This passage describes Jesus as the good shepherd, safely leading his sheep to food, water, and shelter. He knows his sheep, and he calls his sheep by name – leading them with his voice. When dangers arise, Jesus fights for his sheep, even to the point of death. There is no limit to Jesus’ commitment to his sheep and their well-being.
All too often, I forget that Jesus is my good shepherd. He calls me by name. He doesn’t ask me to go anywhere he hasn’t already gone, because he is leading the way. Jesus has the spiritual food and water that I need to be spiritually healthy. When I need rest, Jesus protects me in the shelter of his presence. Any time Satan attacks me, Jesus leads the fight. He suffered and gave up his life to break Satan’s power over me. I can have peace knowing that Jesus will never give fighting for me.
When Jesus leads us, he speaks to us. I wonder…what exactly is he saying to call me back to his path? When you imagine our good shepherd calling us…leading us, what do you hear? Do you imagine a scolding, frustrated shepherd? Do you hear angry correction? As the shepherd redirects, do you expect a weary or harsh tone of voice?
Let me humbly remind you that our shepherd is the Good Shepherd. He is good and kind and loving. I believe our Jesus…our Good Shepherd…is speaking encouragement into our hearts. When I am attacked on every side, my Good Shepherd encourages me, “But I have prayed for you… that your faith may not fail.” When I fall down, I can hear my Jesus urging, “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (and sisters too!). When I am afraid of the unknown along the journey, Jesus calmly says, “…my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” When I am exhausted, Jesus beckons me, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” And when I don’t know which way to go, Jesus calls out, “Come, follow me.”
Jesus came to give us life…abundant life…the fullest possible life. This abundant, fullest possible life is an amazing journey, a process. And your Jesus, your Good Shepherd, is your biggest cheerleader. Our gentle Good Shepherd is not angry when we make mistakes. Jesus doesn’t give up on us or throw up his hands in frustration when I struggle to grow in my faith. He just keeps calling to me like a parent encouraging a baby to take those first steps.
When my babies were learning to walk, they made me so proud every time they were brave enough to attempt to take their first steps. I was never disappointed in them when they stumbled; I was proud of their courage to leave crawling safety and venture out on two feet. Each attempt was cause for more cheering and encouragement. The very idea of feeling disappointed in babies is ludicrous because we know that babies will stumble and fall – often – before they learn to walk or run.
So why do we expect God to feel that way? Why do we believe Jesus attaches shame to our efforts to grow? How unfair to believe such unkind, unloving behavior from our Good Shepherd! Satan is the thief filling our ears with messages of disappointment, shame, and anger. In reality, Jesus is cheering us on to live an amazing abundant life of adventure, stepping out in bold faith. He loves you, and he is truly proud of you every time you try to follow him. So be brave and call out, “Lord, if it’s you,…tell me to come to you.” Our Jesus will say, “Come.”