Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Acts 11:1-18 + John 10:11-18
May 8, 2017
“‘A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Having grown up in the middle of Kansas, in a town with a population of less than 1000, I’ve known many people who raise sheep. I don’t think any of them were “shepherds” in the sense that caring for sheep was their whole livelihood. Still, they cared for and tended to these animals from before they were born until they met their natural end. All of these persons who raised sheep were good, decent, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth people. But I honestly don’t think anyone among them would have laid down his life for his sheep.
When Jesus states, then, that a “good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”, we have to assume that Jesus is using understatement. Any shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep is not just a “good” shepherd. He’s something much more.
In fact, it’s the mismatch between the human life of a shepherd and the sheepish life of a dumb animal that gives Jesus’ statement its force. Of course, while the difference between a human shepherd and a dumb sheep is a mismatch, it’s a finite mismatch. On the other hand, there is an infinite distance between the divine nature of Jesus and the fallen human nature of us who are Jesus’ sheep. We are as nothing compared to the divine shepherd. All the more, then, ought we work at appreciating more deeply the mystery of why this infinite God would choose to enter among our sinful human family and lay down His life for us.