11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
For our great comfort, Scripture gives many images of God shepherding His people. Psalm 23, of course, comes to mind. We have a picture in the entry of our church of Jesus walking through green pastures and still waters leading a flock of good-looking sheep. Jesus tells the parable of the shepherd who goes out seeking his one lost sheep, hefts it on his shoulders, and brings it home. All of that imagery is Scriptural and comforting and good.
However as comforting as all of that is, it not our Lord’s focus when Jesus calls Himself the ‘good Shepherd’ here. The people who heard Jesus say these words figured He was a lunatic. Their response down in v. 20 is, “He has a demon and is insane; why listen to Him?”
In Jesus’ day and even now, shepherds keep sheep for their wool or their meat. Shepherds put food on the table and a roof over the heads of their family by sheering and slaughtering sheep. In the ways of the world, a ‘good shepherd’ is someone who is successful in making money off of his sheep. Imagine a cattle rancher saying, “I am the good rancher. I love the cows. I like to go out and pet them. And I let them live to a good old age in the field while I go and die for the cows.” You would not call that rancher ‘good.’ You’d call him a fool and a lunatic.
Here’s where this is going: Our translation has Jesus saying, “I am the good Shepherd,”and we use the word ‘good’ to describe all sorts of things that aren’t actually good. Teachers might write ‘good’ on assignments or tests when a student has actually done poor work. Some fathers are sleazy fornicators and only spend time with their children when it is convenient for them while treating their children’s mother like trash. But single mothers might still call them ‘good’ dads even though they scumbags. The word ‘good’ can be vague and simply don’t cut it when we think of Jesus as the ‘good Shepherd.’
On the one hand, ‘good’ is a perfectly legitimate way to translate the word (the adjective) Jesus uses to describe Himself as the Shepherd. But the word that Scripture gives us is much deeper than our word ‘good.’ So, you get to learn a Greek word today. Jesus calls Himself ‘the καλός Shepherd.’
Yes, it does mean ‘good’ but not in a subjective sense, not in a way that is open to anyone’s interpretation. Jesus is uniquely qualified to be the Shepherd of sinful sheep. Christ is the ‘good for you’ Shepherd. Kalos also means ‘right, fitting, true, beautiful, and competent.’ And Jesus Himself defines exactly what makes Him the kalos Shepherd. His the kalos Shepherd because of the fact that He lays down His life for the sheep.
In other words, Jesus, the kalos Shepherd, guards you, His flock, from the wolf no matter what. Jesus talks about the ‘hired hand’ who doesn’t own the sheep. A hired hand might not leave the flock if he sees a wolf way over there. In that situation, the hired hand might make a bunch of noise to scare away the wolf and save the flock he is watching over. A hired hand might even try to save the majority of the flock while a wolf picks off one or two sheep, and we’d still call him a good hired hand.
But Jesus, the kalos Shepherd, does something unimaginable. Jesus overcomes, defeats, and destroys the wolf by filling the wolf’s mouth with His own Body and thereby saves you from being lost and devoured by the wolf.
Right after our reading ends, Jesus goes on to say that the reason the Father loves Him is that He lays down His life for the sheep. Listen to this: Jesus says (v. 17-18), “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge (lit. “this command”) I have received from My Father.”
So, ask yourself, “If death cannot separate Him from me, what can?” If Jesus will go to the cross for you, and if Jesus will die for you, and if Jesus will come through death to be with you, He will always abide with you and will not leave you.
Hear this, you wandering sheep: When you had cut yourself off from God by your sin, Jesus, the kalos Shepherd, came down to die on the cross for you. Jesus could have run away like the hired hand, but He didn’t. If Jesus didn’t run away then, what would cause Him to run away from you now? The answer is nothing. There is nothing that will make Him throw up His hands and say, “Well, I’m done with that sheep.”
My dear fellow sheep: Jesus is the kalos Shepherd; you are the sheep. You are not called to stand toe-to-toe with the devil. Satan, sin, and death are the wolves, and you are the sheep. Hide behind Jesus. Christ, your kalos Shepherd, places Himself in danger to rescue you from every threat. But even as you hide behind your kalos Shepherd, you do not cower in fear. Hide behind Jesus confidently knowing that He has overcome the wolf, won the victory, and His victory is your victory because you are His.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds inChrist Jesus. Amen.