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. John 10: 14 – 15
During our last visit with our grandkids, I bent down to tuck Miles into bed, and I thought of how many times I have done so through the years. I smiled as I remembered how he used to clutch his soft, sweet “Lammie” so lovingly in his arms. It was a small lamb, given to him by his mom when he was a baby, and it has always brought him much comfort and security.
She and I were just recently talking about how many times “Lammie” had become “lost” and the frantic searches that took place to find him before a nap or bedtime. But we always did, and Miles was able to fall asleep peacefully with him in his arms. I thought of how much that meant to him to know that he was safe, secure, and loved, and then sleep would come.
Aren’t we all much the same in that we want and need that assurance that we are of worth, will be loved, provided for, and protected? Jesus, our loving Savior, has promised to give us all these things and more. Before He was to leave His followers behind, He spent much time teaching and helping them to understand His mission and gospel through the use of parables and symbolism. One of the most beautiful examples of this, is when He refers to Himself as the “Good Shepherd” and us, as His sheep.
Everyone in Jesus’s day knew all about sheep and shepherding so the fact that He claimed such a role for Himself shows His desire for His people to understand His love and promises. He is proclaiming that He intends to lovingly gather His flock, “His believers”, together under His care. It is such a beautiful, fitting analogy for Him and for us, as we think about the characteristics of these creatures and a shepherd’s role in protecting them.
Just like Miles’s lamb, we always think of lambs and sheep as being such sweet animals, so peaceful and docile, but actually they can be quite challenging, and shepherding can be a demanding and arduous job. A shepherd has to patiently endure long, lonely hours in often difficult conditions and is responsible for the care of each individual member of his flock.
Sheep are utterly defenseless and totally dependent upon their shepherd. He must lead them to clean water or to fields of green grass away from dry, rocky terrain or poisonous plants. They must always be under the shepherd’s watchful eye as they graze and are later led back to their pens. Without his constant care, they may wander off and become lost, swept away by rushing waters, taken by robbers, or attacked by wolves or other wild animals.
Even more telling of a shepherd’s care is the fact that each individual sheep is known by the shepherd, and he calls them by name. The sheep know him, would never follow a stranger, and would even flee before doing so. A good shepherd wants to protect, guide, and nurture his flock, and would even risk his own life to keep them safe.
Doesn’t this image of a caring shepherd bring us such comfort and security as we think of Christ being ours? We have so many of those characteristics that the sheep have. We don’t realize what is best for us, we are totally dependent upon God’s provisions for our lives, we easily become lost, we don’t recognize the dangers we place ourselves in, and we need His divine care and sovereignty over us.
Our shepherd knows us by name, wants what is best for us, and if we hear, know it is His call, and follow Him, He will keep us in His loving care. And the most beautiful sacrifice our shepherd made – He didn’t merely risk His life for the sake of His flock, our “Good Shepherd” gave His life for us, “His sheep”. What a shepherd! What love!
Dear Lord, thank you that you are indeed our shepherd. You keep us from getting lost or going astray, and if we do, you always welcome us back into your fold. Thank you for your love, protection, and guidance, but most of all, thank you for your saving grace. Amen