(Note: This meditation was given on the occasion of appointing Elders.)
As we prepare to appoint men to shepherd this congregation, it would be well for us to consider both what it means to shepherd and to be in the care of a shepherd.
Jesus provides the ultimate example of what it means to be a good shepherd, and He tells us what it means to be a good sheep. John records Jesus as saying, “…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep 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 are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord…” (John 10:10-18 NIV)
According to Jesus a good shepherd places the interests of the sheep above his own. He not only cares for, but cares about the sheep. He knows his sheep. He works to bring sheep of different places and backgrounds into one united flock. And, he lays his life down voluntarily.
To Jesus these were not merely words. He backed up those words by actually doing what He said a good shepherd would do – He gave his life for his sheep. Each week we gather to remember what Jesus did. We eat a piece of bread which reminds us that Jesus sacrificed His body for us. We drink a cup of juice which reminds us that Jesus voluntarily bled for us. As we partake, those of us who are being appointed as shepherds of this flock need to ask ourselves what kind of shepherds we will be. Will I put the interests of the flock above my own? How much do I really care about the spiritual well-being of the people in this flock? Do I know the sheep under my care? Am I actively working to heal the rifts between people and bring them into unity of faith? Will I voluntarily sacrifice myself for the flock?
But Jesus not only talked about the Good Shepherd, He also tells us what it means to be a sheep. As you take the bread and the juice, today, you need to think about how Jesus’ words apply to you. The first thing I notice is that the sheep belong to the Shepherd. You would think that this would be pretty self-evident but it’s amazing how many want to hang around the fold but don’t want the Good Shepherd to own them. Before you partake ask yourself whether you really belong to Christ. If you don’t, then to eat the bread and drink the juice is participating in a lie. It will do you harm, not good.
The sheep also know the Shepherd. How well do you know Jesus? Do you recognize Him, or do you follow anyone who happens to come along? Are you trying to learn more about Him?
Another thing Jesus said about His sheep is that they listen to the Shepherd’s voice. Do you listen to Jesus? Do you do what He tells you to do?
Let’s use this time to not only ask ourselves these questions, but to rededicate ourselves; to commit to becoming one of Jesus’ sheep if we’re not already and to being a better sheep if we are. It is only when we belong to the Good Shepherd and listen to His voice that we will experience the life which He came to give us.