"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Good Shepherd

When I first felt drawn to Western Colorado, Mary and I came out in the Fall to visit the valley we would later call home. As we drove from Gunnison to Montrose, a favorite memory we often recall is the sight of shepherds driving sheep through green pastures and glowing red oaks under the robin-egg-blue Colorado sky. I have since learned that Spanish shepherds were among the first settlers here.

Shepherds have always lived solitary lives with minimal accommodations. As with any profession, some are more dedicated to the sheep than others. Jesus loved to use the analogy of sheep and shepherds and called himself the "good shepherd." He knew that some shepherds were not invested in the sheep while others would literally lay down their lives for the flock. The analogy was not lost on his listeners. Sheep and shepherds were an integral part of their culture.

When he described a hired hand who would abandon the sheep when danger arose, his listeners would have known that he was referring to some religious leaders who loved the position and prestige they enjoyed, but did not love the people they were supposed to shepherd. In stark contrast, Jesus was saying that his commitment to them was as serious as life and death. He promised that he would lay down his life for them.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:11

Eventually these words would prove prophetic. He did indeed lay down his life for our sakes. Religious leaders (consorting with other politicians) turned out to be the wolves who took him down but, he was clear that nothing happened to him that was not in the plan. He was not surprised and he was not their victim. Something else was going on, a spiritual battle--with eternal consequences--between good and evil. For a moment in time, it appeared that evil had triumphed over him--until his resurrection.

He is still the good shepherd. Having laid down his life, he continues to care for his flock of followers, resting us in green pastures, leading us beside quiet waters, restoring our souls. His commitment to us already proven, he will be true to his promise to keep us. If you are lost, he will not rest until you are found. Once he has ahold of you, no one can snatch you out of his hand.

If you have been a Christian for a long time, maybe you take these words for granted. Why not pause and reflect on the good Shepherd who cradles you tightly to his chest. While the call of the good Shepherd's voice is sometimes dangerous, in the end, there is no safer place to be.