by Nick and Brian Schwarz
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I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep (John 10:11).
Christians love the image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, tenderly caring for his sheep and lambs. The sheep and lambs represent us, of course. The image inspires us to trust in Jesus’ protection, guidance and provision. It is of special comfort to Christians who are ‘walking through the valley of the shadow of death’, such as soldiers and civilians in wartime, people in the midst of a pandemic, people nearing the end of their lives, and people mourning the death of loved ones.
Sheep in need of a good shepherd are all around us. Some decided they could look after themselves and wandered, lost their way and are vulnerable and hungry. Some followed other shepherds who didn’t really love them and turned out to be predators in disguise. Some are not yet ready or receptive to a call to follow Jesus.
But many are ready and receptive. They discovered that following their own desires led them into the wilderness. They now realise that one path is actually not as good as any other, and they are seeking the right and true path and a trustworthy guide.
Such sheep are open to receiving the good news that they have a shepherd who knows them, loves them, sacrificed himself to save them, and wants to lead them from their wilderness to a life of true abundance.
How well the old song expresses this life:
I am Jesus’ little lamb
Ever glad at heart I am.
For my shepherd gently guides me,
Knows my need and well provides me,
Loves me every day the same,
Even calls me by my name.
Dear Lord, help us to recognise ‘sheep’ who are ready to be invited into your flock or back into it again. Help us to live in ways that make joining your flock seem to them like the obvious and right thing to do. Help us to look after our fellow sheep so that they will grow strong and remain in your care. Amen.