February 14 I Wednesday
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” —John 10:11
Not only does a good shepherd know and speak to His sheep, but he is willing to sacrifice everything for them. They are the source of his livelihood, and in caring for them, he grows a bond with them. He knows his sheep, loves them and is committed to their well-being. These are all things we can understand, but Jesus says a good shepherd will actually lay down his life for his sheep.
In Matthew 18, Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep. “If a man owns a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off” (18:12-13). It seems impractical for a shepherd to leave his entire flock in order to save one sheep, and even harder to imagine that a shepherd would sacrifice his own life to save his sheep, but Jesus was not speaking about just any shepherd. He was speaking about Himself.
Just before His crucifixion, Jesus said to His disciples, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Jesus’ words in the opening verse reveal something even more remarkable about the Good Shepherd’s heart. It is not that Jesus did die for us, but that He would die for us, and there is a difference. We might say to our children or to our spouse that we would die for them, but would we say it to the annoying neighbour next door? Would we say it to the homeless vagrant we pass on the street? Would we say it to a convicted killer, a prostitute or someone who has hurt us deeply? Probably not, but Jesus would.
This is the self-sacrificial love of God, supremely expressed in the cross of Christ. Paul writes, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). Even in the best of times, our sinful natures prevent us from loving as God loves, but it is the indwelling presence of Christ Himself that gives us the capacity to love outside the usual parameters of family and friends. On this day that celebrates love, let us pray that every day we become a closer reflection of Jesus, and love without prejudice, without finding fault and without any expectation of return.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your love never ceases to astound me. I do not deserve Your grace, and am eternally grateful that You are the Good Shepherd whose love is unfailing. Thank You, Lord.