Second, and inseparable from the first habit, is the need to nourish the habit of paying concentrated and prolonged attention.
The riches of Scripture cannot be found, let alone mined, with scattered attention (multi-tasking) or a short attention span (which commercials or sound-bites both depend upon and reinforce).
The entire Gospel of John presupposes and requires a reader who can mull over complex images and their various dimensions of christological significance.
John 10, for example, is long, reflective monologue in which Jesus turns the figure of sheep over and over and meditates on its christological significance: first, it is to the shepherd that the door of the sheepfold is opened. The sheep hear the shepherd’s voice, know his voice, and follow him (10:1–6).
Next, Jesus becomes the door of the sheepfold; only those who enter by this door (i.e., through him) can be saved (10:7–10). Then Jesus is the “good shepherd” who “lays down his life for the sheep” and says, “I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep” (10:11–15).
He adds that there are “sheep that do not belong to this fold” and that he will bring these, too, “so there will be one flock, one shepherd” (10:16). Finally, Jesus concludes by saying that the Father loves him because he lays down his life, and that he lays it down of his own accord and has power to take it up again (10:17–18).
Reading John 10 well is simply impossible to do quickly.
Despite the continuity in image (sheep/shepherd), the image is not simple. Rather, it requires the reader to ponder different dimensions of Jesus’ significance. Indeed, the metaphors are comprehensible only on christological premises and an understanding of the church’s mission.
In John 10 Jesus is both the way in (door) — which is also to say the mediator between the Father and the believers — and the leader of his followers (shepherd). His language about the shepherd’s willing sacrifice and power to rise again refers, of course, to his resurrection, but such a reference is only obvious after the event itself (i.e., later in the story world of John).
So, too, only after the mission to the church has begun does it become evident who the sheep are that are “not of this fold”; they are those whom the church seeks to bring in. In short, John presupposes Christian readers who can concentrate and train their attention on the connections between what they already know of Jesus and the church and what the Gospel is trying to teach them through its imagery.”
- C. Kavin Rowe, “The formation of scriptural imagination”
(HT: Wesley Hill)