Commentary by Walter Albritton


February 4, 2007


Christ the Gentle Shepherd Comforts and Guides Us


John 10:1-18


Key Verse: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  – John 10:11


Jesus used many metaphors to explain his identity. One of the most beautiful is that of the sheep and the shepherd. This figure of speech has inspired many beloved songs like “Savior, like a Shepherd Lead Us.” My favorite is the one Bill Gaither gave us:

Gentle Shepherd, come and lead us, for we need You to help us find our way
          Gentle Shepherd come and feed us, for we need Your strength from day to day
          There's no other we can turn to who can help us face another day
          Gentle Shepherd, come and lead us, for we need you to help us find our way

That says it all. We are like sheep. We need help! We cannot make it on our own. Without the help of the gentle Shepherd we are lost.

There are times when we could not face another day except for the assurance that Christ is with us. Feeding on him, the living Word who nourishes us spiritually, we find the strength to go on – through the dark and lonely night of bewilderment and suffering.

Trusting the Good Shepherd for guidance, comfort, and protection does not make us immune to suffering. But if Christ is with us we may suffer with hope for a new day.

Doris Sanford is a good example. In one of her books she tells about the day she had to drive her beloved foster child Jeremy to his new adoptive home. Doris had cared for Jeremy for five years. Giving up Jeremy was, she said, “like having surgery without anesthetic.”

Too choked up to speak, Doris turned on the car radio to distract them from the pain. The radio was playing Gaither’s song about the “Gentle Shepherd.” It was too much. She had to stop the car on the side of the road while they both sobbed. The words they heard mirrored the cry of their hearts:

“There's no other we can turn to who can help us face another day.
Gentle Shepherd, come and lead us, for we need you to help us find our way.”

Despite the pain Doris testified that the Good Shepherd gave her the strength to bravely continue in her ministry to others. He never fails to do that for those who trust him. Sadly, some of are slow to admit that we are like dumb sheep, desperately in need of the Good Shepherd’s guidance.

Yet he waits patiently for us to ask him to show us the way, to acknowledge we are lost without his guiding hand. His patience seems limitless. For some of us Christ waits, and waits, and waits – sometimes for years – until we finally give up trying to do it our way. Pride, stubborn pride, gives birth to the fallacious notion that we can say with Frank Sinatra, “I did it my way.”

But the Good Shepherd waits for us to come to our senses and understand that “There’s no other we can turn to help us.” Then his love overwhelms us. We wonder how he could love us, considering how sinful we have been. Surely he will not forgive us for all the bad things we have done.          Then, wonder of wonders, it dawns on us that we can never do anything to make Christ stop loving us! He loves us in spite of our sins. He wants us in his fold. He wants to know us intimately, so intimately that we can recognize his voice when he speaks to us. What good news: Christ wants to be known! He wants us to know him so well that in the midst of many voices clamoring for our loyalty, we can recognize his voice and choose to follow where he leads.

Sometimes we resist the idea that Christ is “the gate.” Surely there are many gates and Christ is merely one. Then faith takes over. We begin to believe, truly believe. We embrace the truth that the Bible is the Book of God and in it he has said what he meant and meant what he said. Christ is the gate to salvation; there is no other. All religions do not lead to God. Only by trusting Christ can we avoid eternal separation from the true God who revealed his love by giving us his Son.

We are his sheep, “the sheep of his pasture.” We did not crawl out of a swamp. He made us! And he made us knowing that we would need a Shepherd who would love us enough to lay down his life for us to save us from our sins. How amazing – this Shepherd’s love!

Make this scripture personal. Insert your name at the beginning of John 10:14, and hear him say to you, “(Your Name), I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” Believe it. He is yours, and you are his, now and forever. Now shout hallelujah!

But never forget: there are many false shepherds who would deceive us.  They, however, are not gates to the Father. They are dead-end streets. They go nowhere. They offer us nothing that lasts while Christ the Good Shepherd provides us eternal comfort and peace. In the end the false shepherds lead us into outer darkness while Christ guides us into eternal life.

Eternal life, however, is much more than a reward after death. It begins now. It lasts into eternity. Here it is called abundant living – life lived to the fullest. Abundant life is joy, fulfillment, comfort, and peace – the very things the world cannot give us.  

Once we taste of this abundant life we begin to see that God’s plan is for the Christ to be the Good Shepherd for all people, red and yellow, black and white. They are all precious in his sight! And his love compels us to love one another, and to invite everyone – the whole world – to find life and joy in the family where all his sheep are brothers and sisters.

We are not there yet but that must be our goal. No smaller goal is worthy of the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for everyone so that someday we may all live together in his fold as one flock. Until that glorious day, much we need his tender care!

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