In the new Forward Today, Scott asks: “What would it mean to recover an authentic understanding of Jesus as a Good Shepherd?”
Dear friends in Christ,
This Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, is sometimes called Good Shepherd Sunday. It’s no wonder. The lectionary brings us the account from the Gospel of John where Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd, and we sing or say Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd.”
For many of the earliest Christians, this was the primary way to understand Jesus Christ and his ministry. One of the oldest known images of Christ, from around 240 CE, is of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. It was a powerful image then, and it still resonates with us today.
Most readers of this email live in urban areas, or at least in towns. We are, mostly, not agrarian people. So it should not surprise us that we have lost some of the potency of the image of the Good Shepherd. We might think that calling Jesus the Good Shepherd means that he is nice, or that he cares for us. While he certainly does care for us, it has nothing to do with being nice.
Shepherds lived difficult lives. They had to endure inclement weather. They faced threats from animal predators and those who would steal sheep. Their profession was dirty. Being a shepherd was quite the opposite of glamorous. In other words, understanding Jesus’ ministry as shepherd-like must surely mean that we understand his love for us as costly, willing to embrace danger, humble, and generous.
So this Sunday, try not to think of sheep as cuddly stuffed animals and Jesus as a nice person. Think instead of the great love Jesus shows for us, willing to lay down his life to protect and care for us sheep. We have a Good Shepherd, and that is very Good News, indeed.
Why do you think early Christians focused on Jesus as Good Shepherd, and why do you think we tend to portray him in other ways? What would it mean to recover an authentic understanding of Jesus as a Good Shepherd? How would this help us live as people who have heard and who bear Good News?
Today’s featured sale item is Joy in Confession: Reclaiming Sacramental Reconciliation.
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