Wednesday, April 15, 2015

M—My Shepherd

Journey through the Gospel of John with rookie bloggers who are seeking to honor their good friend, Tina Downey.

Chapter 10 of the gospel of John offers two more "I AM" declarations that speak of the Messiah's mission. Here Jesus draws on images familiar to His agrarian audience.

"But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep ...Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.... If anyone enters by me, he will be saved... I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."

The link between these two seemingly unconnected images, "the door" and "the good shepherd", may not be readily apparent to our modern experience.  But the meaning becomes clear when you learn about how a shepherd of that time might care for the sheep at night.  As evening approached, the shepherd would lead his flock into a stone enclosure that had only one opening. The shepherd himself would lay down in the entrance, and serve as the door that kept predators out while keeping the sheep together and inside the sheepfold.

I am the Good Shepherd...I am the Door

When Jesus speaks of the good shepherd "laying down" His life, He summons two images—the shepherd literally lying in the doorway, and the shepherd sacrificing his life for his sheep.  Even in this bucolic image, Jesus points to the cross. At the same time, He presents Himself as the only legitimate way into God's flock.  "I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture." —John 10:9

One of the most meaningful aspects of this discourse lies in how Jesus characterizes His relationship to believers. As the good shepherd, He calls each sheep by name. He cares and contends for His flock. He knows His own, and each one knows Him and His voice and follows after Him.  

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. —John 10:27-28

In these remarkable statements, Jesus is affirming His commitment to those who follow after Him. Surely, the intimacy described here is one of the distinctives of the Christian faith. This is the underlying idea of t-shirts and bumper-stickers that read, "It's not about religion, it's about a relationship." 

Knowing Jesus as my good shepherd has strengthened me in the hardest times of my life. It has granted peace and assurance to me when I felt lost.  It has brought deep comfort when life was darkest.

The meaning behind this image is laid out in one of the best-loved psalms of David. Jesus draws on this picture and amplifies it to communicate the depth of His love and effective care for anyone who would follow after Him.

Do you know Jesus as your Good Shepherd?  
What has that meant to you?

No comments:

Post a Comment