“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”
(John 10:11-13 ESV)
In these words, Jesus sums up the heart of the gospel. He compares himself, as the Good Shepherd, to the hired hand. And the difference between the two is found in his willingness to lay down his life for the sheep in his care.
The hired hand does not own the sheep. They do not belong to him. And, as a result, he doesn’t care about them. He values his own life more than that of the sheep. So, when the wolf comes, he flees. He runs that he might preserve his life.
The sheep, however, belong to the shepherd. He cares for them and values their life above his own. So, when the wolf comes, he is willing to protect them. He’s willing to lay down his life for the sheep.
Most of us can see this truth not only in Jesus’ words, but also in his actions. These words are more than just a parable. They reflect reality. They point us to the sacrifice Jesus was to make on our behalf.
We remember that, even though he in no way deserved to die, Jesus willingly laid down his life for us. He did so that, through faith in him, we could be free from sin and death. He was willing to face down the enemy and bear the suffering that was coming to us that we might have life.
Not only does this fill us with gratitude. Not only does it cause us to overflow with thankfulness for everything he’s done for us. It’s also the reason we follow him. He truly is the Good Shepherd. He’s not out to gain anything from us. His sole concern is us.
In this sense, it also forces us to search our heart. It forces us to ask if we behave more like the Good Shepherd or the hired hand. I’m not suggesting that we could ever measure up to Jesus. I’m not suggesting that we could ever do for others what he’s done for us. But we are called to reach out with the gospel. We are called to be a blessing to those around us.
We can relate to Jesus’ willingness to suffer in some ways. Most of us, if an intruder entered our home, would do all that we could to protect our family. We would put ourselves between the enemy and our family that they might live.
However, in most cases, we’re more like the hired hand. We take a “me first” approach to life. We’re willing to serve, we’re willing to help people, if it’s not an inconvenience. But we’re not all that willing to sacrifice. We’re not willing to lay down our life.
Yet we’re called to lay down our lives for others. We’re called to value others more than ourselves. We’re called to love as Christ has loved us.
May we, then, repent of our selfish attitude. May we ask God to change our heart that we might love others with the love he’s given us. May we truly be the blessing that we’ve been called to be.