“I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:11) There is a lot to consider in this short verse. What all do shepherds do? What is their role in tending the sheep? In Biblical times, shepherds provided leadership and protection for sheep, who were too vulnerable to make it alone out there in the real world. I know their job was to keep the flock together, to gather strays who wandered off, and to protect them from predators.
But a shepherd’s role was also defined by the characteristics of his flock. He had to understand his sheep and guide them in such a way that they could overcome their natural tendencies. The analogy Christ is making works because there are so many similarities between sheep and, well, us… First of all, sheep are not very bright. They are selfish and appetite-centered. They don’t practice good crop management, since they will eat a field down to nothing, leaving barren soil in their wake. The shepherd would counter that tendency by leading them to various pastures in a rotation so that they could find enough grass in the appropriate season. Sheep don’t drink from running water, so the shepherd would guide them to ponds or “still waters”. Sheep will wander off and get into trouble. They are very vulnerable to predators.
When he was questioned about his ability to confront Goliath, David told Saul, “Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” (1 Samuel 17:36) A sheep who followed his shepherd enjoyed protection and green pastures. Jesus had just contrasted the shepherd with the thief, who came to “kill, steal and destroy.” As members of his flock, we live in a world that employs numerous ways to accomplish those three things. What kills your joy, steals your time, or destroys your peace of mind? Be careful what you follow. Be careful WHO you follow.
In the verse just before, Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and might have it more abundantly.” The good shepherd wants your life to be more peaceful, joyful, and full. The thief wants to tear it down. Are you willingly following the good shepherd? He might just take you to a good spot.
The world can be a dangerous place.
So many dangers that we face
Are things the fallen world employs
To break our hearts, and steal our joys;
Be careful out there, girls and boys:
For we, like sheep can go astray!
If only someone led the way,
And took us where the grass is deep,
Enough for even selfish sheep…
“I’m the Good Shepherd” said a man,
So I will follow him while I can,
Because I’d really like to see
If there’s a possibility of living life abundantly.
So far he hasn’t lied to me, this Shepherd out of Galilee…
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