The Journey reading for today comes from John 10:1-10. This passage is one part of the section generally known as “The Good Shepherd” text. Immediately, pastoral images of Jesus carrying a little lamb around his neck come to mind.

Here are two interesting observations about this text, though.

  1. Jesus first claims that he is the gate, not the shepherd. The gate provides easy access for the sheep to come in and go out without fear.
  2. This passage is a continuation of chapter nine and is actually an explanation of why Jesus healed the blind man. If we want to truly understand the metaphors in chapter 10, we must frame it in the story of that healing.

Caroline Lewis provides a wonderful commentary here. The following paragraphs from that commentary highlight something that is vitally important to keep in mind. What does Jesus mean by the term salvation in this passage?

Although easily overlooked, it is Jesus as the gate that first offers salvation. Preaching salvation here demands a radical contextualization of its meaning. Any generalized claim about salvation that erases the specificity of its literary location here dismisses about whom this discourse materialized in the first place. As commentary on the healing of the blind man, what is salvation for him? From what did he need to be saved?

To ask these kinds of questions of this biblical text will prevent the non-descript definitions of salvation that, if we are honest, will not save anybody. The man blind from birth is saved from isolation and marginalization. His healing saves him from everlasting darkness. Never again will he wonder where his next meal will be or who will answer his pleas as he sits begging outside the city. He will know the safety and security of community.

That salvation in John 10:9 is linked to the promise of pasture and protection (in and out of the sheep pen) means that the man born blind will know sustenance and security. For the disciples overhearing Jesus’ words, that which is for the blind man is for every disciple, every believer. The basic needs of life, food, water, shelter, intimacy, Jesus affords, the tangible grace depicted in 1:18, at the bosom of the Father.

What do you think? Does keeping this context in mind alter your reading of the term salvation in any way?

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