April 30, 2023: The Good Shepherd

lamb in field

Fourth Sunday of Easter

The Good Shepherd

I often think of the image of Jesus as Shepherd, because Jesus continues to watch over me, protecting me, providing for me, guiding me. In today’s Gospel we hear of another important task of a shepherd, as gatekeeper, and Jesus went so far as to say he was the gate: “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture” (John 10:9).

We may not be as familiar with the sheep and gate metaphor as the Pharisees in this story. The imagery seems outdated, but has humanity in the modern world really outgrown our need for someone to love us fiercely and forever, the way only a truly good shepherd can? Has our need for a good shepherd really faded, just because our familiarity with sheep and shepherds is not as acute as it was for the people who first heard Jesus speak these words?

Hardly. We still live in a dangerous world. Wolves abound. We will never come to a day when we do not need someone who will care for us no matter what, who can see every wolf that runs our way.

As I was working on this message at the dining room table the other day, I glanced up at the refrigerator, which is full of magnets; many are holding up our grandchildren’s artwork. One of the magnets is the Moravian seal with the Lamb. It was turned so that the Lamb was pointing down. The thought crossed my mind, this was Christ our Good Shepherd diving down to help us, coming to our rescue, giving himself up for us.

If it helps, go ahead and put modern clothing on Jesus the Good Shepherd. But however we choose to update the imagery, we cannot deny that today, as much as ever, we all need our Good Shepherd tending the gate.

John Fritts, pastor
Advent Moravian Church
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania