“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the 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. 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. 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.”
At the center of the Gospel reading on this day, Jesus makes this powerful declaration, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
While there are countless numbers of individuals who occupy positions, the truth is that their heart may not be in it. The care and the concern for the work that needs to be done is unique when your heart is in it. This truth can be seen in the actions taken, felt in the care extended and even heard in all the words that are spoken. Jesus declares that he is the Good Shepherd which implies that there is a bad or poor shepherd. I cannot help but be reminded of the biblical account of Jesus seeing the gathered crowd and having compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, “like sheep without a shepherd”. Only a shepherd whose heart was in it would move on their behalf and seek to care for their well-being. Caring may be extended in numerous ways, but Jesus gives us just how far he was willing to go to show his love and care for his sheep.
Shepherding is not the nature of work that most of those who are reading this devotion will know well. It is hard, difficult and often dangerous work. The challenges that would be faced by the Good Shepherd would not be enough for Jesus to give up on his assignment. I am thankful as I am reflecting this day, that Jesus’ heart was so much in loving and caring for his sheep, he was willing to give his life for you and for me.
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me
Lyricist Thomas O. Chisholm, 1923