John 10:11-16, 27-30
“I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A hired man, who is not a shepherd
and whose sheep are not his own,
sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away,
and the wolf catches and scatters them.
This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice,
and there will be one flock, one shepherd….
My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one.”
Jesus always spoke plainly and clearly, sometimes using stories (parables) and analogies to convey his message.
The above passage from John 10 is an example, in which Jesus described Himself as a “good shepherd” — an analogy that would be widely and easily understood by His audience.
During biblical times, families in the Middle East relied upon sheep to provide food, wool, and sheepskin. A shepherd during the time of the Old Testament was often, but not always, the youngest boy in the family until he grew older and could do harder manual labor.
That being said, being a shepherd was an important and onerous 24-7 responsibility because sheep were so valuable. The shepherd stayed and slept with their flock, day and night, and knew each one by name (“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.“).
The shepherd’s responsibilities included:
- In early morning, the shepherd led his flock from the fold, marching at its head to a good pasture with plenty of food and slow-moving, easily accessible water. Guiding the flock of sheep to a good location was an extremely important task because good pastures kept the sheep healthy. If fed grass of poor quality, the sheep would be malnourished; if the water moved too quickly, the sheep would be too afraid to drink from it.
- Here he watched them all day, taking care that none of the sheep strayed. If a sheep eluded his watch and wandered away, the shepherd would look for the lost sheep until he found and brought it back.
- To protect his flock, a shepherd typically carried a rod, a sturdy stick with a knob at one end and nails to make it a better weapon. The shepherd used his rod to protect his sheep from wild animals or other threats. For further protection, shepherds often carried a sling, comprised of a leather pouch on a string. Placing a stone in the pouch, a skilled shepherd could fling rocky projectiles over a good distance in order to scare off or wound wild animals.
- At night, the shepherd brought the flock home to the fold, counting them to ensure that none were missing. Nor did his labors end with sunset because he must guard the fold through the night from attacks by wild beasts or thieves. (Sources: GotQuestions; Bible Dictionaries)
Not only is Jesus a good shepherd according to the criteria in biblical times, knowing each of us by name and caring for us 24-7. Not only does Jesus the good shepherd protect His flock from harm, He went above and beyond by laying down His life for us.
He also promises us that if we follow Him, when our mortal bodies perish, we will live on and have eternal life.
All He asks is that we be good people and follow ten rules and the greatest commandment — that of loving Him with our whole heart, our whole soul and our whole mind.
Why is that so difficult for so many of us?
I am reminded of French philosopher Blaise Pascal’s famous “wager” argument for believing in God — that we should wager that God exists because it is the best bet. From Pascal’s Pensées (bold emphasis supplied):
“God is, or He is not.” But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up… Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose… But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is… If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.
May the peace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you,
I learn so much here-I thank you all for your patience while I learn. This all comes at a critical time,when we (my Fiancee and I) have little more than our Love and prayers to make our dreams come true. Thanks to her Beliefs and your Education,I’m sure we can be together soon.
Thank you for your feedback, truck. What’s delaying/preventing your get-together?