John 10:11-18 (NRSV)
Verse 11"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Verse 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away-and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. Verse 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. Verse 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, Verse 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. Verse 16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. Verse 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. Verse 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father."
It is good to be known and still loved. There aren’t many people to whom you can reveal your flaws and failures comfortably. It is a gift to have a relationship that is strong enough to bear such honesty.
The Good Shepherd claims that kind of intimacy with his sheep. The Lord knows us completely and loves us enough to lay down his life for us. Those who are only doing their job don’t have the connection that’s crucial for a deep commitment. A teacher who only loves his paycheck and not the children; a surgeon who only loves her reputation and not her patient; a mayor who only loves his position and not his community. All of them are like a hired hand who won’t protect the sheep from the wolves.
The Lord is clear that he has the power to take his life up again. That Easter power reveals God’s triumph over death.
Devoted Shepherd, your faithful love sustains us through all our experiences. Work in us your way of unconditional acceptance that we may help sustain others. Amen.