Yesterday we talked about Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The challenge is not to trivialize this phrase and turn it into stained glass theology like that familiar scene with Jesus carrying a lamb across his shoulders with a benign smile on his face. Though reassuring, the Good Shepherd has a lot tougher job than carrying lambs. He’s also fighting for their lives, protecting them from predators, liars, thieves. We are the lambs and Jesus knows we are vulnerable.
There are those who would steal us away from Jesus, seducing us with the same promises and lies Jesus faced in the wilderness when he met up with Satan. Power, influence and authority are seductive voices. The superficiality of our bodily and cosmetic appearance can be another way we are robbed of our authentic selves and all of us are bombarded with the idea that material wealth can provide us with safety.
It is these voices and cultural temptations that find their way into the sheepfold. That’s where Jesus is called to do his best and hardest work. It is Jesus and Jesus alone who can and will protect us from the thieves and liars, the seducers and predators. He will stand at the gate of our lives and protect us, helping us to stay safe in his arms and grounded in the belief that it is the one who died for us who will provide us with abundant life. This abundance takes the form of eternal love and life, unity in the Spirit and enough to get through life. It is Jesus' voice we must listen to for his is the voice of love and safety, the voice ultimately of victory over death. That is a tough job for a tough shepherd who continues to love us no matter what it takes.