In these weeks leading up to Good Friday and Easter, it will do us all well to take a fresh look at who Jesus really is.
Throughout Scripture, God calls himself "I am." Jesus uses the expression "I am" seven times in the gospel of John to give us insight as to who he is.
He said: "I am the vine, you are the branches." He also said: "I am the light of the world" and "I am the bread of life".
Jesus also said: "I am the gate" and "I am the Good Shepherd." Most of us have problems relating to sheep and shepherds since they are not a part of our culture or relevant to our daily lives in 2008. But they were a major part of the life and times of Jesus, so he often spoke of them.
In fact, the night of Christ's birth there were shepherds in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night.
In John chapter 10, Jesus gives us several important truths relating to sheep:
People are like sheep. He refers to people as sheep, as do many writers in Scripture.
He does so because of the similarities that exist between sheep and people. They are weak, helpless and defenseless creatures. They have no sense of direction and are prone to wander and are easily lost. Once lost, they cannot find their way back to the sheep fold. The prophet Isaiah said: "we all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way."
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He compares and contrasts false shepherds and all those who came before him as being thieves, robbers, strangers and hirelings. These were religious leaders who scattered the flock and exploited the people for their own selfish purposes. In contrast, Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who has the best interest of the sheep at heart.
He is also the gate or door into the sheep fold. There is no other way into safety and protection except coming through Jesus Christ alone. Others try to get in some other way.
As the Good Shepherd, he also leads and provides for his sheep, leading them in paths of plenty and pasture. He also knows his sheep personally and by name, and they know and recognize his voice and will not follow a stranger's voice.
Jesus lays down his life for his sheep. Quite unlike the false shepherds and hirelings,
Jesus has the deepest affection for his sheep, to the extent that he is willing to give his life for them.
Jesus is the owner of the flock. In John chapter 10, Jesus often refers to the sheep and flock by the use of personal pronouns such as me, my, and mine. We belong to him.
There is only one flock and fold. In a day of many world religions and many denominations within Christianity, Jesus makes it abundantly clear that there is only one true flock, and it is his, and there is only one path to safety, and that is through him. He is the great Shepherd of the sheep.
Is he your Shepherd? Are you following him? Or are you a lost sheep needing to come back into the fold? Let Jesus be the Shepherd of your life. Come to him; trust him; and allow him to lead you in the right paths.
The Rev. Wayne Rutherford
LifePointe Church of the Nazarene