What do you picture when you hear the word firefighter or the word paramedic?

Both words usually bring to mind persons of strength, skill, and courage actively engaged in their professions.

We may imagine a firefighter confronting a blazing inferno as he and his company attempt to extinguish the fire and to rescue those trapped by its flames and smoke.

We may picture a paramedic racing to the scene of a traffic accident and working with her squad members to render life-saving emergency aid to victims of a high-speed traffic accident.

However, when we hear the word shepherd a more passive image usually comes to mind. We tend to think of someone with a staff in hand looking over a flock of sheep as they enjoy an afternoon on a grassy hillside.

If the adjective “good” precedes the word “shepherd,” we may think of the shepherd described in the Gospels who searches for the lost sheep and when he finds it joyfully carries it back home on his shoulders and celebrates with a party.

In this Sunday’s Gospel (John 10:11-18), Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd.” However, Jesus’ description of what makes a good shepherd is hardly gentle and passive. The shepherd he describes is not only caring but also active and courageous and ready to sacrifice for the sake of those in his charge. Jesus says, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

We learn about the life of a good shepherd when we read how David, the future king of Israel, described to King Saul how he would tend the sheep of his father Jesse.

David said, “Your servant used to tend his father’s sheep, and whenever a lion or bear came to carry off a sheep from the flock, I would chase after it, attack it, and snatch the prey from its mouth. If it attacked me, I would seize it by the throat, strike it, and kill it. Your servant has killed both a lion and a bear.” (1 Samuel 17:34-36)

Jesus is that type of good shepherd. He seeks to keep his sheep from straying into the dark valley of evil and sin. He even sacrifices his life on the cross for the sake of his sheep. By his passion, death, and resurrection, our good shepherd saves us from the ultimate “wolf.” He saves us from the Evil One who seeks to ravage and destroy us.

Jesus is no passive shepherd who only watches from the hillside. He is the shepherd who “lays down his life for his sheep” and opens for us the way to the green pastures of eternal life.

© 2021 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski

May the Risen Lord continue to bless you
with his presence and peace
throughout this Easter Season!