The Mind and Heart of a Good Shepherd

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

April 21, 2024 – Fourth Sunday of Easter, John 10:11-18

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Once again, we are invited to think about one of the ways that Jesus spoke about his own life though the example of being “a good shepherd.” And we are also included in this narration. We play the role of a lost sheep. In the time of Jesus, everyone knew about shepherds and flocks and their care. It was hard work being a good shepherd as sheep tended to wander. And get lost. Yet Jesus used this scenario to teach us about what Jesus (and God) are really like.

Of course, it is quite challenging for us to imagine God acting like a good shepherd. Such attention to us (as wayward sheep) might seem almost too good to be true. Yet here is God in Jesus wanting to find us when we are lost. Or when we were wayward. And all the time wanting to bring us back into the flock. And why does “the shepherd” even leave his flock to do this? Why does this concern for even one lost sheep cause him to do something that many others would call almost crazy, or even reckless?

The answer is found when we examine the two of the most basic aspects of Jesus, his mind and heart. So first, let’s thinks about this which also gives us a glimpse of the mind and heart of God.

The mind of Jesus would include his thoughts, his imagination, his basic way of thinking about his own life. And about all of us and all of creation. First, let’s compare how Jesus thought in contrast with how many of our contemporaries think. Did he think about his personal safety and security? No. Did he think about success or popularity? It doesn’t seem so. Did he think about money or riches? Hardly. He once wanted to use a single coin in one of his teachings and he had to request one from someone else. He had none. Did he think about his status in society? Never. And did he judge and evaluate others? I can’t think of a single example of this. When you get down to basics it seems he thought mostly about others, their presence and their needs and how he might help them.

We come to a similar conclusion when thinking about his heart. Or how he loved others? Did he only love those who loved him? Not really. Did he focus on people who liked him and rejected those who didn’t? No. Was he helpful to anyone he met in need? Yes, for sure. If someone slighted him or acted against him, did he retaliate in kind? No way. Did he go out of his way to help others? Always. Even when it was very hard and difficult. In other words, being a really good shepherd is one of hardest jobs imaginable. Not surprising, there always seems a shortage of them. We could use more.     

David M. Thomas, PhD    

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