Power to Love
||2012-04-30 07:13:07, 조회 : 5,584, 추천 : 225
| Power to Love|
Text: John 10:11-18
11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No one takes* it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’
1.Jesus is our good shepherd
Fyodor Dostoevsky was a 19th-century Russian novelist. One of his best-known works is Crime and Punishment. The protagonist of this novel is a young man named Raskolnikov. Early in the story, Raskolnikov enters a tavern for a drink and gets to talk with a drunkard called Marmeladov, a former civil servant in his early 50’s. Marmeladov tells Raskolnikov about the misery of his life. He is extremely poor; he has lost his job because of his drinking problem; his wife has a tuberculosis; he has four children and the eldest one, Sonya, a girl of eighteen years old, had to become a woman of the street to support her family; and his neighbors do not respect his family, and some of them even insult his family. At one point, Marmeladov shares with his young listener this insight: “[E]veryone must have at least somewhere to go. For there comes a time in every one’s life when they simply must have somewhere they can go!” (45) A little bit later, he expresses the same idea in a little different words: “[E]very person must have at least one place where people take pity on them!” (46).
There are times in life when we feel exhausted and need some help. When we are brought down to our knees and cannot get back up on our own. When we need unconditional acceptance and uncritical listening. When we need someone’s compassionate presence and words of encouragement. When we need to be allowed to be our own selves without having to worry about being judged. When we need the most profound kind of fellowship. I want to mention Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose-drive Life, for his description about fellowship in its different forms.
There are different levels of fellowship, and each is appropriate at different times. The simplest levels of fellowship are the fellowship of sharing and the fellowship of studying God’s word together. A deeper level is the fellowship of serving, as when we minister together on mission trips or mercy projects. The deepest, most intense level is the fellowship of suffering, where we enter into each other’s pain and grief and carry each other’s burdens. (141)
I believe that in everyone’s life there are times when they need the fellowship of suffering.
In the scripture text we have read today, Jesus says to his audience, “I am the good shepherd.” He says that when the wolf comes to his sheep, he will lay down his life for them because he cares for them. We can interpret the message here as saying that if we believe in Jesus, we will be exempt from pains and sufferings in life. Perhaps this interpretation fits better with the surface logic of what the text says. Jesus is the shepherd, and we are the sheep; the wolf comes from somewhere out there to hurt us, but Jesus protects us from its attacks, and therefore we stay safe.
But this does not sound true to me. First, the wolf may not necessarily come from somewhere out there and in fact might come from within myself or from within my own community. It could be not only oppression or disaster from outside but also the sense of meaninglessness or hopelessness I experience in my heart. It also could be a bad relationship I suffer with my friend. It could be a financial or health crisis in my own family. Second, and more importantly, no one can stay away from life’s disintegrating force. To use the expression of Simone Weil, a French philosopher, “[E]very person, by the act of being born, is destined to suffer violence” (163). No one is exempt from life’s tragedy, life’s unjustified humiliation. Even Jesus was not free of life’s violence and had to suffer.
What Jesus offers to us as our good shepherd is not protection from bad things in life but his fellowship of suffering. What Jesus offers is not protection from pain or suffering itself but a new hope and a new life. Through this fellowship, we are transformed; we grow up; we know God better; we love more; we have more abundant life. In the John 10:10, the verse which immediately precedes our text for today, Jesus says, “I came that they have life, and have it abundantly.” And in verse 11, he says, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” In order to give us an abundant life, Jesus gives up his own life. In other words, he suffers with us to the end in order to give us a new life.
2. How can we become a good shepherd?
Through the profound fellowship with Jesus, we also learn how to be a good shepherd ourselves. The Greek word for ‘good’ in ‘I am the good shepherd’ is καλὸς (kalos), and kalos means not only ‘good’ but also ‘true’ and ‘model’. Therefore, we can understand Jesus as saying, “I am the model shepherd. Learn from me how to be a shepherd.” How do we become a shepherd like Jesus? We first have to know how Jesus himself could become the good shepherd. In the John text we have read, Jesus says in verse 18, “I have power to lay [my life] down, and I have power to take it up again.” He had the power to love his sheep even to death. Where does this power come from? I think our text suggests that the source of this power is the combination of two elements: God’s command and Jesus’ obedience to it.
First, God commanded Jesus to love. In verse 18, Jesus says, “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received (λαμβάνω: to take, receive) this command from my Father.” Does God also command us that we love our neighbors? Certainly. For example, in John 15:12, Jesus says to his disciples, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” 1 John 3:16 says, “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” God gives us the command. God calls his children to be good shepherds.
But God’s call alone is not enough. We have to respond to this call. We have to obey God’s command to love in order to have the power to love. We know this from what Jesus says about the hired hand in verse 12, “The hired hand . . . sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away.” Hired hands also got the command but did not obey. They did not respond to God’s call. They could not lay down their lives for their sheep and therefore could not experience the new joy from taking them up again. Jesus obeyed God’s command and therefore gained the power to love his sheep. The Greek word for power here is ἐξουσία (exousia), and exousia means ‘authority’ as well as ‘power’. ‘Authority’ includes freedom. That is why Jesus says in verse 18, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”
Then what does obeying here mean, the obeying that brings us the power and freedom to love? It means not only the willingness to ‘care for’ our neighbors (v.13) but also the consistent efforts to create a relationship in which our neighbors and we know one another. In verse 14, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” Knowing our neighbors does not happen instantly. It takes time because it is essentially the same kind of knowing as knowing ourselves, God, or the truth. And it takes time to know ourselves, God, or the truth.
Knowing our neighbors is an essential part of knowing God’s truth. And concerning knowing this truth, Jesus says in John 8:31-32, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” In order to know the truth, we have to continue in Jesus’ word. We have to stay and abide in Jesus’ teachings. We have to persist in doing his will. I believe the same principle applies to knowing our neighbors. It is a process of building a personal relationship in which we continue to care for our neighbors. In this process we are transformed, our identity is changed, that is, we become Jesus’ disciples. The power and freedom to love is something that grows, something that becomes stronger when we make consistent efforts on a daily basis, efforts to listen, comfort, and be compassionate.
Let’s hear Dostoevsky’s Marmeladov again: “[E]veryone must have at least somewhere to go. For there comes a time in every one’s life when they simply must have somewhere they can go!” (45) “[E]very person must have at least one place where people take pity on them!” (46). This sounds true. There is a great need of many good shepherds in this world. People need good shepherds who will accept, comfort, and encourage them, who will help them become good shepherds themselves. Are we willing to obey God’s command to love and work for gaining the authority, freedom, and power to love?