U SUALLY with this reading, we focus on being the flock of the good shepherd. This time, I’m taking a different approach.
Instead of thinking about ourselves as the sheep, what can we learn about being a good shepherd?
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THE TERM “GOOD” is not simply how well the shepherd does the job. “Good” includes moral goodness, honesty, and sacrifice. What is it about Jesus the Good Shepherd that can influence our families, community, and work?
One of the most-focused-on characteristics of Jesus, the good shepherd, is his sacrificial nature. A sacrifice is to give up (one thing) for another thing considered to be of greater value.
The good shepherd freely chooses to sacrifice. Freely chooses to give his life. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.
A good spouse, a good boss, a good citizen values moral goodness and honesty and freely chooses to give up their desires, needs/wants, or position for the benefit of others.
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A MAN IN INDIA gave 22 years of his life to cut through a mountain to create a roadway for his fellow villagers. Known as “Mountain Man,” he used only a hammer and chisel. Why make this sacrifice? The nearest town with any medical facility was 16 miles away from his tiny village. It was shorter, but much more dangerous, to cross the mountain.
His wife, crossing the mountain, slipped, and died because of the distance to get medical care. In his grief, the man pledged to carve a path through the hills so that no other family should suffer the wrath of losing one’s loved one.
The “Mountain Man” carved a path is 360 feet long, 30 feet wide and 25 feet high. It reduced the walk for medical care by more than 10 miles.
The good shepherd freely sacrifices.
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A GOOD SHEPHERD is concerned for the welfare of the sheep, the family, the employees, the neighbors, the down-and-out.
People who model the good shepherd demonstrate genuine caring. They are committed to others.
When hard times come, when bad times comes when trouble comes, they stay with the flock, the family, Leading the way to wholeness and safety. When asked for examples of sacrifice, parenting is mentioned.
As one person wrote, “When you become a parent, you sacrifice everything and morph yourself into this nurture machine. Your entire purpose is dedicated to raising that child correctly and giving him or her all the love and guidance you’re capable of. That kid will always come first. You change everything about yourself just for them. It’s pure insanity.”
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JESUS SPEAKS of relationship:
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.”
The shepherd and sheep are in relationship. Shepherds spend much of their time with the flock, creating a relationship of trust and intimacy.
Jesus speaks of “knowing” the sheep. He compares this “knowing” to his connection with the Father. It is not just an intellectual knowing, but a deeper relationship.
The good shepherd is a loving caregiver and gatekeeper to the flock; protecting the flock, the family, the staff from whatever endangers, harms, deceives or misleads them. The shepherd depicts an image of a leader-follower relationship built on trust, authenticity, caring, humility, and sacrifice.
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BACK IN THE 16TH CENTURY, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, lived a family with 18 children. To keep food on the table, the father was a goldsmith by profession and worked almost 18 hours a day at his trade and any other paying chore he could find in the neighborhood.
Two of the male children, Albrecht the Younger and Albert, had similar dreams. They wanted to pursue their talent for art but knew their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to study. The two boys worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would go to work in the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy.
Then, in four years, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by laboring in the mines.
They tossed a coin and Albrecht the Younger won the toss. Off he goes to Nuremberg while Albert goes into the mines. For four years, Albert financed his brother, whose student etchings, woodcuts, and oils were far better than those of most of his professors. By the time he graduated, he was earning considerable fees for his commissioned works.
Keeping his promise, Albrecht returned home. After a long and memorable welcome-back meal, the young artist rose to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice. His closing words were, “And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you.”
Tears streamed down Albert’s pale face. He rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He said softly, “No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. Look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother, for me it is too late.”
More than 450 years have passed. By now, Albrecht Durer’s masterful portraits, pen and silver-point sketches, watercolors, charcoals, woodcuts, and copper engravings hang in every great museum in the world. Albrecht Durer’s most famous work is “Praying Hands.” Some believe that the hands he drew are his brother, Albert’s abused, crushed, and arthritic hands. Joined together in prayer.
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JESUS AS THE GOOD SHEPHERD offers rich lessons. Embrace the good shepherd model of deep relationships, trust, morality, sacrifice, commitment, protection, and guidance.
Celebrate Jesus, the Good Shepherd, but model his goodness in all your daily living.