“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.”
When I taught at a school in the middle of the City of London, we used to have regular bomb drills, in the same way that most schools and businesses have fire drills. One day, we had a drill and the whole school had to evacuate the building and muster at a point on the embankment. The day was particularly memorable, since that very afternoon, we had a real bomb alert. It was thought that someone had placed a bomb at the side of the school, and we were all urged to evacuate as quickly as possible, and not to stop to collect anything. It was pretty terrifying. As a teacher, without thinking, my priority was to get the pupils safely out of the school. I therefore found myself patrolling the corridor next to where the bomb was supposed to be, hurrying the children up. There was no attempt at heroism on my part, it was just what any teacher would do in that position. Luckily, it was a false alarm, there was no bomb, and everyone was safe.
In today’s verse, Jesus describes himself as the “good shepherd.” He says that a good shepherd thinks first of his sheep, before any danger that he might confront. His number one priority is his sheep, and if necessary, he would lay down his life to ensure that his flock was safe and secure. He compares the shepherd to the mere hired hand; the hired hand would think first of all of himself, and his own safety and welfare. If he and the flock were threatened, his instinct would be to flee. Without the shepherd, the sheep are doomed, and find themselves susceptible to attack.
Jesus, of course, did lay down his life for his “flock” – those who believe and trust in him. He went to the cross and died in agony, taking on the sins of his “flock.” By doing so, and defeating death by rising again three days later, Jesus ensured that we, as his followers, are safe from attack. He will watch over us as a shepherd looks over his sheep. As a result of his actions, we can be secure in the knowledge that we are saved from sin and the devil, and that, when the time comes, we can be reunited with God the Father in heaven.
Praise Jesus today for his willingness to be our good shepherd!