The Many Names of God –

Names of Jesus – Part 5

John 10:11-16, Good Shepherd
Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 34: Isaiah 40:9-11; John 10:11-14, The Good Shepherd, by Bernhard Plockhorst
John 14:3-6; 8:31-36, Way, Truth, Life
John 11:23-27, 14:6, Resurrection and Life
John 6:35-51, Bread of Life

More Names of God

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John 10:11-16, Good Shepherd (2/25/2009)

Back in January we learned that one of the names or titles used for God and for the Messiah in the Old Testament is "Shepherd of Israel" or just "Shepherd" (for example, Genesis 49:24b; Psalms 80:1-7; Isaiah 40:10-11; Ezekiel 34:11-15, 23-24). I've pointed out before that sheep are, as far as I know, the only domesticated animals that can't survive without people to take care of them. The Jews knew this a lot better than we do, because by and large they were shepherds themselves. So when Jesus talked about being the Good Shepherd, his listeners made two associations: with God as the Shepherd of Israel, and with a caretaker of the helpless. I read a very beautiful commentary once in which the writer said that on a trip to the Holy Land he had watched shepherds call their own sheep by name out of a large communal flock. He was amazed to learn that the shepherd did indeed know his sheep, and they knew him!

Today's reading comes immediately after Jesus gives sight to the man who is blind from birth. Jesus is talking to a group of Pharisees, who were among the most scripturally learned people in Judea. There can be no doubt that they understood his reference to the Old Testament scriptures, because after Jesus finished speaking they immediately started debating among themselves. Some of them said not to listen to him – "he's got a demon." Others said, "these are not the words of a man who has a demon," because a man who has a demon cannot heal the blind. This is the pattern we see repeatedly in the book of John. First, Jesus performs a work of power (the healing). Second, either Jesus or John explains what it means (Jesus is the Shepherd who takes care of the members of the flock, even to the point of defending them with his own life). Third, the people who see this have to make a decision, either for belief or unbelief.

Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 34: Isaiah 40:9-11; John 10:11-14, The Good Shepherd, by Bernhard Plockhorst (7/16/15)

German painter Bernhard Plockhorst (1825 – 1907) was a member of the Nazarene movement – not the denomination but an artists’ group that tried to return to a more natural depiction of Jesus and his times, in contrast to earlier artists who put people in “modern” clothing and settings.

Plockhorst has given us this absolutely iconic picture of Jesus as The Good Shepherd. Even if you’ve never seen the original, you think you have, because it has been reproduced, copied, modified, adapted, stained-glassed, sculpted, and figurined for the past 100 years!

And a good thing, too. We should never forget that one of the Bible’s principal symbols for God and for Jesus is the shepherd who lovingly tends his sheep: us. And we should never forget that we are poor, hapless creatures, totally dependent on our shepherd.

Previous Step. Next Step.
The Good Shepherd. Click to enlarge. See below for provenance.
"The Good Shepherd" by Bernhard Plockhorst,
from the Gamble family Bible, now in the private collection of Regina Hunter. Photography by Daryl Lee.

John 14:3-6; 8:31-36, Way, Truth, Life (2/26/2009)

Sometimes I think I know the way to somewhere, but I get lost. Other times I think I don't know the way, but I arrive there just as if I did. And sometimes I don't need directions at all, I need a tutor, because where I want to be is not a destination, it's a way of life. Thomas was thinking about directions, and what he had was a tutor. Practice God's word in your life.

And by the way, have you noticed how often Jesus is talking to us as a group, and not as individuals? We're all in this together.

John 11:23-27, 14:6, Resurrection and Life (2/27/2009)

Throughout the centuries, various explorers, alchemists, novelists, and scientists have looked for the secret of eternal life. (Some of them have been smart enough to look for eternal youth, as well. If I'm just going to keep getting older and more decrepit, forget it!) More realistic investigators look for the secret of increased longevity. Generally speaking, the secret-of-eternal-or-at-least-longer-life folks want to sell you the secret. Or keep it for themselves and rule the universe, WHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!, one or the other.

Everyone who is looking for the secret of eternal life should get in touch with God. God has been saying for thousands of years, "Turn away from your sin, and live!" (Ezekiel 18); "Keep my commandments, and live!" (Proverbs 7); "Forsake the foolish, and live!" (Proverbs 9). Why? "I have no pleasure in the death of anyone; so turn, and live!" (Ezekiel 18). We didn't seem to be getting the message, so God sent Jesus to give us the secret of eternal life: a right relationship with God through Christ.

John 6:35-51, Bread of Life (3/2/2009)

Mark loved action. Matthew loved teaching. Luke loved history. John loved puns and metaphors. John reports relatively few miracles and almost no parables; however, he reports and explains Jesus' metaphors in great detail. Several of these metaphors have become recognizable names for Jesus. We saw John's pattern last week: miracle, long explanation that often revolves around a metaphor, decision for belief or unbelief.

All of John 6 is about bread. It was getting close to Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread (6:4). Jesus performed the only miracle reported in all four gospels, the feeding of the 5000 from 5 loaves of bread and two little fish, with 12 baskets of bread left over. (Actually, there were 5000 men, plus women and children; this is clear in the Greek in all four gospels.) The crowd followed him around the lake after he crossed directly over, and he told them, "Y'all aren't following me because you believe, but just because you got enough bread to eat." While teaching in the synagogue shortly after this, he contrasts the manna God gave to the Israelites in the desert to save their physical lives with himself – the living bread that God gives to ensure eternal life (below). In vss. 60-69, some believe, and some don't. For those who believe, Jesus is the Bread of Life.

More Names of God
Names of God - Introduction
Sacred Names - Part 1
Sacred Names - Part 2
Other Names - Part 1
Other Names - Part 2
Other Names - Part 3
Names of Jesus - Part 1
Names of Jesus - Part 2
Names of Jesus - Part 3
Names of Jesus - Part 4
Names of Jesus - Part 5
Names of Jesus - Part 6
Names of Jesus - Part 7
Names of Jesus - Part 8
Names of Jesus - Part 9
Names of the Spirit

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