'I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:11, NIV
Sheepishly, we may wonder why we need a shepherd today. Why, when the lives we lead now are so different to the days of old? May I suggest the same reason the people of old needed a shepherd. Modernity may have touched our lives, but our hearts – they are the same as ever, facing the same old sin, the same foe and having the same heartache.
The uncomplicated, Middle Eastern shepherd of days gone by has much to teach and reveal about the heart of God. I remember reading that parable of the Lost Sheep and for the life of me, it did not make sense. Why would the shepherd risk the lives of the other sheep for the sake of one sheep?
To my modern mind, it made no sense at all. Until I put myself in that situation, imagining that, hypothetically, I were that sheep. At that point, I realised that I would rather appreciate a shepherd in my corner looking after my best interests. That is what the shepherd of old would do – he would protect his master’s sheep from danger. He would face peril to rescue his sheep. The Good Shepherd is the one who casts the mould.
In John 10:11, Jesus puts it this way: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
And Jesus made good on his promise. He laid down his life on Calvary one day – it was demanded as ransom for his sheep that had gone astray. The one who had come only to kill, steal and destroy had had his evil way.
The sacrificial Lamb was brutally slain: his back in bloody ribbons as he was flagellated on our behalf, his forehead bloodied by a crown of thorns placed there by ignorant, mocking fools while his blood-soaked body endured inhumane suffering as flogging took its toll. Unimaginable pain coursed through his body as nails were hammered through his hands and feet.
Despite being reviled and taunted, Jesus did not come down from that cross. Resolutely, Christ Jesus succumbed to harrowing pain and suffering knowing he had people to save. I imagine that in his mind’s eye, the Good Shepherd saw his sheep – you and me.
Prayer: Father God, thank you for sending your Son to redeem the sheep of your flock. Praise Jesus for his sinless life that led to salvation of many. Thank you for saving every sheep that managed to wander off. We are eternally grateful. Amen.