Bible Reading: John 10:11-15
Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own 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. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep.
Some years ago I spent a few weeks around Hyderabad in India, taking part in a mission with a local bible college, training young Indian church ministers. We spent some of the time working in very primitive villages outside the main city where their livelihood depended on traditional sheep farming. Each morning the shepherd would lead his few sheep out into the countryside and stand watching over them while they grazed. He led, they followed. He watched, they grazed safely. Then in the evening he would call them and lead them back into the village and pen them up for the night in a rustic pen outside his home and they rested safely.
As the days went by and the grazing got thin, the shepherd would lead his sheep to a different pasture where the grass was thicker, and the water was fresh. He led, they followed. He watched, they grazed.
This is the same image to which Jesus was alluding two thousand years earlier. The shepherd called, the sheep followed; the shepherd watched, the sheep grazed. The image is of the shepherd leading his sheep, not driving them. The sheep chose to follow, knowing the shepherd had their best interests at heart.
Jesus calls us to follow him. We make that choice initially when we become part of his flock, but we also make that choice daily. There may be some days when we want to do our own thing and wander off from the flock on our own. There may be other days when the shepherd wants to move us on to fresh pastures, but we prefer to stay put with the familiar, even if the grazing is getting a bit thin. Either way we end up like the lost sheep, needing to be rescued.
The heart of this passage is that Jesus is the good shepherd. He has our best interests at heart. If he stays put, we do well to stay put, if he moves us on, we do well to move on with him.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you are my good shepherd, that you always provide me with fresh pasture and clean water. Forgive me for the times I have wandered off. Give me the faith to follow when you lead me forwards.