Jesus uses many images for Himself: I am the Good Shepherd. I am the Vine. I call you friends. These are not mere accidents, not throw-away descriptions; they offer us a peek into the mind and the heart of God. God wants us close, not to keep us under the thumb but as a sheep is to a shepherd, as the branch is to the vine, as friends are to one another. These are the ways that Jesus seeks to welcome us (and allow us to welcome Him), to encounter us (and to allow us to encounter Him), to accompany us (and to allow us to accompany Him) and transform us (and allow us to transform others). Each of these images establishes a relationship where God sacrifices on our behalf, to offer us grace. The GOOD shepherd knowns his sheep, sends time with them, takes care of them, feeds and waters them and, ultimately, lays down his life for them. The vine offers life to the branch, keeps the branch alive, it's very essence into the branch. Friends look out for one another, care for one another, have fun together, sacrifice for the other. Ultimately, these relationships are assumed into the reality of WHO JESUS IS, namely the Son of God. As Jesus ascends to the Father to restore right order, he takes with Him His sheep, his branches, his friends. As such we are called, no less than those early disciples to go out and share this Good News.