The Good Shepherd
The parable of the Good Shepherd has some very tender, loving, and caring ideas contained in it. But it also has some astounding ideas. Some of these ideas have been misunderstood all these years and we have not reaped the valuable lessons in truth that this parable contains.
In telling the parable Jesus identified himself as being the Good Shepherd and such he is, for he was always one with the Father, God within him, and God is the Good Shepherd.
There is a tender loving relationship between a shepherd and his sheep. The shepherd cares for all the needs of the sheep and he knows his sheep by name. They know his voice and when he calls them by name they respond. A stranger can call that same name but the sheep will not respond. The shepherd protects his sheep. Sometimes they are in the fold but thieves still try to get in and steal them. But the shepherd is there to protect them. Sometimes they spend the night out in the fields. This is especially dangerous, for there are wild beasts constantly on the prowl looking for food. At the time of Jesus there were wolves, lions, panthers, and bears that the shepherd had to contend with. If one of the sheep got lost the shepherd would go search for it as if it were his only one. When they are in the fold he watches the entrance throughout the night. In fact he sleeps at the door of the fold. In the morning he leads the sheep out of the fold and with the help of his dogs he takes the sheep to the feeding grounds and to the watering places.
The shepherd is a hardy soul. He has confidence in his ability to care for his sheep. He has a sling and staff. You will recall David the shepherd who used his sling to slay the giant. The main thing in this parable is the tenderness with which the shepherd cares for his sheep. Jesus is using this analogy to help us realize how much God cares for us. His love for us is so mighty and so great that we have not realized the full extent of His caring.
Sheep are not very bright animals. They get themselves into situations and do not know how to get themselves out. The shepherd has to come and free them. We too, like sheep, get ourselves involved in human situations and we have to trust the shepherd to get us out. Our Good Shepherd is always with us, for God is always with us. In spite of our ignorance the shepherd loves us and cares for us and protects us even when we think He is not there. He does not condemn us for the mistakes we make or the trouble we get into. He may even put us on His shoulders, so to speak, and carry us to safety. Surely you have been helped out of some difficult situation at some time in your life and you called it a miracle. It was the help of the Good Shepherd within you that came to your aid.
The thieves and robbers who try to steal the sheep are the multitude of negative thoughts, suggestions, and opinions that come to us from the outer world and often from our own negative thinking. These negatives rob us of the joy and happiness that should be and can be rightfully ours. The thief mentioned in this parable may be a person who promises to take care of us or help us and then lets us down. When the going gets rough he gets going and leaves us stranded. Sometimes we find that the one whom we thought was a help is a hindrance and has been using us. But the Good Shepherd never lets us down. Jesus tells us that the Good Shepherd gives life — “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) The Good Shepherd within us wants to know and experience and share in the wonders of life. There is so much that we are missing out on, for we do not know where the true pastures are. We think they are the many material things that we can accumulate, but life is the possession of peace of mind, joy, happiness, health, security. And the Good Shepherd is right with us at all times to lead us to these luxurious pastures.
When we get still enough, we can hear the Good Shepherd call our name. We can hear the still small voice as it speaks reassuringly to us. It encourages us to stand firm in the face of trials or challenges. It tells us ever so gently, lovingly, and powerfully, not to give up. The Good Shepherd assures us that if we stand firm we can meet the challenges before us no matter how difficult they may seem to be. He says to you and he says to me, “You can do it” when you and I think that we might not be able to do what needs to be done. He assures us that we can make it if we will only hang in there just a little bit longer and if we will keep on trying. He tells us not to judge by the appearances for they are deceiving and they will change.
The human ego cries out for instant relief. The Good Shepherd assures us that we will be stronger and reap great blessings if we grow into our relief. That is the greater miracle, for it is the lasting miracle. It is the miracle that makes us strong. It is the miracle that enables us to become tough in the face of problems. The quick easy miracle soon fades away and the individual is right back where he started from — the illness may return or the problem blossoms again.
When we learn to recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd we find that He will reveal to us some great truths about life. Jesus told us of some of those great things when he said he had the power to lay down his life for the sheep. He had the power to prove that he and you and I and all people had the power over life and death. That is a staggering realization that many cannot even comprehend or accept. We have missed this great idea and we have thought that God’s will for us was an eventual death. We have thought that Jesus was going to restore life for us but he did not say that. He said the Good Shepherd, God within us, would do that. Jesus said, “If you believe on me, you believe not on me but on him that sent me.” Jesus came to reveal the power of God. He said, “I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me.” Jesus was not the helpless victim of the crucifixion. He was the master of life and he was always in control of everything that he permitted to happen in his life. He was in charge of all that went on. He said, “I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again.” Jesus could do anything he wished to do with his body and he could do it at will.
Then comes a very startling statement. He said, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold.” There are other souls struggling for the mastery of life the same as we are. Some are out of the body in the psychic realm and some are in other mansions in God’s great house of life. Jesus said that there were many mansions in his Father’s house. There are many levels of consciousness and many levels of existence. The planet earth is not the only place where human beings exist. Jesus is the Master of the planetary system but the system is quite large and He is seeking to help all of us no matter where we may be in the system. There have been other teachers who have come along to teach and help. Some have been quite good. But none have been able to demonstrate the mastery and truth that Jesus has demonstrated for us. Jesus did not grow into this mastery for He had it all the time.
Be not deceived by those who come along with their flowery teaching; those who offer quick, easy, gains and rewards. Those are the ones who would lead the sheep, us, to believe there is another way to abundant life. But there is only one way, the inner way. It is the way of following the Christ. It is the way of listening to the inner Good Shepherd. If we listen to the hireling we will be left holding the bag. The hireling can be our own ego. It looks at the glitter and glamour of appearances and gives a high priority to obtaining them, obtaining them usually at any cost. The Good Shepherd provides those same things without the heavy costs of time and energy that the human ego has to spend trying to get them.
As the shepherd takes care of the physical needs of his sheep, so the Good Shepherd takes care of our needs. He will lead us to pastures that are satisfying and fulfilling. The ego has only to relax and let go of personal striving. The sheep do not have to coerce the shepherd. He wants them to be well-fed. He will lead them to the pastures and they do not have to beg to be taken there. We do not have to coerce our Good Shepherd. He knows our needs. He knows what has to be done in our lives to get them straightened out and to get us on the right track to happiness. He knows where we should be. He knows what we have to do, what we have to learn. He only says to us, “If you will only stand firm and believe, all that is right and good will be possible.” Things may look impossible but that is only the appearance to us and they can be changed. It may take a while in some cases but they can be changed and they will be changed.
Remember the Good Shepherd loves his sheep. He loves them not because they are smart, but because they are his own. The Good Shepherd loves us. He loves us not because we may be smart or good or worthy. He loves us because we are His own.
© 1985, Jim Lewis
All rights reserved by the author.
Reprinted with permission.