Jesus: A Shepherd’s Heart
If we have wandered as sheep, we can follow the voice that calls us back to the fold.
by Tami Rudkin
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11, NIV).
A lone figure: agile, muscular, bearded; calm, perceptive, purposeful; rod, flute, prayers; protector, provider, guide.
The woolly flock: black, white, flecked; trusting, wandering, nibbling; laughing, crying, hoping; searching, seeking, believing.
We who live in the twenty-first century have a fairly idyllic idea of the shepherd and his flock. Many times when the Old Testament refers to God and His Son to come, it speaks of a shepherd. Jesus’ followers used the same picture to plant in the minds of their contemporaries the heart of Jesus. And Jesus, the very Son of God who would be called chief cornerstone, captain of the Lord’s host, deliverer, and unspeakable gift, referred to Himself as the shepherd.
Must have been a pretty important job to bring such comparisons. What do you think?
I think Jesus, like shepherds in charge of the family’s livelihood, took on His shoulders the well-being of the Father’s most precious commodity: humanity. Jesus was not a hired hand picked from the town’s square to tend the Master’s sheep. He was the Son, intimately aware of how precious the sheep were to the Father. His own comfort was always secondary to the care of the sheep. Though He grew bone tired, He never slept through His duties. Though His mouth watered at the thought of warm bread and fresh fruits set on His family’s table, the rugged pastures of heaven’s will were His first priority.
Though He must have often been tested by His earthly charges, Jesus never turned away when the sheep bleated too loudly, grazed into dangerous territory, nibbled beyond the Father’s boundaries, or wandered carelessly before a prowling lion. The Good Shepherd knew His calling; all else paled in the light of that duty.
Wonderful as the shepherd’s fame is, the reputation of sheep is not so good. Sheep seem to be struck with a sorry case of stupidity. They wander without regard to their own safety and heed the beckon of their bellies. They appear to be unaware of the dangers of menacing wolves, rocky ledges, and storm clouds on the horizon.
However, the sheep do have one thing to their credit. As the shepherd knows the flock, so the sheep know the faithful shepherd. They recognize his voice when he sings melody sweet, when he calls their names, and when his voice warns of the danger always lurking nearby. The sheep trust the shepherd. They listen to his voice. They come to his call as darkness approaches.
It’s some picture. How much are we like the silly sheep, intent only on today’s pleasure? Or like those sheep that wander away from the fold, out of earshot of the shepherd? What about the dangerous places we find ourselves? Personal pride, monetary dependency, relational bankruptcy, spiritual famine? Have we been so content with today’s good things that our relationship with the Shepherd has been neglected? Have we nibbled ourselves into dangerous territory – places where, without the Shepherd, we can’t possibly escape? Have we laid ourselves open to a world ready to devour us body, soul, and mind? Do we find ourselves in less-than-guarded situations? Probably so. All we like sheep have gone astray.
We have more important questions to ask: Will we listen for the Shepherd’s voice? Will we trust Him and respond when He calls us by name? Will we follow Him obediently wherever He leads? When we realize our path has taken us too far away, will we cry out to Him and run eagerly back to the fold?
The heart of the Shepherd is pure, void of selfish ambition, personal gain, or private pride. He laid down His life for the sheep with thoughts of love for the lost, the stubborn, and the lonely. His desire is only to protect us, provide for us, and sing praises about His Father, the benevolent ruler of all earth’s kingdoms and faithful lover of all His sheep.