( A commentary on John 10:11-18)
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So, there shall be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10: 11-18)
Jesus used the image of the shepherd laying down his life for his sheep to communicate how much he loved us. His love is ever constant and ever fulfilling.
What can we learn from that as it applies to our daily living?
Think about this. Whenever we give life to another person, we are connected to that person forever. For the giving of life forms a bond that time does not break. Mothers know this because, in the most fundamental sense, they give life to another. But every one of us here who is connected to anyone knows this as well, because if we are connected deeply to anyone, that connection came about because life was given
It is only when we give life to one another that we really understand our own worth. It is in the process of being connected to others that we see who we are and what our true value is. The person who lives in isolation does not even know who she or he is. But when we are connected, our life has meaning.
Connections also lead us to sacrifice. If we are connected to others, we feel their pain. When others to whom we are connected make bad decisions or are in danger, we suffer with them. This is why mothers worry and why friends mourn. Because once we begin to love someone, it is only a matter of time before we suffer with them. Once we are connected to someone, we will, in time, also be hurt. Whenever we give life to someone, we must be willing to lay down our life time and again. Both worth and sacrifice flow from the connections that support us, the connections that come from life that is shared.
But the good news in this gospel is this: this giving of life that leads to a connection out of which worth and sacrifice flow, is not limited simply to us. It also applies to God. God is the one who gave us life and so God is bound to us by bonds that cannot be broken. Just as the Good Shepherd cares for the sheep and is willing to lay down his life for the sheep; God cares for us and is willing to do all that is necessary to help us. Because of this, we should never doubt our value in God’s eyes. Because of this we should never think that God has forgotten us, no matter how difficult our life becomes. God has given life to us and like a mother, can never stop caring for us, can never fail to save us.
We can doubt our own value but we should never doubt that God cares for us. Others may look at us and seek to judge us as expendable or worthless. They can point to us and ask God, “How could you love these people? They are so selfish, so judgmental, so different, so wounded. How could you care for them? How could you be willing to lay down your life for them? We could never do it.” But to that question, God would simply shrug and say, “They are not your children.”
The God who gives us life stands as the font of love. The God who gives us life reminds us of our worth to him. The God who gives us life whispers each day . . . I love you and will always be here for you.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, you are the Good Shepherd who keeps watch over our lives. May I be ever attentive to your voice and submit fully to your wise rule for my life. Draw me near to you that I may always find peace and joy in your presence.”
The shepherd can show this commitment and care because he is clear what his core values are. Jesus in laying down his life for us is modeling what a great love he has for us. The cross reminds us that he knew what he stood for, and there was no turning back from that commitment. Speaking of his life, he says, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” His love for God and for us was at the very core of his being. His love for us reminds us of our worth in his eyes. His love tells us that we are valued in this life and beyond.