When Jesus says that he is the Good Shepherd, he is communicating something about a relationship, a relationship between the shepherd (him) and the sheep (us), a relationship that prompts us to pay attention.
But it is a relationship we may not always appreciate! That is, we may rebel against such a relationship between sheep and shepherd, for who among us really wants to admit we are sheep dependent on a Shepherd-God? Are we not more like cowboys, independent and self-assertive?
When it comes to the Old and New Testaments, there is the relationship between the people who continually see themselves as “sheep” and the God who seeks to protect the sheep. There is the understanding about the people who need guidance and the God who provides such guidance.
Unlike the surrounding nations of that time that typically viewed themselves in terms of warrior-like qualities or fertility gods and cults, the Israelites proclaimed their dependence on a shepherd. Even King David, of all people, shares that the Lord was his shepherd. David’s desire was to be comforted and challenged (Psalm 23:1), reminding us that, if the greatest King in Israel needed comfort and challenge, then surely who among us can say that we don’t either?
Again, the word is about depending on and knowing God, and not just any God, but the Shepherd-God who lays down his life for the sheep, for us (John 10:11). After all, it is the job of the shepherd to do what it takes to protect the sheep, to lead the sheep. It is the job of the shepherd, if necessary, to defend flock and not flee when danger comes. That’s what makes the shepherd good – laying down his life for the sheep, sacrificing himself for the welfare of the flock (John 10:11; 10:17-18).
How may we know the Shepherd-God who wants to lead and guide us? How may we continue to depend on him and trust him?
As we move into Holy Week may we continue to listen and follow his lead.
Pastor Andy Kinsey