Jesus is THE GOOD SHEPHERD. While I attempt to pattern my life and ministry after the image of the Good Shepherd, I frankly have to acknowledge this truth. I am not THE GOOD SHEPHERD. O, to be sure I should like to be. But there are not enough hours in the day or the week to tend the flock as I might, as I wish I could. I cannot be here to answer the telephone and yet be out after the wayward, trying to beg them to return to the fold of the Church. In fact, I will boldly observe: it doesn’t work anyway. I should know, I’ve been doing that for over the last 30 years.
Doors slammed in my face, I have been rudely treated. I can smell it coming particularly when someone prefaces a remark by the phrase, “no disrespect intended.” I have come to recognize that one for what it is. What it is, of course is a clear indication that disrespect is in fact intended. I have been maligned because I was functioning too close to the point of exhaustion to be “sensitive” under every circumstance, so as to read people’s minds. I have had people buy my lunch just so they could have my attention while they insulted me over whatever their current pet peeve was with the National Church as though I were personally responsible for every policy and decision of General Convention. Clearly I may have a lot of patience, but I do not have the patience of THE GOOD SHEPHERD.
Yet I personally celebrate the image of Jesus THE GOOD SHEPHERD. It reminds me that Jesus is ultimately more patient than I, more persistent than I and more patient than I. But, I have to admit that on certain days I imagine Him looking at the lost sheep and at least wanting to ask “why do you insist on being still lost?” Because sheep like to be found; apparently humans don’t desire being found nearly as much—at least they tell me all the time that being lost is sooooo much more fun.
But the pictures of Jesus as THE GOOD SHEPHERD always portray him in a blissful, pastoral setting, with the sheep blissfully gathered round him. Our Lord always looks, peaceful, serene, delighted. But I think that I should like to see the picture of the glorified Lord as THE GOOD SHEPHERD. You know: glorified as he appeared to doubting Thomas, bearing the marks of the passion—the nail marks, the spear wound and the crown of thorns—because that, after all is what it cost Him to find YOU. Maybe that image of THE GOOD SHEPHERD would cause people to have a deeper appreciation rather than a trivialization for the Love of God in Jesus Christ, our Lord.