Day 20 - Thursday, March 26 The Good Shepherd DAILY READING - Jn 10:1-21 This is a long lesson. You may need to revisit this one over a few days. In yesterday’s reading, we examined the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. They interrogated the parents regarding their son’s blindness, and, then they hurled insults at the healed man claiming he was steeped in sin from birth because of his blindness. It makes me want to say to the Pharisees, “So, meany-heads, which is it? Do you believe he was blind and healed or not?” The Pharisees are bullies. Their leadership style is authoritative with an iron fist. While I can offer a certain amount of grace as to why they lead in this way, chapter nine of John’s Gospel makes me want to stand up to them and support this family. How about you? Today, we move on to Jesus describing an entirely different kind of leadership in chapter 10. Jesus describes himself in different ways. Look at the following verses for how Jesus describes himself: John 10:7 - “I am the ” John 10:9 - “I am the ” John 10:9 - “whoever enters through will be ” (NIV). By looking at this verse we can understand Jesus is our . John 10:11 - “I am the .” John 10:14 - “I am the .” Think about the way we’ve seen the Pharisees lead in John’s Gospel up to this point versus how Jesus describes the way he leads in chapter 10. List the differences below: Pharisees: Jesus: The image of the shepherd caring for his sheep is a sweet one. In ancient Palestine, shepherds led the sheep, they did not drive them (NIV study notes). The sheep followed the shepherd. The sheep knew the shepherd’s voice and only followed their leader. I always get a little lump in my throat thinking about that. When Jesus calls to me, do I know His voice well enough to follow? How about you, when Jesus calls, do you know His voice well enough to follow Him? Let’s take a closer look at how a shepherd leads his sheep. Read Psalm 23. Then, look at each line of the Psalm from a shepherd’s perspective. Phillip Keller, in A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, provides revelatory insight into what the Psalmist wants us to know. “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” 1- You can only have one shepherd in your life. Jesus says in Matthew 6:24 that we can only have one master. Is Jesus truly and always your shepherd? Or, do you allow other things to lead you in life? Safety, Accomplishment, Control, Money, Knowledge, Popularity, Adventure, Appearance? Be honest with yourself for a minute and think about what gets most of your attention. Is it Jesus, your shepherd? Or, is it something else? Do you truly believe that Jesus provides all of your needs and you lack nothing with Him as your leader? “He makes me lie down in green pastures,” 2- It is the shepherd’s presence that allows the sheep to lie down and rest. A good leader protects the sheep from harmful outside influences (Phillip Keller, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, p24). Nothing can replace the comfort found in the protection of the shepherd. For Christians, nothing can replace Christ’s presence (Keller, 26). Contentment comes from Christ alone. With eyes focused on Christ, nothing else matters and rest comes. Too often, we look around at the other sheep and think we must measure up to them. Comparison kills contentment. What else kills your contentment? “He leads me beside quiet waters” 3- A shepherd leads his sheep to water. We require water for life. Our souls thirst for living water. Jesus says He is the living water. Drinking for the sake of our souls requires drinking in Christ. How much water does your physical body require in a day? How much water does your spiritual body require in a day? Routinely and regularly, we must let Jesus guide us into His living waters. Scripture, Prayer, and Christ’s Presence lead us to the living, quiet waters. How often do you drink in the living water of Christ? He refreshes my soul. 4- A shepherd moves the sheep to keep the mactive. It is easy to get lazy in our walk with Christ. We open the same devotional every morning. We read the same comfortable Scripture passages. We get too comfortable and think we’ve “made it” and there isn’t any further to go. Spiritual pride will trip someone up in the grandest of ways. Our souls are constantly growing. As Christians, we will never reach our fullest potential outside of walking with Christ. And, our walking with Christ is an ongoing, ever evolving journey. Christ constantly renews us as we walk in life and love. Christ sets before us new adventures with Him so we stay fresh in our faith. What new way might Christ be setting before you as a way to refresh your faith? “He guides me along right paths for his name’s sake” 5- The shepherd guides the sheep along planned paths. Sheep are notorious for walking the same trails and grazing the same spaces until the land is wasted (Keller, 61). Stuck in ruts, the sheep become sickly. The shepherd safeguards the sheep as he leads them along new paths. Moving the sheep, for their health, dominates a shepherd’s attention (Keller, 64). Christ does the same for us. Stuck in ruts, we become sickly. Driving our own paths, we become dissatisfied. As humans, we tend toward self-determination and self-glory. Our paths often produce pride for ourselves. Christ leads us along planned paths for robust health. The most content Christians move along Christ’s paths to bring Christ glory. When we find Christ’s paths, we find contentment. Are you prone to self-determination of your future or Christ’s determination of your future? Are you striving for something for your own sake or for Christ’s sake? Do you make a plan and pray for Christ to confirm it? Or, do you seek Christ’s way into a plan for your future? “Even though I walk through the darkest valley” 6- The language of the Psalm, beginning with this verse, turns to the personal. Up until now, we have focused on the shepherd’s actions. Now, we look at our personal place as we engage the shepherd. Christ’s paths, necessarily, will lead us into trials. The journey that strengthens the soul requires hardship. The road might become rocky and unstable. The path might lead to low lying lands where the sun may not shine. On valley floors, predators prey, flash floods and sudden storms send rushing water, and temperatures can change in an instant (Keller,81). The valley floor can be a dangerous place to stay. But, the valley floor also offers grassy glades and glorious meadows (Keller, 80). We will walk through dark valleys. The good news is that we walk through it. We don’t stay there. The valley is a place we visit on the way to higher ground. What dark valleys have you walked through? Having traveled out of the dark valleys, can you see how time in the valley strengthened your soul? How? I will fear no evil, for you are with me. 7- Often, in the valleys of life, we find that Christ is closest to us. We feel Christ’s presence more immanently. I often wonder if it is fear that turns us toward the comfort of Christ. Or, does Christ rush to us, like a mother who comforts a child in pain? Maybe it is both? With Christ in our midst, we have nothing to fear. Neither death nor life, neither the present nor the future, neither the heights nor the depths, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39). Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. However, we can choose to separate ourselves from the contentment found in Christ. What is it that you fear? In what ways do you let that fear separate you from contentment found in Christ? “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me” 8- The shepherd’s rod and staff are the equipment of authority. The rod is an extension of the shepherd’s right arm and is a symbol of strength, power, and authority (Keller, 86). In the Old Testament, God manifests miracles through Moses’ rod. The will of God extends through the rod. For the shepherd, the rod is also an instrument of examination. The shepherd uses the rod to inspect the wool of each sheep. He intimately and lovingly spreads the fleece to look for disease (Keller, 90). And, the rod is an instrument of protection for the shepherd and the sheep. The shepherd’s staff is used for the care and management of sheep alone. Only sheep are guided by a shepherd with a staff. The staff is an extension of comfort. Sometimes a shepherd will hold the staff against a sheep to communicate a special touch as if to say, “We are connected" (Keller, 95). God’s strength, power, and authority is found in God’s Word. God’s Word guides, examines, and protects us. God’s staff comforts us. His presence, through the Holy Spirit, reaches to us and communicates, “We are connected.” In what ways do you find Scripture guides, examines, and protects you? How do you see Christ using His rod and staff to bring you comfort? “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” 9- In the Spring, the shepherd goes before the sheep to prepare the mesas, or tables, for their sheep (Keller, 99-101). They clear out harmful plants that might kill the sheep. They clean out leaves, mud, and debris from watering holes. The shepherd’s prepare the places where the sheep will roam. Jesus prepares the table for us. He has gone before us to prepare the way and to protect us from anything that might harm us. Christ clears the way and sets the table for us. The communion table is a feast of thanksgiving for Christ. How do you see that Christ has gone before you and prepared a way for you? “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” 10- In the summer months, flies swarm and circle sheep and cause irritations.The shepherd anoints the sheep’s head with oil to combat aggravations from flies (Keller, 111-113). Shepherds also dip their sheep in oils to prevent a disease called “scab” which is spread when sheep rub their heads together (Keller, 115-116). Anointing sheeps' heads in oil keeps them calm and disease free. The worries of the world are held at bay through oils. Christ anoints our heads with oil to bring peace and to keep us disease free, also. In the Episcopal baptismal service, the priest anoints the head with oil to mark the person as Christ’s own, forever. The Sacrament of Unction, anointing the head with oil, marks the Christian as separate from the world. The anointing calms the irritations of the world and protects us from the dis-ease of the world. Our Shepherd poured out His life for us so that we would rise from this world. Christ’s cup is His life, poured out for us. We accept the cup of Christ’s life and love. From it, love flows into our lives and we flow into other’s lives. The flow of Christ’s love is spread to others as we form community in Christ. When you think of drinking the cup at the Eucharist, do you think of ingesting Christ, to be filled to overflowing, so as to share the joy of Christ with others? “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life” 11- Being led by the careful shepherd down treacherous paths, into dark valleys, and up the mountain mesas, the sheep thrive. The shepherd guides and the sheep trust. In goodness and love, the shepherd and sheep share a common union. Our Shepherd guides and we trust. A common union is formed. All the days of our lives, His mercy and love flow from us. Whether we are atop the mountain mesa or in the dark valley, Christ leads us in love. The love of Christ, flowing from us, is following behind us as we walk in the ways of Christ. Are you a cup of overflowing mercy and love for others? Or, is your mercy and love flow blocked somewhere? “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” 12- The sheep are so sure of their care, so content with their shepherd, they can’t even consider dwelling anywhere else. They happily abide under the authority of the shepherd who has lovingly guided, protected, and provided for them. The shepherd is so enamoured with his sheep, he cannot imagine caring for any other flock. The journey they have traveled together fortifies their souls and their communion. The shepherd opens the gate and the sheep enter into content life. The shepherd will never leave the sheep. The sheep remain in the shepherd’s presence. Christ is our Shepherd. Read John 10:10. Jesus says he came that we would have life. With Christ as our Shepherd, surely we have the fullest life possible.