The portrayal of Jesus as the “good shepherd” endures as one of the most popular images in the Gospels, despite the fact that many Christians today have no cultural connections to the practice of shepherding animals. What is it about this particular image of Jesus that continues to capture our imagination and reinforce our faith? The skilled shepherd never takes his gaze away from his flock and constantly attunes himself to potential threats in the environment. The skilled shepherd rushes after the sheep that try to wander away, pulling them gently back into the fold. The skilled shepherd identifies fertile pastures where the flock can graze and pure sources of water where they can refresh themselves. The skilled shepherd corrals his flock into the sheep pin when they need rest, and he courageously positions himself at the gate to prevent predators from entering and any within his fold from getting out. These daily tasks of the shepherd to look after the sheep are the same selfless actions Jesus takes with us, this Jesus who lays down his life for our protection and salvation. Jesus’ heart opens up for our welfare and his voice steadily guides us to places of comfort and peace. Jesus never leaves us to face the world on our own, and each member of his flock he intimately knows. May we place our trust completely in Jesus, the good shepherd who accompanies our steps all days.
Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”
My Shepherd will supply my need, the God of love supreme;
in pastures green you make me feed, beside the living stream.
You bring my wand’ring spirit back when I forsake your ways;
and lead me, for your mercy’s sake, in paths of truth and grace.
The sure provisions of my God attend me all my days;
Oh, may your house be my abode and all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest, while others go and come;
no more a stranger, nor a guest, but like a child at home.