The Good Shepherd
“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Several places in this passage contain these words- “a good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”. We know it is true that Jesus literally laid down his life for us. I believe that he also is challenging us to understand the true nature of love, which is to lay our lives down for others.
I think we can all understand this in the context of our families, and perhaps even for close friends. Soldiers in combat have done this for centuries, and they continue to do so. Our front line health care workers, first responders, and a host of related professions are now laying down their lives to provide for the needs of a reeling society.
Paul said in Romans 5: 7-8 “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man, someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
This is a powerful demonstration of love. The principle here is that there cannot be true, mature love without sacrifice. I would defy anyone to give an example of love that did not involve sacrifice. Jesus calls upon us to demonstrate love toward people who are “not very lovable”. In fact, he gave his life for us when we were “not very lovable”.
I have heard the story that shepherds in the time of Jesus actually laid down at the gate of a sheep pen at night in order to protect the sheep from predators. Wolves or other predators would literally have to “crawl over” the sleeping shepherd to get to the sheep.
We too, I think, are called to “be in the gap” for others- even those who we do not know, or maybe do not even care for. I think that is the true meaning of laying down our lives. We are to love people the way God loves them in order to demonstrate what real love is. And yes, it always involves sacrifice.
Prayer: Father, thank you for the demonstration of love that Jesus is for us. You gave him as our sacrifice when we had nothing to give. Thank you for loving us, even while we were far separated from you, Amen.