Yesterday, the fourth Sunday of Easter, had several readings about Jesus being the Good Shepherd. At the end of one of them, where John reports the words of Jesus, there is the phrase The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
I struggle with that sometimes. Because I look at some of us who know the shepherd and I listen to our fears about measuring up and our struggles with being perfect, or being just good enough. I listen to our worries about provision and pain. And I think, “How does that fit with what Jesus said about life to the full?”
During the days of pandemic, we felt like we didn’t have life and that it wasn’t full. During most days in the hospital, we feel like we don’t have life and that it’s not full.
But here is what I think.
I think we keep trying to be the shepherd instead of trusting the shepherd.
It may be an American thing, with a culture that celebrates individuality and independence.
I think we worry about how well other sheep follow instead of listening for the shepherd’s voice. I think we spend so much energy defending our hearts against thieves and robbers that we have a hard time opening them to the one who actually does love us.
And we hear things from hired hands that distract us. They want us to measure up to their standards, to their rules, to their traditions. And unless those hired hands, those undershepherds are constantly checking with the shepherd, constantly taking direction, constantly being led and cared for themselves, they will lead their flocks astray.
But the thing about this shepherd, the good shepherd, Jesus, is that he wasn’t just WILLING to die for his sheep, he actually did.
And in him we can find hope and welcome and a future.