No, father Abraham, they will repent if someone comes to them from the dead.’
And Abraham countered, saying “If they ignore Moses and the prophets, they will ignore someone who comes back to life.'”