I hope and pray this letter finds you well. We move on now from the Easter narratives, but we remain in the season of Easter, I wish someone would tell the supermarkets that, we have had Easter eggs all this time in the shops and the moment the actual season of Easter arrives they all disappear. This week we examine the teachings of Jesus about Himself with a series on His names and what they mean. Choosing a name can be important, as I am sure you will appreciate Laura, and I are in this process now although we have cheated and purchased a book with the names and the meaning. There are so many different things you must consider, not least ensuring it does not clash with the surname. It is for that reason we dropped the name Potiphar, only joking it is still on the list! Often you can tell by looking at a person if their name matches, I remember at school a teacher saying to me I looked more like a David than an Andrew!
So, for week one of this new series, we examine the name of the ‘Good Shepherd.’ The reading is taken from John 10: 11 – 18. Jesus explains that He is the good shepherd. But what does this mean? I will explore the meaning of a shepherd in a moment but why does Jesus describe Himself as good surely you would not get a bad shepherd would you? Good means Jesus’s character, nature and intentions are all good, He is a man of goodness, good things and wants the best for the sheep in His care. A shepherd perhaps more in keeping with Middle Eastern culture than ours was someone who cared for the sheep and was a common occupation back then.
However, it would be tough, it would mean living away from home months at a time, staying night and day with the sheep, watching over them and ensuring they are safe, watered and fed. It could be lonely and challenging, out in all weathers and you had to be strong because if a wild animal came upon your flock you had to be able to either frighten it off or kill it. This was how David became conversant with the tools he used to kill Goliath with. Jesus explains that He knows His sheep and they know Him. In other words, those who have a relationship with Him, which resonates with the verse about if you deny Jesus on earth, He will deny you in heaven. Jesus goes on to explain that He will lay down His life for His sheep, the same was also true of shepherds given the dangers of the job and the hazards of the time. He explains that there are other sheep not of this sheep pen (probably referring to the Gentiles) that Jesus commissioned the disciples to go to. He explains about listening to His voice, it was true that the sheep became acquainted with the shepherd voice and could recognise it even at a distance. If we are true followers of Christ, we too will learn to hear and heed the voice of Jesus. He concludes His remarks by stating that He offered up His life voluntarily and surrendered it to serve His Father.
We are of course the sheep in the analogy but the important thing to recognise is that Jesus has voluntarily offered Himself for us and will guide us and help us if we indeed follow Him and heed His voice. Do we spend time listening to Him? Do we stand out as a sheep of the Good Shepherd or are we lost in the wilderness?
May our Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, bless us now and always,