[Jesus said,] ‘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.’
One day God was looking down at Earth and saw all of the mischievous behavior that was going on, so he called one of His angels and sent the angel to Earth for a time. When he returned, he told God, ‘Yes, it is bad on Earth; 95% are misbehaving and only 5% are not. God thought for a moment and said, ‘Maybe I had better send down a second angel to get another opinion.’ So God called another angel and sent him to Earth for some time. When the angel returned he went to God and said, ‘Yes, it’s true. The Earth is in decline; 95% are misbehaving, but 5% are being good.’ God was not pleased. So He decided to e-mail the 5% that were good, because he wanted to encourage them, and give them a little something to help them keep going. Do you know what the e-mail said? No? Okay, I was just wondering, because I didn’t get one either!
It’s hard being a part of that 5%! Even when we think we’re doing good, someone will come along and tell us quite the contrary. That expression, “good,” is just so subjective. What I consider good might be quite different than what you consider good. Just consider Jesus’ statement, “I am the good shepherd.” For some of us he is good…for others not so much. Or at least they don’t think so! Sinners probably don’t consider him too good. They just want to be left alone to go about their sinning. But does that mean he is any less good? He simply wants us to live joyfully and abundantly. He doesn’t want us to suffer. He wants us freed from our bondage to sin. It’s our sin that causes us most of our suffering. Jesus knows this so he graciously gives us an alternative to sin. If we but follow him, we can avoid a lot of our suffering.
What makes Jesus such a good shepherd anyway? Well, like any good shepherd, Jesus looks out for his sheep and protects them from harm. His sheep are vulnerable to the evils of this world. We need someone to look out for us. The wolves are always around us and we need someone who will fight them off for us, not run away. Jesus is willing to fight for us, even lay down his life for us. He’s done it before! And we also need someone to guide us to safety and prosperity. Jesus not only fights for us but he leads us to still waters and green pastures as we know from the 23rd psalm. Jesus and only Jesus knows the way to true joy and prosperity. So he’s not only a good fighter but a good guide too. He’s also a good provider. Jesus has the food to feed our souls and generously gives it to those who listen and heed his words.
Yes, for some Jesus is not all that good. But that’s because they don’t want to live. They’re determined to die or cause others to die. So it’s really not Jesus that isn’t good, it’s the forces that surround them that aren’t good. Jesus is always good and we are blessed to have him shepherd our lives. Let us be grateful that he will go to the cross for us at the end of our Lenten pilgrimage. Not too many people would be willing to do that! He IS the good shepherd who protects, guides, and provides for us all along our pilgrimage through life. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.