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Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Good Shepherd

"I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep" (John 10:11).
We love the "good shepherd" analogy. The image of a kindly man holding a little lamb safely in his arms is just heart-warming. The protection of the shepherd provides wonderful peace. "Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me." We get it, and we like it.

Of course, it does beg the question, doesn't it? Sure, the Good Shepherd is safety and peace to His sheep, but He is none of that to those who are not His sheep. So ... who are His sheep?

The Jews thought, of course, that they were. Jesus disagreed. "I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice and they will become one flock with one shepherd" (John 10:16). So it wasn't "the Jews." In fact, He let it slip right there. They are the ones who hear His voice.

So, we would say that those who believe are Jesus's sheep, and those who do not believe are not Jesus's sheep. We'd likely all nod and agree with that position. Sounds about right. We'd be about wrong.

The Jews pestered Jesus:
"How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep" (John 10:24-26).
Well, it appears that our formula of "believe = sheep" isn't accurate after all. According to Jesus, "You do not believe because you are not of My sheep." In other words, "of my sheep" precedes "believe".

Christ is indeed the Good Shepherd. This certainly does conjure up images of comfort and care, of safety and security. "I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:28). No safer place to be. But it would appear that in order to be a believer you must first be one of His sheep. Now, doesn't that turn things around?

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