The Good Shepherd
“Jesus said, I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
Jesus looked at the world around him, plucked familiar images from everyday life, from human living and the natural world. The flowers of the field, the birds of the air, the farmer faithfully throwing his seed to the ground, a frantic woman finding the coin she had lost, fishermen hurling nets into the sea, someone seeking a pearl of great price, buried treasure, fig trees, wine and more. They coloured his mind, his lips, his speech, used them like paper to wrap up profound truths about the Kingdom of God.
Gazing around him he also saw shepherds and grazing sheep scattered across the hills. He used this image to describe himself and us – and what he has been sent to do. “I am the Good Shepherd,” he says. He is the One who goes out of his way to seek the lost sheep, the solitary ‘stand-aloners’ who have wandered away from the flock, scared and surrounded by fear. He puts his life on the line, lays it down, to lead them home rejoicing.
In Psalm 23, we are led through the valley where death digs deep and onwards to a place of paradise, of lush green planes and pastures, of calming waters. We are guided by the Good Shepherd to a place of safety, love and beauty, of calm and recuperation, of refreshment and healing. This pastural paradise is a parable of the life to come, for Christ the Good Shepherd has come to pick us up when we are down-and-out and lost and languid. When we marvel at the wonders of Creation we can feel so very small, so insignificant. But Jesus values each and every one of us. He does not want even one to be lost. When we are with him we have found our place in the world. And when we have found our place in the world, he leads us, guides us, carries us home rejoicing.
Lord Jesus, Good Shepherd, you give light to those in darkness, those who dwell in the shadow of death, and you guide us into the way of peace. May I be guided by you in all that I do and say, and make a new pledge to care for all the gifts you have given us, for you are Lord for ever and ever. Amen.