John chapter 10, verses 1-10 is a story about Jesus as the good shepherd. Okay so we are the sheep and Jesus the shepherd, an image that may be a little too cute for most. From my perspective thinking of people as cuddly, peaceful and obedient sheep is far from reality. The only time I’ve seen sheep up close was at a fair and they were smelly, lazy and seemed pretty dumb… maybe I can relate to those characteristics.
- Life is full of moments when one is or at least feels pretty lost…
We are lonely and spend too much time following the allure of greener pastures online, through the latest games, and television.
- We live fenced in by piles of stinking problems and stupid things we do that are selfish and sometimes self-destructive.
- We experience the pain of strained or break-ups of relationships with significant others and in our families.
- We listen to a lot of ‘bleating’ from critical teachers, parents, bosses and sometimes our friends.
- We are more like sheep than we might want to admit.
Jesus claims to be a lot of things to get us to listen and live our lives knowing we are loved and cared for. As he relates in the Bible, Jesus says he’s the light of the world; then proves it by giving sight back to a guy born blind. Say’s he’ll liberate people, just after freeing someone from demon possession. But the most important thing Jesus says when we feel sheepish about life, is that he is a shepherd and a gate. Jesus claims he’s a “gate” for us, after opening people up to new ideas and a “sheep-welfare officer” who’d die to protect his flock… something he did on a cross a few weeks back.
Our world doesn’t value sheep. We value individuality and desperately want bold individuals to lead… and yet our world is full of sheepish people like you and me who often wish we weren’t such passive followers, and at times stupid sheep. But God never promises life that is cuddly, peaceful or perfect. God’s promises and love are all about Jesus, the good shepherd God sends to us. And in the midst of all the stinking messes of life, Jesus is a sheep too. In church language, Jesus is the “Lamb of God” who in dying and rising from death saves us from all our sheepish ways and shear sinful stupidity.
A great song by Marty Haugen has the refrain that I need to hear when my world gets muddy and I feel like a stinking sheep: Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.
The verses which are based on Psalm 23 also bring me comfort: God is my shepherd, so nothing shall I want, I rest in the meadows of faithfulness and love, I walk by the quiet waters of peace. Gently you raise me and heal my weary soul, you lead me by pathways of righteousness and truth, my spirit shall sing the music of your Name. Though I should wander the valley of death, I fear no evil, for you are at my side, your rod and your staff, my comfort and my hope.
Jesus shepherds us in all we do everyday. We are loved, forgiven and renewed each day by the abundant love and forgiveness of a gracious God. And when our days are done, will be welcomed into to eternal embrace of the Good Shepherd.