Elections remind us how much we long for a leader who will bring us justice and peace, protection and prosperity. However, on every occasion our aspirations are dashed as leaders reveal their flaws and failures and self-interest. No one proves to be the leader we long for.
There is one exception: Jesus, who said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
We tend to view shepherds as romantic figures who spent most of their time cuddling lambs and roaming hillsides with faithful dogs. However, that is a false picture of a shepherd in Israel. They lived dangerous lives.
Jesus, in saying he is the Good Shepherd, brings together shepherd as a metaphor for the Messiah and the idea of death. False messiahs took the lives of men and women. Jesus the true Messiah gives life to men and women at the cost of his own. Consider what we read in John 10:15: “…Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep”.
The word good is not the usual word that describes, for example, the efficiency of a good car, or the moral uprightness of a good person. Rather, it is the magnetism of the personal goodness of Jesus that draws men and women to him. People understand that he really cares for them.
Nowhere is this goodness better seen than in Jesus’ willingness to die on our behalf. He was not just a do-gooder, for often ‘do-gooders’ aren’t really interested in others, but only in themselves and what others think of them. Jesus is genuinely concerned about us because he really wants us to enjoy life to the full.
Which brings us to something we easily overlook: his death was planned. In John 10:14f we read: “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.”
As Jesus looked out on the world his eyes, as it were, saw through time and space. Everywhere he saw people who in some very intimate way belonged to him, and whom he calls, ‘My sheep’. They are not just a faceless multitude.
Furthermore, he speaks of other sheep outside the fold – people from the non-Jewish nations. ‘They will hear my voice’, he says. ‘And there will be one flock and one shepherd.’
Significantly he tells us that his death was a saving death. We read this in verses 11 and 15 where he says his death was for the sheep. This is important, for some suggest that Jesus died to set the sheep an example of unselfishness. It’s certainly true that a shepherd’s death in the course of duty does reveal his unselfishness.
The key to understanding his meaning is found in the preposition ‘for’. In this instance it has the sense of ‘on behalf of’. Jesus says that his death was ‘on behalf of’ or, ‘instead of’ the sheep.
We begin to see why we need this Good Shepherd and not a professional do-gooder. We need the kind of shepherd who is willing to take our death from our shoulders and bear it himself. That is what Jesus meant when he said that he was the Good Shepherd and gives his life for the sheep. He didn’t die just to prove how much he loved us. He died to save us from death itself.
Let me ask, have you personally heard the voice of the Good Shepherd? And having heard it, do you trust him with your life and follow him? That is what Jesus calls us to, a life of discipleship – a life with the people who respond to his call.
I can’t tell you where that life may lead. I cannot say that life will be a bed of roses, or that all the problems you are aware of will evaporate overnight. But one thing I can promise, because Jesus, the Good Shepherd promises it: you will find his leadership perfectly satisfies all your longings.
Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, in tender love towards humankind you sent your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to take our nature upon him and to suffer death on the cross, so that all should follow the example of his great humility. Grant that we may follow the example of his suffering, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen. (BCP, Sunday next before Easter)
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ANGLICAN CONNECTION CONFERENCE – June 13 – 15, Crowne Plaza, Dallas, TX
Music is one of the delights of the Christian faith. Indeed, in Colossians 3:16 Paul the Apostle exhorts God’s people to sing. Keith and Kristyn Getty of Gettymusic, will lead ‘worship’ as well as workshops on music and church – how God’s Word spoken and in song can build effective, outreaching churches for adults and children in today’s culture.
At a time when many people have never heard, and so many don’t know what to believe, we aim to explore practical ways to develop more effective gospel-focused churches.
Find out more and register at:
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© John G. Mason – www.anglicanconnection.com