In the parable of the Good Shepherd, Jesus tells us he’s there to shepherd us home when we’re lost.
Most people live in cities today. The rural, farming images that Jesus often used in his parables are not as intimately familiar to us as they were to the people of his own time, yet they can still move us and teach us through the use of our imagination.
Jesus tells many stories about sheep, but the one that is most comforting is the one about the lost sheep and the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd knows his flock, not just by numbers, but by their individual personalities and their names. They are not just dumb animals to him. Each one is near and dear to him, the object of his personal care and devotion. He says of them, “I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father…” (John 10:14-15)
In this story he relates the idea of a single sheep being lost from the fold. He tells us that, “The hired man, since he is not the shepherd abandons the sheep and runs away as soon as he sees a wolf coming.” (John 10:12) The Good Shepherd, though, leaves the flock and goes back into the hills to find that single, solitary lost sheep. He is the one who will go the extra mile, suffer whatever must be suffered, in order to save that one lost sheep. He is the “one who lays down his life for his sheep,” (John 10:11)
Of course, the people of Jesus’ time understood as readily as we do, that he was talking about us. How many times have we been that lost sheep? How many times have we wandered away, caught up in the momentary delights of the world and awakened the next morning feeling lost, desperate and alone? Maybe we are feeling lost right now at this moment. If so, take comfort. Jesus has you in mind. He knows you by your name. Indeed, he has it “written on the palm of his hand.” (Isaiah 49:16) He will not abandon you.
Pray, then, and he will hear you, no matter how far away you are, no matter how thick the forest of error you have wandered into. He will never abandon you to the wolves. He has laid down his life for you and continues to. Pray simply then, “Shepherd me, oh God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.” He will answer you, for he is the Good Shepherd.SKM: below-content placeholder