The Good Shepherd
The Good Shepherd (Easter 4) John 10:11-18 & Psalm 23 We all have wants… things we desire… wishes… yearnings… in life, don’t we? Many of the things we want are fairly common… they’re universal (I suppose). I mean… who doesn’t want things like peace, happiness? Or love, joy, satisfaction? It’s safe to assume that we all long for such things… Of course, everybody wants something… and often times the things we want are also the things we need. We not only want love, joy and satisfaction – we need those things in life, don’t we? We all need peace and happiness… especially when those universal desires are hard to see or feel at the present moment. I don’t think it’s selfish at all to desire, to seek after, and work for, the things in this life that we need. The Psalmist nearly 3,000 years ago knew the same thing when he declared: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” Most people in our day and age hear the phrase "I shall not want" and we get the wrong idea. We may hear a command, “I SHALL NOT WANT.” Or… I think, other times, we allow ourselves to believe that since God loves us… and cares for us… that “I shall not want” must be a definitive statement of circumstance – in other words, we’ll never have any wants, or desires, or longings if God is our Shepherd. But, that’s not true. God placed desire in our hearts. He just calls us to desire the right things! We don’t cease all desire because the Lord is our Shepherd. We continue to want things… to desire things… in this life! But “want” in the biblical sense, isn’t desire… it’s need. A better translation would probably be, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need.” Which means the phrase “I shall not want” is actually... a statement of result. In other words, it is precisely BECAUSE the Lord is my shepherd, that I lack nothing. The Lord leads me… shepherds or guides me, into places that are satisfying… places that refresh and renew… and provide. Think of it like this: Because the Lord is our shepherd, he restores our souls and leads us in the paths of righteousness. Because the Lord is our shepherd, we are comforted even in the valley of the shadow of death. Because the Lord is our shepherd, he watches over us and cares for us in the face of our enemies. Because the Lord is my shepherd I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Of course, it’s one thing to say, “the Lord is my shepherd” - it sounds good and pious! But what does that look like in real life? It’s fine to talk about poetic green pastures and hypothetical pools of water. It is one thing to speak of metaphorical valleys of death and symbolic staffs of comfort. It is quite another to make it real and concrete. So God gave us Jesus. God in the flesh… real, and present. God with us… But Jesus claimed to be no ordinary shepherd… saying of himself, "I am the good shepherd." An ordinary shepherd is a “hired hand” or the “low man in the pecking order” – the sheep aren’t necessarily his… The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He sacrifices himself to protect his flock, the “sheep of his pasture.” Sheep are defenseless… helpless… vulnerable. With no shepherd they’re prone to wandering off… and falling prey to the predators of the world. But Jesus knows and cares for each one of his sheep. He knows and cares for me... and lays his life down for mine. And because this self-sacrificing Lord is my good shepherd, I shall not want. We’re so quick to look to the world to satisfy our wants… and we often find disappointment, don’t we? Where in this world can we find true satisfaction? Lasting peace? Calm and comfort and certainty? If anything… the current situation of our world should teach us that this world offers no lasting comfort, satisfaction, peace and certainty! If you think I am exaggerating just take a look for yourself! People everywhere seem overwhelmed by fear – anxiety. And they’re seeking something (anything it seems) that offers some form of security, and comfort and hope (even if it’s just a cloth face mask). And this fear for self, causes us to put our trust and hope in almost anything. Jumping from one fad to another… one political persuasion to another… one religion to another… one relationship to another… one truth to another… searching for something meaningful. Even when things are going good… people invest their lives and hopes in things like money, shallow relationships, and other vices of this world. And in the end where does it lead? Dissatisfaction. That’s where it leads. Selfishness, addiction, and hopelessness. It leads to loneliness… feelings of abandonment in the face of uncertainty. The world's way offers no true or lasting peace and hope. Only the Good Shepherd… only Jesus… offers the lasting security and peace we so desperately need. The Lord is MY shepherd. Is he yours? Does the Good Shepherd know you as his own? Do you recognize and respond to the sound of his voice? Or are you enticed, lured, tempted by the call of the world? Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want! Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I’m fulfilled. Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I’m satisfied. Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I’m at peace… no matter what the world throws my way. Trust the Good Shepherd. Trust Jesus. Recommit yourself to getting to know Him, and learn to respond to his voice. He will lead you to green pastures and still waters. He will bring you lasting peace and hope. And you shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever!