I’m trying something a little different today. Since I found so much to say about Jesus the Good Shepherd and us as the good sheep, and since the lectionary divides John 10 into several readings, I’m going to write an extended meditation on John 10 over the next 3 lessons, beginning today and concluding on Monday and Tuesday of next week (Lent 2).
Sometimes the simplest stories are also the most profound ones. Exhibit A: one Jack and Jill who allegedly went up the hill. I submit that if you replace Jack and Jill with Adam and Eve you have the story of the Fall. Exhibit B: one Mary and her little lamb. It’s as plain as day that this is really a poem about Christ and the Church. It goes something like this:
Jesus had a little lamb
its robes were white as snow.
And everywhere that Jesus went
the Church was sure to go.
Just like Mary and her lamb who followed her everywhere, Jesus is a Good Shepherd and we are His sheep. Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd in three ways, each of which elicits a proper response from us, who are the Good Sheep. The Good Shepherd knows His sheep, He leads His sheep, and He gives His life for His sheep.
We hear in verse 14 that He knows His sheep and in verse 3 that He knows them well enough to call them out by name. This is the Good Shepherd of the billions of stars gathered together in flocks we call galaxies, and He knows each of them by name: Sirius, Polaris, Betelguese, Alpha Centauri and Alpha Proxima, and His favorite – Sol. He is the one who called out 12 disciples to Himself, even before they knew Him, and He has called you even before you knew Him.
He knows what you are like, for He created you and knows your body and its ailments and your soul and its ailments. He tells you that He fearfully and wonderfully made you (Psalm 139). He lives with you every day, every evening, morning, and all the time in between. So much does He desire to know us that He became one of us.
Because our Good Shepherd and Creator knows us, we His Good Sheep, may know Him: “I am the Good Shepherd, and I know my sheep, and am known by My own” (verse 14). The proper response to being known by Jesus is to know Him and desire to be with Him. As the good sheep, we are to know His voice (verses 3, 16, and 27).
When you know someone, you even know his voice. But to know a voice, you must spend time with someone and live with him. To the people you know well you don’t even have to introduce yourself over the phone because the person on the other end knows you by the first word from your mouth – without seeing you. For this reason, it’s jarring if someone launches into a phone conversation assuming you know him. I’ve tried on numerous occasions to trick my mom by switching the phone back and forth between myself and my twin brother, Danny. But she can’t be fooled, not even by very similar voices.
Like the RCA Victor dog, you should know the sound of your Master’s voice with your ear cocked, ready to hear and obey the voice of your Master.
We all want to be known, truly known. This is one of the deepest desires we have as humans. We want to know not just that people will only know us enough to vaguely greet us, but that someone will know and care about who we are down deep inside, behind all the masks we wear.
Jesus, your Good Shepherd knows you in just such a deep way. And He cares about you and cares for you, warts and zits and sins and all. Jesus Christ, your Good Shepherd, knows you. Are you seeking to know Him?
Do you know Him? That is the only appropriate response: to want to know Him as deeply as you possibly can. Isn’t it a little disproportionate, a little wrong, that the Triune God, the King of Glory, passionately desires to know us (who are but small), and that we scarcely give a thought or care for Him who is the source of all things? Next time you’re tempted to whine about not getting what you deserve, think about God.
In fact, always think about God. But especially today, think about how the Good Shepherd knows you, and then desire and seek to know Him better.
Prayer: LORD Jesus Christ, the good Shepherd of the sheep, who came to seek and to save that which was lost; I beg you to be present today in your power with the sheep for whom You gave Your life. Show compassion to the helpless, enlighten the ignorant, protect those in peril, and bring home the wanderers in safety to Your fold. Feed those who hunger, and clothe those who are naked with the food and clothing that You are. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
How well do I know my Good Shepherd? How much time have I spent with Him, thinking about Him, getting to know Him? What are some things I should be doing to come to know Him better?
Resolution: I resolve to intently seek to know Jesus Christ, my Good Shepherd today. I resolve to find one specific way to do this: through the liturgy, meditation on His Word, prayer, etc.
© 2012 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Marble statue of the Good Shepherd – Wikipedia entry on Good Shepherd