John 10:11-18 | 4th Sunday of Easter, Year B
The Mission and Calling of Easter
A friend commented, very sincerely, on an essay I had poured over about my first dog, “Why did you love Abby so much? She sounds rather annoying.” I was taken back. I was sure my love for Abby echoed through every word. But when I realized that though my friend has many wonderful qualities, she’s not a dog person, her comment actually made me laugh. There was a time when I couldn’t imagine voluntarily giving up sleeping in on a Saturday for children. And then I had my own.
Though Jesus wasn’t talking about sleepless Saturday mornings given to children or dogs in this passage, He was referring to the sense of mission we have for the vocations God gives to each of us. “A hired man, whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and runs away…this is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep” (vs. 12-13). If the only reason we do something is for pay, when things get difficult, we are likely to weigh the value of the job and find it lacking.
But when something is truly our mission, it’s our vocation, it’s a gift. It’s no longer just a box on a checklist. Instead it’s a job that’s been designed for us and us alone, a piece of who we are at our very core. We are all hardwired to protect ourselves, and likewise we are also hardwired to do whatever is necessary to further our calling. It’s why we would do anything for our children. It’s why we do many things that have no apparent worldly payout.
Jesus’s job certainly had no worldly payout. As the Messiah, He voluntarily died to further the mission God had entrusted to Him. There isn’t a lot of worldly payout for shepherds either, but they would still do anything for their sheep.
The world says monetary gain is the bottom line, and there are many things to be said in favor of monetary gain. But if that is the be-all-end-all for us, it’s not a calling. It’s something we have to do. Only when we can say, like Jesus, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own,” can we also say about our mission, “This command I have received from my Father” (v.18). It’s what we are willing to do voluntarily, when no one’s looking, that reflects our calling.
Jesus wasn’t saying there shouldn’t be a worldly payout. But He did want us to consider the reason behind whatever we do. If the trappings of the job are to legitimatize our place in the world, then trappings alone won’t satisfy us.
Jesus didn’t die to further His reputation—although He might be the best-known person through the ages. He died to save us. Parents don’t get up on Saturday mornings to check a box. They do it out of love. Back then, nothing in this world was more satisfying than putting up with Abby’s antics—no matter how annoying they may have been.