Jesus: The Good Shepherd
Most of what I know about the heart of a shepherd came from knowing Wayne & Carol Reissman. They owned no sheep. They had just a small Boston terrier named Rodney, measuring about 9 inches in height and 15 inches in length, who was generally decked out in a spiked collar, which I thought to be comical on such a small and gentle pet. But it was in Wayne and Carol that I encountered the hearts of a shepherd.
Next door to Wayne & Carol’s home lived two Pit Bulls. One day the Pit Bulls broke through the fence separating the two yards. One of the big dogs dug her teeth into Rodney’s neck, but the spiked collar Rodney was wearing prevented the attacker from clamping her teeth shut around Rodney’s neck and killing him. Still, she kept Rodney in her mouth and shook him about like a rag doll.
As their pet yelped in fear and pain, Wayne and Carol ran into the yard. Wayne stuck his hands into the Pit Bull’s mouth and pulled the jaw open, enabling Carol to grab Rodney then flee for the house, with the other dog in pursuit.
When Wayne told me what had happened, I asked whether he was terrified when he wrestled hand-to-mouth with that Pit Bull. Wayne told me that he didn’t have time to be afraid; he just knew that he had to rescue his beloved Boston terrier.
That’s what love does. That’s what a good shepherd does.
Jesus declares, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf [or Pit Bull] coming and leaves the sheep [or the Boston terrier] and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:11-15)
The other quality that defines a good shepherd is the shepherd’s knowledge of each sheep and each sheep’s knowledge of the shepherd. Many years ago, Paul Harvey shared this story: “Cattle-rustling is a major problem in Uganda. The Ugandan army daily attempts to reunite cattle with their owners. The biggest difficulty lies in proving ownership. One elderly lady settled the issue in a remarkable way. She stood before the herd and called her cows by name. As each cow heard that voice calling her name, she lifted her head and then followed the old woman. As far as the army was concerned, it was as strong a proof of ownership as one could find.”
Those cattle knew her voice and responded to her voice because she called to them every day and throughout the day. Jesus declares, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:14). Jesus knows us, and he calls out to us every day and throughout the day. The question is whether we will listen to him enough to begin to recognize his voice and be ready to respond to his call.
What a lovely message.
Thank you Tom