Today at church was Palm Sunday (the week before Easter) service, which at my church is only readings and liturgy, not a sermon. Plus I was so tired I was a zombie. I was still thinking about how confusing John 10:11-18 is, even if it seems straightforward, and even though the text today was Mark. What suddenly caught my attention was the scattered sheep:
And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters; for it is written,
“I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.”
Well there you are, remember how confused I was/am about Jesus saying he was a Good Shepherd because he would willingly lay down his life for the sheep, not let them be snatched and scattered as the hired man would? And I couldn’t figure out how dying would in any possible way protect the sheep from being snatched and scattered.
And it doesn’t.
The liturgy today — perhaps because I was zombie-tired — really seemed to unfold in my mind’s eye like a movie, the triumphal entry quickly turning to betrayal and brokenness and the cross. The “wolf” however willing Jesus might be to lay down his life, has come and has indeed snatched and scattered…. and I felt the terror perhaps. Terror if you are Peter or one of the others at being caught by the Romans and also killed. Terror of a world without Jesus in it, that you were only slowly learning to trust and hear and see. Terror of a life now empty and full of regrets.
Perhaps we the church are the “hired man” trying to help the sheep and care for the sheep but of course we cannot do whatever mysterious thing it was that Jesus did on the cross. Most practically we cannot “take up” our life again if we were to lay it down.
Perhaps if you are Peter or the others, afraid on all sides, you might remember Jesus saying he was a Good Shepherd. If it was inescapable for the Shepherd to not be struck, perhaps remembering that Jesus can take his life back up again, perhaps in the time between the cross and the empty tomb and the appearance of Jesus again they had some bit of hope. Or perhaps later — we were goofs, we had forgotten that Jesus was the Good Shepherd. they said, telling the story to others and remembering, remembering it all. We were afraid they would remember and shiver and then smile and break bread and drink wine.