I am the Good Shepherd…

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“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). This metaphor of the shepherd worked for Jesus very well in the time that he walked among us on this earth, because most people then were not far removed from the farms. Even those who lived in the cities, might still own farms and hire shepherds to keep their flocks. It would have been a common image, and the people would have understood Jesus’ meaning very readily.

In today’s world, most people live in huge cities and are so far removed from the farm, or animal husbandry, that they know nothing about those things. Many do not even think about where the food in the grocery stores come from. Still, this metaphor that Jesus uses is understandable to most.

A shepherd is charged with caring for the sheep. In Jesus’ time, this was no easy task, for the shepherd would have to watch out for wolves and jackals, lions and other predators, as well as for those who might want to steal the sheep for themselves. Knowing this, when Jesus says that a good shepherd is willing to lay down his life for the sheep, it takes on a deeper significance, both at the material and the spiritual levels. A good shepherd loves the sheep he is caring for and because of this love, he is not only willing to, but is able to lay his life down to protect, to defend, and to save the sheep from the real dangers that may come. Jesus’ reference to sheep, means us. We are the sheep of his flock. And he, the I AM, did lay his life down for us to save us from sin and death, forever.

Jesus tells us in the next verse that a shepherd who is merely a hired hand, whose sheep are not his own, and who thinks only of himself, when he “sees a wolf coming will leave the sheep and run away and the wolf catches and scatters the sheep. This is because he works only for pay and has no concern for the sheep” (verses 12-13). There is the difference that is at the center of this passage about the good shepherd. The wolf, is the evil one, and he is ravenous for the “sheep” of Christ’s flock. Jesus is our Good Shepherd. He laid his life down for us on the cross and he has given us his Holy Spirit to guide, protect, and defend us to this day. We, the flock of Jesus, must keep our eyes on him. He is the only One that we can depend upon, the only one who loves us for who we are, individually and personally. We must keep our eyes on him so that we can remain in the sheepfold. And he promised us in this passage that he has others who are not presently in the sheepfold, but that he desires to lead them, that they will hear his voice, and become part of the one flock under him, the sole and only Good Shepherd. Thanks be to God!

Lord, You are our Good Shepherd. Help us to know you and to believe in you with all of our hearts, minds. and souls. Give us the wisdom to accept your guidance willingly, and to follow you with joyful hearts. We pray this in your name, Jesus. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.