I am the good shepherd (John 10:11, 14)...
While I haven’t spent a lot of time around sheep, I do know a few things about them. What I know makes me resent this “I Am...” If Jesus is the good shepherd, then by common sense deduction, I am a sheep. Forget the soft cuddly little animal that decorates nurseries. What a misrepresentation of the real deal. Everything I know about sheep begins with the letter “s”. They stink. They are stubborn. They are stupid. The last thing I want to acknowledge about myself is that I might be a sheep. In reality, however, it is an accurate comparison (well, my smell isn’t so awful, but my behavior can be...). So, yes, I need a shepherd...desperately!
I already know that it’s going to take more than one brief blog to dialogue about Jesus as our shepherd. For the purposes of this week’s reflection, we will only look at one attribute of a good shepherd. A good shepherd is a good leader:
“...the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them...and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice (3b-4).”
Sheep do that, you know...they follow their own shepherd. They might be in a field filled with other sheep from other folds, but, because they have spent so much time with their own shepherd, they recognize his voice. When they hear that voice, they follow. They separate out from the rest of the sheep, and they go after their shepherd. Because they have spent so much time with their own shepherd, they trust that he will “lead them beside quiet, restorative waters (Ps 23:2b-3).” They won’t trust other shepherds to do the same. Following is an issue of trust...always!
When Jesus speaks this “I am” statement, his singular vision, his primary purpose, his truth for me to grapple with is this: Will I let Him lead?
You see, a lot of times, I look to Jesus as a friend, a confidant, an advisor, an encourager, a counselor, a “life-coach” (if you will), a computerized GPS. While he is very much those things along the way of life, he. first and foremost, desires my determination to allow him to do what he does best – LEAD. The problem is I want a bit of a say in where we go. I want a head’s up for the journey ahead. I really am saying something like this to my shepherd, “Oh, I’ll follow............but, with some consideration. Just give me a little idea of what’s up the road. Let me deliberate a little bit.” Jesus, the good shepherd, doesn’t want our consideration. He doesn’t desire deliberation. He plans for our participation. We can trust that while the up may sometimes seem steep and rocky – the grass at the top will be healthier and we will ultimately be happier (more blessed).
Blessed am I when I don’t just consider following my good shepherd, but surrender to him with willing participation!