Fourth Sunday of Easter
Jesus fulfills Old Testament promises from several of the prophets that God himself will come to shepherd His people. Isaiah 40:11 declares, “He will feed his flock like a shepherd,” and in Ezekiel 34:15 we read, “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, says the LORD.”
For Jesus to use the example of being a good shepherd makes sense, because that was one of the major occupations throughout Palestine in his day. His listeners knew about them. People that cared for flocks of sheep were of the lowest socioeconomic level, with little to no education. They had an important responsibility, however, of providing for and protecting sheep, sometimes sacrificially.
“The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” implies that this kind of shepherd stands ready to sacrifice his total self if need be. Three times in these eight verses we hear Jesus make this prophetic statement. It alludes, of course, to his sacrificing his own life for us as the means of our reconciliation to God.
In these days of 2021, my guess is that few of us know any individuals who actually work as a shepherd, but it’s quite likely that we do know people who give of themselves to shepherd others along the right path. This too requires providing what’s needed (direction, encouragement, friendship) plus offering protection if circumstances warrant. And yes, there could be some sacrifice involved, especially in the giving of personal time.
How willing are we to intentionally shepherd others toward a life of loving God and our neighbors, thereby helping to bring them into the fold so they can “listen to Jesus’ voice”? This is the voice of the one Good Shepherd, who “knows his own and his own know him.”
Donna Hurt, Home Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, North Carolina