Today’s reading is John 10.
In this passage, the Parable of the Good Shepherd, John’s interpretation of Jesus’s preaching in Jerusalem powerfully points straight towards a simple truth, one that echoes the base of our Christian beliefs. This parable is not the first time in the Bible Jesus spoke about us as lost sheep – like the Lost Sheep parable in Matthew 18:12-14 and Luke 15:3-7. But where Jesus speaks there about the joy in reaching new believers, he speaks towards all believers and his role in protecting them all.
Jesus describes how the shepherd looks after this sheep: tending the gate and leading them to and from the gate, The sheep in turn recognize only the sound of their shepherd’s voice and follow him out. He also describes the other people who may try to lead the sheep astray: the thief and the robber who climb in at night, the hired helper who runs away and abandons the flock at the first sign of trouble, and the wolf who attacks the flock and scatters it. In contrast, Jesus says that He is the good shepherd, who “lays down his life for the sheep.”
In verses 14 & 15, Jesus says this: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me– just as the Father knows me and I know the Father– and I lay down my life for the sheep.” In saying this, Jesus summarizes the role He knows He will resolve for us and those after us for the rest of this world’s time: shepherd, protector, sacrifice. It’s an unfortunate truth that the world is full of those who would do harm: those who come in and destroy for the sake of ruination, those who come in and take away for their own gain, and of course Satan and his servants, who come to devour us and scatter us apart and drive us away from each other and from God. Even those who guard us with the best intentions and good in their heart, like the hired helper, ultimately reach a point where the burden of guiding others towards God and protecting is impossible or too dangerous to bear, and fail in that regards.
But only God’s appointed Son, who himself recognizes and preaches joyfully about his duty as protector of God’s flock, will never abandon us. He tells us how He alone is the shepherd who opens the gate and cares for us; that only He can open the door to eternal salvation and happiness, and that we can trust Him and run to Him always as He leads us. As the sound of those who would do us harm and drive us apart towards death surrounds and overwhelms, He will always call out and protect us, going so far as to lay down His own life to sacrificially ensure our everlasting safety. He demonstrates here, as He has already and will continue to do so, His understanding of His fate: to lay down His life in as a sacrifice for His flock. But the love and devotion with which He describes a shepherd feels towards their flock shows how He knows us and loves us, as He knows the Father and the Father knows Him. Only such a perfect and selfless shepherd as Christ Jesus could lay down His life in this way.
Let us give thanks today that the Lord our God would provide such a wonderful shepherd to provide safety for his flock, that Jesus will never abandon us when pain and death rears itself. Let us always run towards His voice and yearn to know Him more in the same way He knows us.
- Ross B.