<< John X: The Good Shepherd >>
LARGE flocks of sheep and goats are pastured on the hills of Palestine, and in the sunny plains in the south. They are often led far from home to places where the pasture is best. In summer when there is no rain the shepherds must keep them near the streams and the wells where there is grass and water. The shepherds live with the flocks in the fields and become their friends. The sheep learn to know their shepherd’s voice. Sometimes many hundred sheep come together at a well, and crowd about the little water troughs, but when each shepherd goes off a little way and calls, his own sheep come to him. It is a pretty sight to see a shepherd walking along a hill-side, the sheep feeding in the soft herbage of the valley, and the goats climbing among the rocks and bushes on the hill. The shepherds do not drive, but lead the sheep. If one wanders from the flock the shepherd calls his name, for often each sheep has his own name; and if he will not come, the shepherd sometimes sends a little stone with his sling, which strikes the ground near the sheep. Then he looks up and comes. You remember David’s sling. He had a staff also. David defended the flock from a lion and a bear. And there were robbers too in that country, and the shepherds must be on their guard against them. At night the shepherd brought his flock to some sheltered place, sometimes to a fold which was perhaps a cave or a safe enclosure; sometimes he lay with them in the fields. The shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem were “keeping watch over their flock by night.”
The Lord is our Shepherd because he loves us as a shepherd does his sheep; because he takes care of us and feeds us every day, and protects us every night. What are the wolves and the robbers that He protects us from? They are everything that would harm us, especially bad feelings and thoughts. The Lord is the good Shepherd. And if we are to be the Lord’s sheep, what ought we to do? We ought to be gentle and trustful and obedient. If we are not, we are not like sheep. The Lord is the door because He will lead us into heaven and keep us safe from everything which could do us harm. “He calleth his own sheep by name,” means that He knows each one of us, and what each one needs. He “goeth before” His sheep, in His own life on earth. He “giveth his life for the sheep.” We remember how the Lord was crucified; but it means more than that. It means that every day He is with us to give life to everything in us that is gentle and innocent and lamb-like.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.
Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.—John X. 1-16.
Author: William L. Worcester 1904
Sheep >> Innocence and gentle affection for one another and for the Lord
The shepherd and his sheep >> Lord’s loving care of us and the trustful dependence which we ought to have toward Him
I AM the door >> By His truth and goodness He leads us into a heavenly state and heaven
The sheep hear the shepherd’s voice >> We must attend and obey the Lord
The shepherd calleth his own sheep by name >> The Lord knows the character of everyone who enters his life and he adapts His care to each one’s need
“He goeth before them,” >> The power of the sympathy and example of the Lord’s life on earth
Going in and out finding pasture >> The Lord’s protection and blessing in more internal and more external states
A thief or robber who climbs up some other way >> To think ourselves heavenly or that we can become heavenly, by other means than by the Lord’s help
A hireling >> Pretended care for innocence and kindness, really for the sake of selfish advantage to ourselves
Wolf >> The cruel, selfish affection which shows itself when the pretense of caring for innocence is cast aside
Other sheep not of this fold >> The many kinds of people whom the Lord is preparing for a place in the great fold of heaven
Pictures: James Tissot —-Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum