“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”
Traveling with students in Jordan some years ago, I spotted a shepherd in a field with a flock of sheep scattered around him. He sat in a lawn chair, legs crossed, reading a newspaper.
The Old Testament shepherd image was much different, often representing major leaders in Israel, like Moses and David. Even more significant, the ancient biblical imagery of the Lord as our shepherd portrayed God's tending, nurture, protection, and care for his people (see Psalm 23).
In his fourth "I am" statement, Jesus calls himself "the good shepherd." In doing so, he not only asserts his divinity but also claims to be the good and noble shepherd of God's people. This is in contrast with examples of bad shepherds, corrupt and selfish rulers and religious leaders among God's people. In calling himself the good shepherd, Jesus contrasts his care of God's flock with that of corrupt leaders. He compares them to hired hands, who don't fully care for the flock even while they are being paid.
In times of danger, when a wolf would come or there was a blinding snowstorm, hired hands might give up and run, thinking only of his own well-being. The good shepherd, however, protects and cares for his flock in any situation.
Jesus, the good shepherd, stayed with us even at the cost of his life. Take comfort in that truth today, and listen for the voice of your good shepherd!
Jesus, thank you for being our good shepherd. Help us to listen and respond to your voice and your leading today. Amen.
See God's love, power, presence, and purpose in your life every day!