Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10: 1-10)
The Old Testament often speaks of God as shepherd of his people, Israel. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want (Psalm 23:1). Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! (Psalm 80:1) We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture (Psalm 100:3). The Messiah is also pictured as the shepherd of God’s people: He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms (Isaiah 40:11). Jesus says he is the Good Shepherd who will risk his life to seek out and save the stray sheep (Matthew 18:12, Luke 15:4). He is the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (1 Peter 2:25).
What can shepherding teach us about God and our relationship with him? At the end of each day the shepherd brought his sheep into shelter. They knew the voice of their shepherd and came at his beckoning. So familiar was the shepherd and his sheep, that each was called by a distinct name. In the winter the sheep were usually brought to a communal village shelter which was locked and kept secure by a guardian. In the summer months the sheep were usually kept out in the fields and then gathered into a fold at night which was guarded by a shepherd throughout the night. He was literally the door through which the sheep had to pass.
Christ, our good shepherd, both leads us in and leads us out. He comforts us and challenges us. He gives us security, and he calls us to serve. These two dynamics are essential parts of being a disciple. They are also interrelated, because one suffers, if the other is absent. If we begin to think that our relationship with Christ is merely about our security and comfort, it can easily become selfish. We can begin to focus more and more on ourselves, on our wants, fears, and needs. When this tendency begins to take hold, then we must allow our shepherd to lead us out, out of preoccupation with ourselves, out into service of others. But on the other hand, if we begin to think that our relationship with Christ is merely about doing his work, we can easily become exhausted. We give and give to our family, to our friends, to our community until there is nothing left. When this begins to happen, we must allow our shepherd to lead us in, into the security of his presence, into the comfort of his love. We must take time to withdraw, to pray, to be thankful for what we have received so that we can find the energy to serve again.
Christ, our shepherd, both leads us in and leads us out. We should let him. We should go in, embrace his presence, and drink in his love. Then, we can go out and be his presence in the world.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, you always lead me in the way of true peace and safety. May I never doubt your care nor stray from your ways. Keep me safe in the shelter of your presence.”
Our relationship with Christ is not just about security and comfort. The shepherd also leads the sheep out: out of the sheepfold into the world, out to do his work. Christ asks us to serve others. He calls us to be the best mothers and fathers, sons and daughters that we can be. He leads us out to build his kingdom, to attack injustice, to oppose oppression, and to help those who are in need.