Summary: How can we call Jesus the "good shepherd" when there is so much tragedy? From the Sunday after the Columbine shootings. Deals with the problem of evil.
"I am the good shepherd..."
The very fact that Jesus chooses to describe himself as such suggests that there were other less-than-good shepherds operating in the neighborhood.
There were people who cared more for themselves than the sheep and were less than considerate-perhaps even brutal at times. In John 10:8 Jesus describes them as thieves and robbers-plundering the sheep pen to steal and kill.
In vs. 12 Jesus describes such people as "hired hands" with little invested in the flock and consequently little incentive to risk their lives to protect the sheep when wolves break in with their guns and bombs.
In the context of John 10 Jesus is in-a-less-than-subtle-way taking a poke at the Pharisees and religious leaders who in chapter 9 were more concerned about nit-picking over application of rules than in seeing a blind man healed. He is attacking a leadership mentality-or style.
There were people who preyed on the masses-amassing power for themselves through either corruption or manipulation of rules and guidelines so that they rose to the top of the pecking order.
This wasn’t a new problem in Jesus’ time. The prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel-600 years before Jesus-accuse the national leaders of being shepherds who have abandoned the flock.
It’s in this context and with this background in mind that Jesus says: "I am the good shepherd..." Not just once but twice in John 10 he makes the statement. He wants to make sure that we get the point-just hoping that we’ll connect with the idea that we have a true and faithful shepherd.
Perhaps you’ve been feeling a little lost and stunned this week--a little more vulnerable than normal-a little sad. Me, too. And that’s why I switched my sermon topic midweek. I was going to continue on in Acts 20 but after the horror of this week I felt drawn to focus on the gospel passage.
I needed to hear again, for myself, about Jesus the Good Shepherd; that in spite of the insanity of the world-whether it is playing out in Kosovo or Congo or Colorado-that he’s still there and still on guard.
Jesus is the good (or perhaps even better translated)-the excellent or competent shepherd. Jesus is saying: "I am the shepherd who doesn’t lose his sheep!"
Others may take advantage-plunder and kill-have lamb chops for snack--but I am the true and faithful shepherd--always on guard!
Well, wait a minute, if Jesus is such a good shepherd how is it that he allows wolves like those in Colorado and Kosovo to scatter his flock? Why wasn’t Jesus protecting his flock when those two boys went on their rampage?
And several of their victims are definitely a part of Jesus’ flock. In verse 3 Jesus’ sheep are "those who hear his voice." In verse 4 they are the one’s who "follow" him. In verse 5 they are they one’s who "refuse to follow the false shepherds."
Many who died were a part of Jesus’ flock.
In reading the news articles about the victims one in particular caught my attention-17-year-old Cassie Bernal. The story says that she became a Christian two years ago, and was active in church youth programs and Bible study groups.
A friend of hers, Michelle Fox said when the shooting began Cassie was in the library studying the Bible, as she did every day at lunch. She knelt and prayed, which angered one of the shooters. But she continued to pray, so he shot her.
"I know she died because of her faith in God," Fox said. "She stood up for what she believed in. She had a lot of courage."
How is it that some wolves got in past the good shepherd? Was he asleep? Was he on sabbatical? Was he off on a business trip?
Come to think of it-how is it that thousands of people have been slaughtered in Yugoslavia? What about the innocent victims in Ethiopia and Congo and Sudan and India where thousands have died in the past few months. What about the millions who have been murdered in American abortion clinics? Where is the good shepherd?
That’s the question that’s been eating at many of us this week. Where is the good shepherd when you need him?
Frankly I don’t have a simple answer. There are a lot of things about God and how he operates that transcends our understanding. There are times when in his providence he intervenes and then there are times when he doesn’t. And I don’t have enough of God’s perspective to tell you why or when. I wish I could-but that is a MYSTERY!
I wonder, though, if perhaps we aren’t misunderstanding what Jesus means when he says he’s the good shepherd. Jesus on numerous occasions times predicts the trials and even the death of those who follow him-that is those under his shepherding care. "Join my flock and expect to die."