"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
In the name of Jesus. Amen. There are all sorts of images that come to our minds when we think of Jesus being our Shepherd. He protects us, holds us in His arms, and promises never to forsake us. He carries us in bad times, over His shoulder, and keeps us safe.
The Holy Gospel for this week tells us specifically what it means that Jesus is the Good Shepherd: He lays down His life for the sheep.
Israel had plenty of bad shepherds. When the wolves would come, these hirelings would choose their own lives over the sheep. They would flee, leaving the sheep to scatter and be devoured by the wolves.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd who gives up His life in the place of the sheep. He doesn’t flee when the wolf shows up for the sheep are His own, given to Him by His Heavenly Father.
But His sheep have a way of straying, don’t they? We try to come up with our own way of dealing with God. If we do more good than bad, help more people than we hurt, we think that everything will be ok. All of this is just trying to tend to ourselves.
Despite our straying, He bore all our sins on the Tree. All your sins, all your straying, the Lord laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. By His stripes we are healed. That’s what it means that He is your Good Shepherd: He laid down His life for you.
He knows His sheep and they know Him. He knows you. He called you by name at your Baptism and delivered to you what He won for you on the Cross.
His sheep know His voice. You know His voice. His voice speaks to you in Holy Absolution: “I forgive you all your sins.” His voice returns you to the Shepherd and overseer of your soul. His voice calls you out of your straying to a new life lived for others.
What does it mean that Jesus is the Good Shepherd? He gives up His life for His sheep. He gave up His life for you. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
“Who so happy as I am, Even now the Shepherd's lamb? And when my short life is ended, By His angel host attended, He shall fold me to His breast, There within His arms to rest.” (TLH 648, 3)
Higher Things Reflections are written by Rev. George F. Borghardt III, Assistant Pastor at St. Mark Lutheran Church, Conroe, TX.