Thoughts for the Month

NOVEMBER

 

‘I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I 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.’ (John Ch.10. vv 14-16)

I wonder - have you ever thought about what the life of a shepherd, centuries ago, must have been like? It was an incredibly hard, thankless task. A shepherd was on the very bottom rung of the social ladder. He was expected to live with the sheep and to keep them safe, no matter what the threat or the weather. He did without rest, home comforts, family and friends. It was an isolated, lonely existence where the sheep really did know their shepherd’s voice and would not follow a stranger.

I have often thought about Jesus’ words ‘I am the Good Shepherd.’

There is a wonderful story that I would like to share with you.

There was once a great actor who was known for his one-man shows of readings and recitations from the classics. He would always end his performance with a dramatic reading of Psalm 23.

Each night, without exception, as the actor began his recitation – ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want …’ the crowd would listen attentively. At the conclusion, they would rise in thunderous applause in appreciation of the actor’s incredible ability to bring the verse to life.

One night, just before the actor was to begin his customary recital of Psalm 23, a young man from the audience stood up and said,

‘Sir, do you mind if tonight I recite Psalm 23?’

The actor, somewhat taken aback by this unusual request, allowed the young man to come forward and stand in the centre of the stage to recite the Psalm. He knew that the ability of this unskilled youth would be no match for his own talent.

With a soft voice, the young man began to recite the words of the Psalm. When he had finished, there was no applause. There was no standing ovation as on other nights. All that could be heard was the sound of weeping. The audience was so moved by the young man’s recitation that every eye was full of tears. Amazed by what he had heard, the actor said to the youth,

 ‘I don’t understand. I have been performing Psalm 23 for years. I have a lifetime of experience and training – but I have never been able to move an audience as you have tonight. Tell me, what is your secret?’

The young man quietly replied,

 ‘Well Sir, you know the Psalm … I know the Shepherd.’

Whether or not this is a true story, it contains some truths and highlights some questions that maybe we should be asking ourselves. The biggest question of which is: Do we truly know the Shepherd?

In the passage from St John’s Gospel, Jesus distinguishes the shepherd from the hired hand and emphasises that He will lay down His life for His sheep. As His sheep, we know our Shepherd’s voice and must follow where He leads. We also know that we can put our total trust in Him.

We know that there is a great deal of love that exists on the part of the ‘Good Shepherd’ for His sheep. There is a willingness to do whatever is necessary so that the sheep will survive and prosper.

A good shepherd doesn’t beat his sheep with a whip, like a lion-tamer, or an electric cattle prod. The good shepherd leads his flock with gentleness, mostly just by his voice, although occasionally he must use the shepherd’s crook.

Most importantly, the shepherd will face dangers for his sheep that they are not able to handle on their own, if necessary going so far as to lay down his life to protect them.

As the Good Shepherd, Jesus leads us with gentleness and love, although occasionally the scriptures tell us that He does need to rebuke and discipline us, but even that is with gentleness and in love.

As the Good Shepherd, He did lay down His life for us, but He took it up again, just as He said He would. He has provided the only way for us to be cleansed of our sins, be reconciled with God, and given the hope of eternal life.

So, do we truly know the Good Shepherd? Have we met Him in our quiet times, Bible study, prayer and meditation?

If so, we will find:  joy replacing anger, love replacing hate, peace replacing anxiety.

Remember, Jesus said,

‘I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.’

We need to feed His sheep by reaching outside the four walls of the sheep pen.

Feed His sheep faithfully, as He gives us the grace and strength and the knowledge and opportunity to do so, now and for the rest of our lives.

Do YOU know the Good Shepherd?


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