Scripture: John 10:11-18
11 “I amO)” data-cr=”#cen-NIV-26493O” style=””> The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away.13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd;S)” data-cr=”#cen-NIV-26496S” style=””> and my sheep know me– 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the FatherU)” data-cr=”#cen-NIV-26497U” style=””> 16 I have other sheepW)” data-cr=”#cen-NIV-26498W” style=””> and one shepherd.17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.
- our Christmas pageant
- one person in an expansive landscape
- leading us to abundance to be fed
We have to reach a bit to a different context where more shepherds exist to learn about a shepherd.
I want to show you a video of a pen of sheep in Harestua, Norway. It’s time for the sheep to be fed and there is a specific call the shepherd uses to draw them near. In the video, a tour group has come to see the sheep and they want to test the theory that sheep only obey their master (shepherd)’s voice. Let’s watch what happens:
I learned this week that sheep will not go anywhere that their trusted shepherd does not first go to show them everything is ok. “Sheep seem to consider their shepherds part of the family and the relationship that grows up between the two is quite exclusive.” As we saw in the video, “they often develop a language of their own that outsiders are not privy to.”
They do so because it’s a dangerous world for sheep. There are all sorts of predators that go after them. Wolves, Bears, Lions. Thieves and bandits even that will try to separate and steal them.
In the world of danger, they look to one trusted leader – the shepherd – to help them navigate the world.
Shepherds are rich symbols in scripture.
They are tasked with many things:
- feeding their sheep
- strengthening the weak
- healing the sick
- binding up the injured
- seeking out the lost
- bringing back those who have strayed
In our passage today, Jesus identifies himself as a shepherd. — though not just any shepherd. He repeats that he is the GOOD Shepherd.
In greek, the word used here is “kalos.” Jesus is the kalos shepherd.
This word, most often translated “good,” is frequently understood by Americans as the opposite of “bad.” While not inaccurate, kalos means “good” more in the sense of model. The very best. Jesus models what it is to be a good shepherd.
In verse 11 Jesus tells us what it means to be a kalos shepherd. He says that the kalos shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
And in verse 14 Jesus tells us that the kalos shepherd knows his sheep and they know him. Thus, kalos shepherding means a deep bond between shepherd and sheep.
The shepherd will protect their sheep at any cost.
* * *
There’s a story in the Old Testament (1 Samuel 17: 34 -35) when King David is a young boy. The Israelites are under attack by a Philistine giant and David wants a chance to fight the giant and to protect his people.
Saul is concerned for David’s well-being since he is “just a boy.” But David says, “Your servant [David] used to keep sheep for his father. Whenever a lion or bear came and took a lamb from the flock I went after it and struck it down rescuing the lamb from its mouth.”
What an image…. a young boy…. striking down a lion… a bear… in order to rescue one lamb from it’s mouth…
This is the image Jesus creates for us in describing himself as the good shepherd. He is willing to go to any length, to sacrifice himself, to save us….. from the mouth of danger.
* * *
Jesus compares the good shepherd to the hired hand. The core difference he points out is that the good shepherd OWNS the sheep and thus will do anything to protect them. Whereas the hired hand, sensing danger, will run away in order to save himself.
There are hired hands out there who will leave the sheep. Let them be attacked, scattered and eaten… while they run away.
I wonder what it feels like to be a sheep in THAT sheep pen. Under the care of a hired hand. Unable to trust your leader because they just might abandon you… when facing danger.
….How could you live?
In that kind of fear….?
* * *
The news was hard to consume this week.
Everywhere we looked –
New York Times
My eyes flashed over violent images of fire, destruction, police and rioters throwing rocks at each other.
I found myself thinking about how we are led by hired hands.
Who often do not have vested interest in each other’s well-being.
We ourselves are sometimes hired hands. People given voice and power who instead of jumping to action, look away so we ourselves won’t be harmed.
I found myself searching for the shepherd. The GOOD shepherd. To go after the sheep that are lost. The sheep being carried away in the mouth of the wolf.
I found myself like a sheep, searching desperately for my shepherd. In fear, sadness, looking for my savior… to come… and to save them.
* * *
Then on top of images from Baltimore, there were more images of rubble in Nepal. Thousands of people brutally wounded in immediate need of medical attention.
The flock that is scattered. Injured. Destroyed.
I found myself searching like a sheep for my shepherd… to go after the other sheep in danger. To save them from the predator’s mouth…
…and bring them back into the flock.
…bind up the injured.
…strengthen the week.
…carry and comfort them.
I found myself wondering if our brothers and sisters who are experiencing such violence and pain BELIEVE there’s a good shepherd anymore.
Can they believe that a good shepherd exists who knows them?
who loves them?
who has the power to save them?
* * *
The prophets Zechariah, Ezekiel and Isaiah warn that some of us are sheep led by hired hands… who do not care about our well-being. Who will not lay down their lives for ours…
And to these sheep, God speaks through the prophet:
“I became the shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter.”
Throughout the Old Testament scriptures and in our text today through Jesus, God promises to seek out the sheep doomed to slaughter – and to be THEIR shepherd.
Jesus came into this world – to know us – to feel our pain – and to lay down his own life in order to rescue us.
* * *
There is a video circulating online of a baby being rescued from the rubble after a bombing in Syria.
The footage of this community rescuing the baby trapped under rubble is a modern example of what Jesus does for us.
Jesus comes into the danger, digging away, Not giving up… to rescue us out of the rubble.
* * *
Jesus is the good shepherd. Our shepherd.
He knows us and we know him.
He has laid down his life for us – and continues to do so – saving our lives out of love.
Friends, this bond Christ shares with us is deep. Like the sheep to their shepherd, it is built on intimate trust and knowledge.
It’s a bond that cannot be broken. Jesus, Our Good Shepherd, will not break that bond.
Thanks be to God.