SUNDAY, MAY 8, 2011
THE GOOD SHEPHERD
‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep’ Jn. 10v11. These words were exactly spoken by Jesus to the listeners of his time. In the bible, the shepherd is always spoken about in relation to the sheep.
The sheep represented the chief wealth and the total livelihood of pastoral peoples, providing the peoples of the Bible with food to eat (I Sam. 14:23), milk to drink (Isa. 7:21-22), wool for the weaving of cloth (Lev. 13:47-48, Ezek. 34:3), and covering for tents (Exodus 26:14).
Interestingly, the sheep is unaggressive (Isa. 53:7; Jer. 11:19, Jn. 10v3-4), relatively defenseless (Micah 5:8, Mtt. 10:16), and in constant need of care and supervision (Num. 27:17; Ezek. 34:5, Mtt. 9:36; 26:31)
It was said of Jesus in Mtt. 9v35: ‘when He saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’.
The care of the sheep was ultimate in the life and ministry of Jesus. No time was wasted in caring and supervision of the sheep. The vulnerable nature of the sheep, made Jesus to go extra mile in looking after them. If we juxtapose the good shepherd with the hireling, we discover that deep down the hireling, he had not love of the sheep at heart.
Often the hireling devoured or abandoned the sheep. Its activities hurt the sheep and the care expected was not found.
God says: ‘woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves!…you eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not care of the flock. You have ruled them harshly and brutally… they were scattered over the whole earth and no one searched or looked for them’ Ezek. 34v2-6.
God promised: ‘I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when some of this sheep have been scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will rescue them’ Ezek. 34v11-12.
No wonder king David as a shepherd boy could adoringly say without equivocation ‘the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want’ Ps. 23v1.
The true shepherd cares and even leads to a good pasture. Such was the experience of king David as he whole heartedly entrusted himself to God. God the shepherd of the Nation Israel gave her hope and assurance and guided her all through life. David could further affirm, ‘even though I walk through the valley of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me’ Ps. 23:4.
The era of Jesus reflected this true care of a shepherd to the flock. As the Guardian of our souls, he said ‘I am the good shepherd’. He was definite ‘I am the’ and not contemplative ‘I am a’. Jesus tells us as a good shepherd, I lay my life down for the sheep. The gospel writer captured it thus: it says: ‘for even the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’. Mk. 10v45.
The church of God all over the world is in dire need of good shepherds. We have charlatan who claim to be shepherds. Shepherds who are content with fat bank accounts, who ride fleet of cars, live ostentiously while at the same time impoverishing their flock. Yes, God will take away the flock from their greedy mouth and set them free.
The political sector is not speared. For we have rapacious leaders who are supposed to be shepherd to the people. With the election nearly over but God desires that a new era of good leadership should emerge. His heart is about leadership who will know the plight of the masses and bandage their wounds.
It is our prayers that God will raise up for us good shepherds in His church, to care truly for the flock. Also good leaders, from the political sector who will stoop low and bandage the wounds of the masses. We know many are suffering in silence and are bleeding with wounds, hurts.
VEN. ERNEST ONUOHA
Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Retreat Centre,