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, “I AM the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I AM the good shepherd; I know My own and My own know Me, as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed My voice. So there shall be one flock, one Shepherd. John 10:11-16
Good morning Prayer Team!
In the last reflection, we spoke about sheep and their shepherds in the time of Jesus. Being a shepherd was not a glamorous job by any means. It didn’t pay well. And it was dangerous. Wolves and other wild animals were always a threat to the flock, particularly at night when they would be hard to see. As we mentioned yesterday, the sheep pen was usually fortified with thorns on top of its fence or stone wall to keep predators from entering the pen by jumping over the wall. However, the sheep pen had no door. It was up to the shepherd to guard the door at night to keep the flock safe.
Because being a shepherd didn’t pay well, and many shepherds were nomadic (they had no place to call their home), there wasn’t a lot of loyalty amongst the shepherds. If a shepherd saw a wolf coming to attack the flock, he would know that the wolf would attack him first. Thus, as Jesus points out in John 10:12-13, that “He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and care nothing for the sheep.” In contrast, Jesus is “the Good Shepherd,” who lays down His life for the sheep. Jesus did not run away from His sheep (His people) when the going got tough. He laid down His life for us by being nailed to the cross for our sins.
So, Jesus is not our overseer. He is not a hired hand. He is the “Good Shepherd” who willingly laid down His life for us, the sheep.
There is a beautiful icon that shows “Christ the Good Shepherd.” Over His shoulders He is carrying a sheep. This represents us, the sheep of the flock. He carries us in our rough times. Orthodox bishops wear a vestment called the “Omophorion” over their robes. It traditionally was made of white wool, and even though this is no longer the case, the Omophorion reminds the bishop and shows the faithful the image of Christ the Good Shepherd in the person of the bishop, who is ordained to be the shepherd of the flock of Christ in whatever Diocese or Metropolis he is serving.
The “other sheep, that are not of this fold” (10:16) refers to the Gentiles, that Jesus did not come only to be the shepherd to the people of Israel but to all people, to gather all into one flock and to be the one Shepherd for all.
If we indeed see ourselves as sheep, do we see Christ as our Shepherd? Do we wander around aimlessly, without a leader? Do we know the safety of the sheep pen? Do we desire that safety? Unlike sheep, who are not the smartest of animals, we are rational sheep, who can think for ourselves. It is a choice whether to follow the Shepherd or not. It takes faith to follow Christ as our Shepherd.
Finally, today’s prayer is the 23rd Psalm, which begins “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” If indeed He is the Shepherd, and we trust Him to carry us, there is no need to feel in want. For our wants and needs are met under His care for us.
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want; He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou anoinest my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Follow the Shepherd today!
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.
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