“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of 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.” John 10: 14-15
I love the image of Jesus as the Great Shepherd—noble, rugged, striking a pose upon a hill with the sunset in the background, silhouetted with the classic crook, ready to defend his flock at the first sign of danger… I might be idealizing the pastoral lifestyle, but it’s relatively easy for me see Jesus as our regal King and Shepherd who reigns over the world and lords over his fields.
The next step in the metaphor is much harder for me to picture: If Jesus is the Great Shepherd, that makes me… a sheep… Not his friend hanging out in the fields, not a joint member in the family business, not even his pen pal. I’m his livestock.
Admittedly livestock are valuable to the shepherd, but not for very glamorous reasons. Sheep are not intelligent beings; they’re not valuable for their personality or wit or charms. They’re only valuable because they’re his flock.
It’s difficult to swallow, but the reality for us then is that we are not valuable to Jesus for our winning good looks, our impressive resumes, our stellar reputations. We’re only valuable to Jesus because we are his people and he loves us, so much so that he would descend to our level and become like a sheep for a little while in the person of Christ show us his love.
The real kicker of the whole thing is that the distance between Jesus, the Son of God, and us, sinning mortals, is exponentially wider than the gap between a human shepherd and a sheep. Jesus was at the right hand of the Father! He was in heaven! And yet he chose to come down to be with us, incarnate in human flesh, to save his livestock, not because we are in any way worthy, but because he cares for his flock.