(Readings online here)

The Fourth Sunday in Easter celebrates Jesus as “The Good Shepherd.” In the Roman Catacombs one of the earliest paintings of Jesus depicts a beardless youth carrying a lamb on his shoulders.

It’s an appealing picture in some ways. In other ways maybe not. We don’t like to think of ourselves as sheep blindly following whoever leads them, drinking the strychnine-laced Kool-Aid on command.

But as usual, our scripture lessons for today aren’t that simple or sentimental. They like to mix metaphors. The Lamb at the center of the throne is our shepherd, says Revelation (7:17). Jesus, the Lamb, the shepherd, the sheep and God are all one, says John’s Gospel (10:27-30, plus 1:29). You can’t paint that.

If we’re sheep, then so is Jesus, and so is God—the Lamb at the center of the throne. If Jesus and God are shepherds, then so are we. We’re to care for the vulnerable by making ourselves vulnerable, the way Jesus does, the way God does. That’s not blindly following a captivating leader. It’s becoming a community of mutual trust and care—and sometimes criticism. It doesn’t sound very efficient. But at least it’s lively.