In John’s Gospel, Jesus extends to his disciples the same relationship he has with the Father. Just as Jesus and his Father were one, so Jesus and his disciples are one. Unity at the deepest level was the result of the resurrection.
‘This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.’ (Jn 10:17)
How has Jesus invited you into the love he shares with the Father?
What aspect of Jesus’ mission has the Father shared with you?
What grace have you received to fulfill that mission?
It was not controversial among the first Christians to claim that Jesus had risen from the dead. Opinions varied only when the discussion turned to the resurrection’s significance. In today’s Gospel reading, John the Evangelist shares his understanding of the resurrection. By taking up his life again, Jesus demonstrates his oneness with the Father. Nothing can be taken away from those who share the Father’s love.
John makes this claim vigorously throughout his Gospel. Because of the Father’s love, Jesus loses nothing. In spite of his ignominious death, his followers only grow in number, his mission only expands and his life grows ever stronger as more and more people receive a share of his Spirit. In John’s mind, the resurrection vindicates Jesus’ claim to speak with the Father’s voice and act with the Father’s power. Death had no dominion over him.
John also understands the death and resurrection as the process by which Jesus drew others into the love he shared with the Father. At the start of his ministry, Jesus alone knew the Father (Jn 1:18). By its end, a growing community of disciples was coming to share the same love. Jesus ensured their continuing growth in divine intimacy by handing over his Spirit on the cross (Jn 19:30) and then giving it to each disciple after the resurrection (Jn 20:22). The same indwelling power that directed and energized his ministry now drew the disciples onward in their service of Christ’s mission. The resurrection was a necessary step; Jesus received back his Spirit in such a way that he could confer it on others.
Jesus delivers the reflection in today’s Gospel reading in part as a response to the Pharisees (Jn 9:13), who had just thrown out the blind man. Here was a man newly healed, filled with gratitude and ready to serve the God of Israel. All the Pharisees could think to do was drive him away. Jesus compares them to hired men who see in the flock only a source of income. By contrast, Jesus was the good shepherd, who knew each sheep by name. Jesus knew the disciples the way the Father knew him. Through love, the Father taught Jesus every dream he had for creation; through their unity, Jesus found the power to bring the Father’s vision to life. Just so, Jesus teaches his disciples everything the Father taught him, and in his Spirit we have what we need to bring that dream to life.
Like Jesus, we are people from whom nothing can be taken away. If we stay busy about Christ’s mission, no matter what trials we face, our Good Shepherd will restore us and bring us home again. Like Jesus, we offer our lives to the Father only to receive them back again, restored and filled with divine energy.