Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
ENGAGED: The Call to Be Disciples
Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20
Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I AM the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I AM the door; if anyone enters by Me he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. John 10: 7-9
Good morning Prayer Team!
The next two reflections will be on verses from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John. Allow me a moment to set the scene and give some background. In John 9, Jesus healed a blind man and then was criticized by the Pharisees for healing on the Sabbath. The Pharisees concluded that Jesus could not be from God, because He didn’t follow the Law in healing on the Sabbath. John 10 opens with a discourse by Jesus to the Pharisees, comparing Himself to being the Shepherd of a flock of sheep.
Sheep and shepherds played a prominent role in the society of that day. Many families kept sheep. Imagine a block with many families with sheep. A shepherd boy from the neighborhood would take all the sheep out to pasture. He would have a small pipe he would play different tunes on, and the sheep knew which tune belonged to them, so when many sheep were together, the shepherd could separate them.
In the summer and at other times, the flock would stay out in the pasture overnight. The sheep pen would often be built against a mountain side, and either a fence or a rock wall would surround the pen. Thorns would be placed on top of the wall or fence to keep wild animals away from the flock. However, the pen had no door that shut over the entrance or roof. The “door” was just an open space in between the walls. If the sheep pen was surrounded by thorns, the only safe way to get into the pen was through the door.
Jesus compares Himself to the door of the sheep pen. The sheep pen is the safe haven for the sheep. We, the Christians, are the sheep in the flock of Christ. The sheep pen is heaven for eternal life, and grace, peace and mercy in our earthly life. Jesus tells us that He is the door of the sheep, the gateway of the safe haven. For us, He is the gateway to the Kingdom of heaven.
Those who came before Jesus, He calls them “thieves and robbers,” (John10:8) but says that the sheep did not heed them. He sets this up in 10:3-5 when He says :
“To Him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear His voice, and He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. When He had brought out all His own, He goes before them, and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from Him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
Going back to the example of the shepherd and his sheep, the shepherd had a voice or a tune that was recognizable to the sheep, so the sheep would follow their shepherd. Jesus has a voice of love and mercy that is attractive and distinct and so people follow this “voice.” The thieves and robbers refer to the Jewish leaders, who took on the role of shepherds over the flock (the people of Israel) but who did so with a voice of judgment and condemnation. “The sheep did not heed them” means that the people of Israel did not recognize the Pharisees or the Jewish leaders as the Messiah. Jesus was slowly revealing His Messiahship one of the ways He did that besides the signs we have already discussed was to teach the people in ways they would understand (in this case, talking about shepherds and sheep) that He was not like the Jewish leadership and that He was calling people not to be slaves to the Law of Moses, but to the grace and truth that He was witnessing. (John 1:17)
If we see ourselves as sheep, and Christ as our shepherd, bringing this back to contemporary life, then our “pen” is our home, or our job or any place we spend time. If the “door” to our home or our job is Christ, then as we “go in and out” to and from pasture, we will be led by Christ, our shepherd, and will be kept safe from “wolves”—things like temptation, distraction, doubt despondency, hopelessness and despair. Of course this doesn’t mean we won’t feel threatened by the challenges of life, but that with Christ we will be able to meet each challenge, each robber or each wolf who threatens to destroy our pen.
To Thee, O Lord, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if Thou be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the Pit. Hear the voice of my supplication, as I cry to Thee for help, as I lift up my hands towards Thy most holy sanctuary. Take me not off with the wicked, with those who are workers of evil, who speak peace with their neighbors, while mischief is in their hearts. Requite them according to their work, and according to the evil of their deeds; requite them according to the work of their hands; render them their due reward. Because they do not regard the works of the Lord, or the work of His hands, He will break them down and build them up no more. Blessed be the Lord! For He has heard the voice of my supplications. The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him. The Lord is the strength f His people, He is the saving refuge of His anointed. O save Thy people, and bless Thy heritage; be Thou their shepherd, and carry them forever. Psalm 28
Make Christ the “door” of each “pen” you have—your home, your job, your relationships!
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Photo Credit: Shepherd Thoughts
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