Spend a few moments thinking about all the names you have heard Jesus called so far.
Just to state the obvious, shepherds look after sheep. They were a very normal part of Middle Eastern life in Jesus’ day. It’s not like in the farms in the UK though. Shepherds spent all the time out with their sheep, and there would be a small enclosure for them with stone walls. There was no door, so the shepherd would sleep across a gap in the stone walls so that no animals or thieves could break in.
It was a tough life, and shepherds were considered to be the dregs of society – they had a boring job, stayed out in the cold and probably smelt like sheep. Yet Jesus tells us he is the good shepherd. What is going on there?
In the Old Testament, the leaders of Israel were said to be shepherds, and God criticised them for doing a bad job. So by Jesus saying he is the shepherd, he is saying that he is the one who can lead Israel and lead them well.
What make Jesus a good shepherd? Firstly, he knows his sheep and calls them each by name. He knows us and loves us, each and every one of us. Secondly, the shepherd is ready to give his life for the sheep – this is what Jesus did on the cross. Thirdly, he is keen to bring in sheep from outside into the sheepfold – he wants to give everyone possible the chance to know him and be transformed by him. Finally, no one can take the sheep away from Jesus – God has given them to him, and as Jesus puts it “I and the Father are one”. Jesus is God.
Lord God, thank you that you know my name. Thank you that you care so much for us, even enough to give up your life. Amen.
Who do you consider to be an outsider? How can you draw them into your groups – whether at school or at church today?