Advent Flow #20 - NAME OF GOD: The Good Shepherd
“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”
– John 10:11 NASB
NAME OF GOD: The Good Shepherd
by Anne Ivans
As we know from our studies of Scripture, there are many names for Jesus. I find it interesting that Jesus chose to call Himself different things, many of which form visual images. The good shepherd would be a particularly meaningful name to the people of Jesus’ area and time of life on Earth.
What is a good shepherd? One who lays down his life for the sheep. We are Jesus’ sheep. This verse is so commonplace in Christian culture; it is widely quoted and very familiar. The verses that are very familiar often pass by my attention and contemplation as I have heard them and thought about them before. I develop sort of a spiritual malaise, where my eyes glaze over, and I start to contemplate more meaningful things, such as what is for dinner and what do I need at the grocery store. Fighting that very real battle, I will attempt to do this verse justice.
I remember listening to a sermon years ago where the pastor talked about sheep. My dad’s family were cattle people in southern Idaho, and cattle people are not fond of sheep. Sheep are known to be dumb. Sheep will follow almost anyone; sheep will graze almost anywhere. Sheep will wander away from their shepherd and not even know they are wandering. Sheep are easily distracted and probably have ADHD. Sheep are not considered noble animals. They are not the lions and jaguars of the animal world. There is nothing stealthy or sexy about sheep. When children play, they are lions, tigers, bears, or elephants. It is boring to stand around and graze all day. No one wants to be a sheep. And yet we are… all of the above, we are… we are easily distracted and drawn away from God, we will eat almost anywhere. Put something sparkly in front of us, and we will follow it forever… think sin and the lure of Las Vegas.
But Jesus is the Good Shepherd. How do we distinguish between a good and bad shepherd?
A good shepherd feeds his sheep. We are fed the perfect food: the food that never runs out or grows moldy. We are fed good and nutritious food, the Word of God. This food nourishes our soul. I think about the prisoners who were fortunate enough to have memorized Scripture, how this very food sustained them, during the most horrific torture, and gave them hope. We are told to be filled with the Word. It is to fill us up and to overflow out of us, onto those around us.
A good shepherd keeps his sheep with him. He knows each of them and knows which ones are prone to wander and which ones he can count on by his side. He knows their very nature, and he loves them. He knows the sheep are weak and feeble and needy, yet of tremendous value. He knows they have a purpose and importance even in the animal world, where they lack the glamour of the carnivorous beasts.
A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. He will fight off the bigger more threatening animals. He will fight to the death, His death, before He allows one of His own to be consumed by the evil one. He will hike over rocky hills in search of the wandering one. We are not like this, but we want to be. We want to be noble, strong and true. We cheer for the solder that will go back for a fallen comrade; we root for the strong and mighty warrior that protects the frail and weak in the movies. We want to be like Jesus, until it gets hard.
Looking again at sheep, consider the value. Sheep are sheared and their wool is woven into beautiful sweaters that warm us. This winter, think on that, when you are cold. Or when you are warm, enjoying the wool that was provided for you. The sheep will grow more wool and provide for us over and over. Sheep are also adaptable. After all, they will eat almost anything.
Christmas is just a few days away, where we will be celebrating the birth of Our Savior, the Good Shepherd. In response to this great gift, we are thankful. Thankful that Jesus chose to be obedient, to come to Earth at all. He must have been enjoying sweet fellowship with his Dad, and then to be born in a cold dark manger… We are also thankful and grateful that Jesus laid down His life for us. Most of us are not called to die for Jesus, but to live. We are called to follow Him and know Him as best we can. We are called to be obedient sheep.
How to be an obedient sheep (the check list):
1. Are you following Jesus? Are you actively listening and feeding on His Word?
2. Are you easily distracted during this season? Are all the bright and shiny things leading you to follow another shepherd — one that is not looking out for your soul?
3. Are you adaptable? When it comes time to lose that wool coat, and you are vulnerable, how will you stay warm?
4. Are you spending time with other obedient sheep or are you wanting to be something more glamorous, like a lion or a jaguar?
In closing, my dad liked to tell this story about my grandfather. My grandpa was a boy in the school room, and his teacher asked him: “Herbert, if you had 10 sheep in the barn, and 3 got out, how many would you have left?” His response was “none”. His teacher reprimanded him and said “Herbert, you do not know your arithmetic facts!” He replied “Teacher, you don’t know sheep.”