Gospel (Jn 10:27-30)
“My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one.”
This gospel describes the beautiful relationship between us and God. Throughout scripture God’s relationship to us is described as that of a father to his children and a shepherd to his sheep.
We can easily appreciate the loving bond between a father and a child but what is it about sheep and shepherd that would teach us something about our relationship to God?
Earlier this week, I found a book on the shelves in my office that was written by a man who, before becoming a pastor, had been a shepherd.
In reading, I learned that, unlike you might suppose, sheep cannot just take care of themselves. In fact, they require endless attention and more meticulous care than any other kind of livestock. By nature they are timid and fearful, somewhat restless, easily bothered by each other’s behaviors and almost always hungry. If they’re not well-tended, these traits overwhelm them and, unable to relax, they stray from the flock and become lost.
Interestingly, when a sheep is lost, it is only the shepherd himself who can provide rescue. Like turtles, sheep can get turned upside down, cast, with no way to help themselves. Only the shepherd whose voice the sheep knows can make it possible for the sheep to return to the flock, to rest happily, to thrive and to flourish. As such, the fortune of any particular sheep and the condition of the herd depends entirely on the devotion of the shepherd.
As we hear today, we are God’s sheep and, fortunately for us, we belong to the best possible shepherd, Jesus–the one who devoted his life to caring for us. Like sheep we are sometimes afraid, sometimes worried, sometimes upset with each other and sometimes completely unsure where we’re headed.
But no matter how upset we may be or how lost we may feel, we are never alone. Jesus is always there feeding us, guiding us and comforting us. In the care of the Good Shepherd we have all that we need to thrive and to flourish–the presence of Christ’s endless attention and the promise of His eternal, meticulous care.