(Adults, you could begin by reading the Gospel aloud to the child.)
Every year on the fourth Sunday of Easter, we celebrate Jesus the Good Shepherd. We know that Jesus says, "I AM the Good Shepherd." This Sunday, we listen to a short form of the parable of the Good Shepherd. It is shorter than the version many of us know and love, but it contains everything we need to know.
My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me.
Where are these sheep who belong to Jesus? We never hear of sheep following Jesus, only people—disciples. Disciples are people who follow. Perhaps the sheep of the Good Shepherd are no ordinary sheep.
The sheep hear the Good Shepherd's voice. Can we expand this short form?
The sheep hear the Good Shepherd's voice, but only if the Good Shepherd speaks first. Always, always, the Good Shepherd goes first. Also, the sheep can only hear his voice if they listen.
The Good Shepherd calls.
The sheep listen.
This is relationship.
He knows them and they follow him. Can we expand this short form?
What kind of relationship is this? Shepherds tell us that sheep only follow someone they know and trust.
The Good Shepherd knows his sheep.
His sheep know him.
This is a relationship of knowing.
I give them eternal life
If we did not know before, we know now: the sheep follow the Good Shepherd because he gives them everything and more—so much life, abundant life, life that does not end in death. Eternal life.
This is the Risen life, the life that Jesus enjoys, the life that God fills him after Jesus gives everything—in the bread, in the wine, on the cross.
Jesus gives this Risen life to his sheep. No wonder they follow!
No one will snatch them out of my hand.
What is this? What is this snatching? No one separates the sheep from the Good Shepherd. No one snatches anything from Jesus. Even the soldiers who come to snatch away his life cannot. He dies—yes, he does—but not because they snatch away his life. They cannot snatch it because Jesus gives his life for the sheep—in the bread, in the wine, on the cross. Jesus gives everything so that he can hold his sheep close to his heart.
How can Jesus be so sure that he will always keep his sheep close to his heart?
What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.
Who is Jesus' Father?
What has God given Jesus that is greater than all else?
Life that cannot be snatched away by death.
No one—not even death—can snatch Jesus from God, or the sheep from Jesus,
The Father and I are one.
The Good Shepherd.
One relationship holding the sheep so close, separated by no one.