“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
Hear the echo of I John 3:16. There have been various explanations of what it meant in Jesus’ time to be a shepherd, and that metaphor has been used in illustrating shepherd people as a mentor, leader, or one who encourage and supports. But consider for a moment laying down your life for one as clueless as a sheep.
“The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.” (Verses 12-13)
When you care for people, beloved reader, are you like the hired hand? Or do you emulate the Good Shepherd?
“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. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (Verses 14-16)
The writer of John might have been thinking of Jews and Gentiles, or just generally wanting to be inclusive of all readers. We can take it to mean people close to us and people throughout the world. For I tell you, no one is to be left out of God’s flock.
“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.” (Verses 17-18)
The writer of the gospel of John wanted to confirm and promote Jesus’ spiritual nature. But that is not the issue/aspect that I want to highlight. Would you be willing, beloved reader, to lay down your life of your own accord? Being human and frail, our life can be taken from us and we have not the power to take it back. But we can give over our life to Christ, and Christ has the power to return it to us. What choice will you make? Will you be better than a “hired hand” in tending God’s inclusive flock?