He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
1 Peter 2:24-25
One of the most common images of Jesus is that of a good shepherd. Those of us who have grown up in the church can close our eyes and see the picture of Jesus the shepherd with a lamb slung around his neck. Jesus, our good shepherd, has several good characteristics that impact our lives in a momentous way.
So, “What makes a shepherd good?”
One of the identifying characteristics which Jesus gives of a good shepherd is that he is willing to lay down his life for his sheep. He is willing to give his very life to protect his sheep who are easy prey for predators. Good shepherds must protect their sheep, fight off predators and keep their sheep safe even if it costs them their lives. This is a sacrificial love. Jesus did this when he submitted himself to be crucified for our sins on the cross. Another characteristic of the love of the good shepherd is constant concern for the sheep. Jesus says that as a good shepherd he cares for his sheep. He wants the very best for them. Jesus has promised to be there for us—like a parent who sometimes can’t make things better for his or her child, but at least they can be there with the child to give the child support, strength, and comfort. As we struggle through the dark times of coronavirus or other fearful events in our lives, Jesus is always there to walk along beside us and support us.
Sheep are not merely numbers to good shepherds. Good shepherds know their sheep. They understand their sheep, and call their sheep by name. Jesus constantly invites us into a deeper relationship with him. He is never satisfied that we are just another sheep of a flock. He wants a deep relationship with each of us, and always wants our relationship with him to be more grace filled, more abundant, more trusting, giving, and sacrificial. Our shepherd is constantly seeking a closer walk with us.
Good shepherds are intrinsically good. In other words, they do not become good because of the loyalty or the behavior of their sheep. The love of the good shepherd is centered in the shepherd and is not dependent upon the response of the sheep. He searches for us even we go astray. The good shepherd simply loves us regardless of our response to him or our behavior.
Even in days of danger from an evil and evasive coronavirus we have much for which we can rejoice, because Jesus has chosen to be a good shepherd for us. He is with us in the danger, walking with us, and searching for us when we are lost. Our lives will never be the same and contain unlimited possibilities because we have a good shepherd who cares for us. He brings us abundant life.
- How and when have you felt that Jesus was with you in a fearful place in your life?
- As you follow Jesus, your shepherd, is there some way you can share your abundance of life with others?
- Where do you see the Good Shepherd caring for you and supporting you in your life today?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.