The Good Shepherd and an Open Invitation

Although Easter is behind us, and the Risen Jesus has appeared to his Disciples and friends on various occasions, today we revisit some of His earlier teachings but this time in the light of the Resurrection.

It is an episode that John records for us and can be found at John 10: 1-10. Here, Jesus speaks of a Shepherd and his flock.

For us, at this time of year, the sight of a flock of sheep in the field munching happily on fresh, green grass with their lambs safely nearby, is a common enough sight.

But instead of the peaceful, pastoral scene we know, those listening to Jesus would have had an entirely different image in mind.

They would know that the life for the Palestinian Shepherd and his sheep was tough and dangerous. With no fences as we have, the land was entirely open. Good pasture was scant, and most grazing was poor.

Any sheep that wandered off in search of better grazing risked becoming lost or falling victim to wild animals or thieves.

While we are familiar with the shepherd or farmer gathering up the flock and driving them forward, the Palestinian way was for the shepherd to lead from the front, to make sure the way ahead was safe with the sheep following on behind.

At night, in the open countryside, the shepherd would herd his flock into a makeshift pen or a low walled enclosure. There would be no gate just a small opening which the shepherd would lie across to keep the sheep in and the wild animals out – he would literally become the door.

In the morning, when he called to lead them out, they knew his was a voice they trusted and so followed him.

The flock needed a good shepherd. Someone who would protect them from danger. Someone who would never leave them but stay with them at all times - and so do we. We too need someone who will lead us to safety.

When Jesus speaks of thieves and robbers, he is highlighting false prophets; those who would mislead or deceive. He was also thinking of the teachings of the Pharisees. They taught a religion without relationship. Follow the Law, the religious law, and all would be well.

Jesus the Son came in order that we could have a relationship with God the Father through Him. Jesus is the gate. He is the door. He is the way to God. “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep”. (10:7)

Jesus came to show what God was like. To open the way to Him, “I have come that they may have life – and have it to the full”. (10:10)

Whether we like being compared to sheep or not, some of our characteristics and behaviour are not much better.

We can be unpredictable, unreliable. We can be easily upset and thrown off course. Sheep are woolly on the outside, but we can be woolly on the inside.

Like sheep we too are liable to wander without thinking. Sometimes we wander from God. Inadvertently, we can become separated from His love and care.

Today, many of us may feel the going tough; some are worried about the future. So much has changed in such a short space of time. Our usual routine is gone, and we can feel lost.

As sheep need a shepherd, so do we: to lead us and to guide us. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep”.

In Him there is security. In him there is life. (10:10) “I have come that they may have life – and have it to the full”.

From time to time we may lose direction in life; lose sight of God. Jesus, as the Good Shepherd calls us by name back to Him: to renew a broken relationship with God and start again.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep”. It is a gate that stands open for us. We only have to go through.

Let us pray.

Gracious God,

Our path in life does not always lead us into quiet, calm places of caring and compassion for others. Our journey often takes us off the beaten track and into the difficult terrain of selfishness and anger. Our progress is often slowed by fear and anxiety. Yet You remain at our side, Lord, to comfort and provide.

Wherever we go, You are with us. Wherever we stray, You seek us out. Whenever we call, You hear us. You are our promise and our hope, our place of rest and peace, our security and our sureness. Whoever we are, You accept us. Whatever we do, You love us. Whenever we fall, You lift us up.

Lord God, You are our Saviour and king, our Master and friend, our Shepherd and guide. We thank You that You give us everything we need. That You offer us rest and refreshment through Your Word. That You keep us on the straight and narrow when we are prone to stray. We thank You that those times when we are afraid, we can trust that You watch out for us.

It is, secure in Your love and safe in the careful watch of Christ the Good Shepherd that we can go on in confidence to face the future.

Amen, and may God’s blessings be on each one of us, today and always.

Alan