And he's holding a lamb! A lamb!
All soft, and fluffy...
But that's so not what this passage is about. It's not a soft and fluffy thing. It's just hard for us to see it because we aren't shepherds in first century Palestine.
So I've been trying to find a way to express the danger—the legitimate fear—that should be wrapped up in the phrase, "the wolf snatches them and scatters them..."
The closest I've been able to come in gamer terms was one of the very first things that happened to me when I played Red Dead Redemption for the first time. I've left the ranch for the first time and I'm cantering my way to Armadillo because, quite frankly, I'm not feeling competent enough to gallop yet.
And that's when I hear a man shrilling crying for help. I reign my horse in, clear leather, and shoot a wolf—just in time to watch the rest of the pack bring the poor guy down. All in less time than it took for you to read that sentence.
Poor sucker never had a chance.
In real life? I just have to ask you if you've ever met the gaze of a large dog intent on protecting its territory—or its people?
So when Jesus talks about the difference between the hired hand and the good shepherd—when he says that the hired hand saves his own hide rather than face off against the wolf to protect the sheep. When Jesus says the good shepherd lays his life down for the sheep—we're not talking warm and fluffy.
We're talking Gandolf facing down the Balrog and crying out "You shall not pass!"
We're talking the Battlestar Pegasus staying behind and stomping on Cylons to secure the escape of Galactica.
We're talking Gorman and Vasquez taking as many Aliens with them as possible with a grenade.
The hired hand sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away because he doesn't care about the sheep. But the Good Shepherd, Jesus?
He loves us.
Not in a soft and fluffy way.
In a die to defend you way.
So be good to each other,
The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, "By what power or by what name did you do this?" Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is 'the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.' There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved."
God is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
God makes me lie down in green pastures;
and leads me beside still waters;
God restores my soul.
and leads me in right paths
for the sake of God's name.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff — they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of God
my whole life long.
1 John 3:16-24
We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us — and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.
And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 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. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father."