“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.” – John 10:11-15
It’s not that the hired hand is essentially bad that causes him to run away. He’s just not the Good Shepherd. The sheep don’t belong to the hired hand. The sheep belong to the Good Shepherd. And the hired hand may be doing a fine job of protecting and directing the sheep, at least until real dangers, real pressures, or real temptations come at him. In the end, the hired hand is just that, a hired hand with no real ownership and no real commitment to the sheep. The hired hand is human, caring more about himself than the sheep. And he will choose to run away from the danger, run away from the pressure or run head on into fulfilling the desires of his temptations. And the flock is attacked. And the flock is scattered.
Our Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is the one who owns the sheep. He is the one who owns our lives, yet gave His own life for ours. It is Jesus alone who willingly laid down His life for us. To protect us. To save us. To rescue us from certain destruction. To give us eternal life. It is only our God who loves us in such an outrageous, unchanging, unselfish, unexpected, sacrificial and victorious way. No human – no hired hand – loves us, cares for us and protects us as does our God. No matter how good those humans may be. Not our moms or dads, not our husbands or wives, not our children, not our friends, not our pastors or our faith-teachers.
Everyone, except our Good Shepherd Jesus, will fail us in some way at some time. Everyone else will hurt us, disappoint us and abandon us in some way at some level – in order to save themselves or to fulfill their own self-centered, sinful desires. Both of these motivations will in some way, at some time, at some level take priority for all those humans, those hired hands, who we trust to love us, care for us and protect us – physically or emotionally or relationally or spiritually. Because we don’t belong to them. We belong only to our God.
I have failed all those I truly do love, in different ways at different times at different levels. They, like I, must put the ultimate trust for our lives – for love, for care and for protection – now and eternally, only into the good and holy hands of Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd.
Anything else that we would put our trust in to take care of us and protect us – our wealth, our health, our jobs, our intellect, our education, our reputation, our charm, our fame, our wisdom, our will power – can never give the security that only Jesus is able to give. Jesus offers what we truly need – a life-giving relationship with Him, our Good Shepherd who gave His life for us.
As His sheep, we know Jesus, just as He and the Father know each other. Within these eternally intimate, loving and knowing relationships, we can trust with all certainty that Jesus, our Good Shepherd, passionately and fiercely loves us, cares for us and protects us – from the wolves (the thieves) that would attack and the hired hands that would abandon us.