Jesus the Good Shepherd
‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
Devotion by Rev. Courtney Jones
In ancient Israel, sheep were led from gates not to have pasture but to be living sacrifices. Sheep trust their shepherds all the way to the slaughter. Jesus turns the image on its head, saying the sheep will get to have full life because the Good Shepherd would rather sacrifice his own life than see the sheep sacrificed on the altar.
In this time of pandemic, I’m struck by the lack of good shepherds around. I’m struck by how often already poor communities are sacrificed for the sake of others; I look at the disproportionate impacts in communities of color and other marginalized communities, who often are the frontline workers—the ones who work in grocery stores and post offices and sanitization industries and hospitals—the ones who often have less access to services and less ability to stay home.
When I’m looking at the disparity of those who are risking their lives, and I’m thinking about Jesus’s promise that those who would be sacrificed will instead have abundant life, I hear it as a call to know the Shepherd’s voice. The Good Shepherd promises protection and respite and abundance, but sheep flock together. So my confined pandemic life can only be abundant when my fellow flock on the frontline also have what they need for abundant life. The Shepherd’s voice calls us to a different kind of living, where we all get to share abundance. O God, may it be so.
Holy One, You call us into lush pastures where we can enjoy nourishment and rest. Give us the restlessness to work for the day that all of Your beloved ones can flock together in abundance without end. Amen.