Christ The Good Shepherd
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Such passionate words. On second thought, such unthinkable words. It’s a well-known fact that shepherds of the olden days were some of the bravest people around. These guys were not afraid to go into the wildlands searching for greener pasture, leading about the easiest prey out there – sheep.
They were well aware of the risks and dangers to their wellbeing and their sheep posed by predators of the wilderness. However, they’d march into the unknown with small weapons in hand, ready to defend and protect their sheep.
Shepherds were fierce against wild animals but tender to their sheep. They were willing to defend their flock against attack, but I don’t think anyone would have been willing to die for the sheep. If the attack were more dangerous than they could handle, they’d have to abandon the victim and count their losses.
Why would anyone risk life or limb for ordinary sheep? And you can’t say these shepherds weren’t good. Of course, they were. They were devoted, alert, and careful in dealing with their flock. But, here is someone who claims that he is ‘the good shepherd’ who is not only willing to but lays down his life for his sheep. Incredible!
Jesus’ words were always profound and rich with meaning. But many times, his statements outrightly confounded his listeners. I’m pretty sure this was one of them. Imagine what professional shepherds in the audience thought of his bold declaration that day. It must have very well puzzled them.
“We are willing to protect our sheep to the best of our ability. But who among us would be willing to die for them? That is a wasteful thing. Surely the sheep will be scattered after the shepherd is dead. Now, what good will that do anyhow?”
Even Jesus once commented, “Kill the shepherd, and the sheep will scatter.” Of course, this fact was known to anyone with little experience in those days. But Jesus meant what he said. He even went further to elaborate the first statement with these words:
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me, just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
Oh, now he’s just being poetic. It has to be some very pristine form of poetry, or a parable at least – something fantastic, artistic, not a reality. Right?
Well, that’s partly true on the side of figurative speaking. But it was figurative speaking with a very real meaning and honest representation. It was, in fact, prophecy.
The good shepherd lays his life down for the sheep. The good shepherd knows his sheep. Wow!
So, let’s unravel some of the mysteries of these statements. First, Jesus, the Christ, is the good shepherd and those who believe in him are his sheep. These statements alluded to his death on the cross and our relationship with him through his sacrifice.
It is without a doubt that only the Messiah could die for us. A good shepherd will guard the sheep, whereas the good shepherd will die for them.
Before Christ was manifest, prophets, priests, and kings oversaw the affairs of God’s chosen people, the Israelites.
God gave these special caretakers His anointing, which is the ability to lead and care for his people. But many of them failed Him and hurt His people. They were like hired hands who only cared about the rewards of leadership more than the people they were called to lead. Do you still see this trend in today’s world and even in the church?
God has always cared for us because he made us carriers of his image and likeness. However, he wanted a physical presence with us even as many desire of him. So, he sent his Son to represent him in all fulness. The Son of God presides over us even as a natural shepherd does. He leads us, guards us, and fights for us even as a natural shepherd would. However, much more than a natural shepherd, the good shepherd died for us.
Now, why would he die for us? Are sheep so valuable that the shepherd would deem his precious life equivalent to theirs of so little worth? Why would he esteem the flock so highly?
The truth is this: a sheep can never evaluate itself properly. A sheep does not know anything about value or worth, nor can it appropriately appraise itself with any marketable value. A sheep that goes to the marketplace without a shepherd is as good as a stolen sheep.
The sheep without the shepherd is worthless. However, the good shepherd bestows value on the sheep and puts a price tag on it. So, Jesus, by his Father’s will, valued us at the cost of his own life. He gave us the highest value there will ever be in the universe.
The good shepherd values the sheep at the cost of his life. This is what separates the good shepherd from all other shepherds. The good shepherd loves his sheep as himself.