I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep—John 10:11
I love how Paul writes in Romans 5, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare to die—but God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:6-7)
Giving up your life for someone else is not a matter to be taken lightly. in your heart you might want to die in their place, but when the reality faces you, you may not be able to go through with it. As much as we love people, we might not agree or be willing to die for them. Apart from those closest to us: our children, grandchildren, spouse, but otherwise we would not have the inclination (nor strength) to be so self-sacrificing to go through with it.
Jesus described the good shepherd’s character such that he would lay down his own life to save his sheep. If it meant the shepherd would need to sacrifice himself in order to save his sheep, he would do it. For the best behaving sheep, the most compliant and appreciative sheep, the loveliest, easy to love sheep, the good-and kind-hearted sheep, the most generous, godly sheep, a shepherd might give it some consideration, might find those sheep worthy enough to die for. But, who, except the good shepherd, a true shepherd, would be willing to die for the most horrible, wretched, ghastly, abhorrent, inconsiderate, offensive, ungrateful sheep?
Because we have been cleaned-up, niced-up, holyed-up, spiritually-spruced-up and prayed up by others, we may be more tolerable (today) than before, when we were at our very worst and ugliest (though some have not even lost any of their old ways though they have been on the journey an exceptionally long time!) But, as Paul says, the Good Shepherd did not wait to see what our outcome would be, he did not wait until he could get a glimpse of us after, like someone having an inner-make-over, he did not wait until after the Holy Spirit got a hold of us and started his work of transforming us, but agreed to give up his life, lay his life down for us while we were still at our very worst and terriblest. While sinning was still attractive, overpowering, and soul-consuming. While we were still unwise, undiscerning, stubborn, offensive, and hard-hearted.
The modern-day pharisee and scribe, the false teacher and law-oriented who can only grasp work-righteousness as a way of winning the Good Shepherd’s favor and good enough for the Shepherd to die for, will have us striving without end, to gain something that has already been given. For even at our best we would not be worthy enough for the Shepherd to die in our place. It is only because of the Good Shepherd’s love for his sheep—flawed and sinful as they are—that he chooses and willingly lays down his own life that the sheep might have life. the reflection we see in the mirror and the close examination we make of our true selves can encourage us to praise our God and thank our Good Shepherd for laying down his life for us that we might have life. Let’s Pray,
Jesus, our Good Shepherd for a good person someone might seriously consider dying, but seldom, if ever—let’s just say never—would someone even consider giving up their own life for the most horrible and wretched. We will never fully grasp that kind of love or obedience that made you willing to give up your life for us and give it up for us when we were at our worst (which we never fully leave). Thank you Jesus, our Good Shepherd for your love and great sacrifice. Amen