Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
My first memories of going to church were with my grandparents. At the end of what we considered “our” pew, was a large stained-glass window that depicted Jesus as the Good Shepherd, surrounded by many clean fleecy sheep. When the sermon went long, I would lean into my grandfather’s shoulder and study that window. The images didn’t work for me. Jesus looked so meek, mild, and nice that I feared He would never want me in the flock, for I knew that I was never going to be one of those cleaned-up sheep.
Years later I was confronted with another image of Jesus the Good Shepherd that did speak to me. I was stuck in the entry way of a church waiting for a service to begin where I was the guest preacher. In the corner of where we were standing was a small painting of a scratched and bloodied Jesus, reaching out to a scratched and bloodied sheep that was stuck in a bush on the side of a cliff. It was clear that this Shepherd Jesus was risking His own life for the sheep. It was clear that the sheep would plunge to its death without the Shepherd’s saving embrace. As I studied this image, I began to cry. That painting revealed the Shepherd I knew. That painting also revealed the grubby, lost, and needy sheep that I knew myself to be.
During this time of so much uncertainty, change, and loss we need the kind of Good Shepherd Jesus that was depicted in the painting I just described. We need a Shepherd who is willing to search for us, bleed for us, risk everything for us, and even die for us. As today’s scripture says, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Since Jesus is the shepherd, that makes us sheep. If you know anything about sheep, then you know that being compared to a sheep isn’t particularly complimentary. I dare say, however, that this epidemic can bring out many of our sheep–like qualities. In the midst of the shut-down and other challenges, have any of us not been at our best, gotten a bit lost, been scared and fretful, and gotten stuck in some rather precarious places?
There is a reason why sheep need a shepherd. On their own they get lost, become hungry and thirsty, fall off cliffs, and die.
There is a reason why we need a Good Shepherd. On our own, all the same happens to us. We need Jesus to find us, feed us, protect us, gather us, and lead us home.
Sheep without a shepherd have no hope. Sleep with a shepherd do. May our hope always be with our Good Shepherd Jesus, who did indeed lay down His life for us.
- What are your own sheep-like qualities?
- In what ways do you need Jesus to be your Good Shepherd?
- How do you respond to Jesus laying down His life for you?