Memories of a Shepherd
The shepherd—the rescuer—is Jesus Christ, who made the claim, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”3 And this is what Jesus did at Easter-time almost two thousand years ago, when he gave up his life for us. For although we are not as familiar with the imagery of sheep and shepherds as those in past eras, the sheep Jesus referred to are the people throughout time ... and that includes us today. But why did Jesus lost his life for our benefit?
First, it is because, as the prophet Isaiah wrote, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him (Jesus) the iniquity (sin) of us all.”4 In other words, every one of us has sinned. In so doing, we have gone our own way instead of God’s.
In the days before Jesus, God required the ancient Israelites to sacrifice an innocent lamb to make “temporary” atonement for our sins and to bring us back to himself.
The reality is that our sin has disconnected us or separated us from a holy God and caused us to die spiritually. Spiritual death is not the cessation of life, but rather, eternal separation from God. When we die physically, only the body dies. Our spirit lives forever and we will either live with God in what the Bible calls heaven, or we will live apart from God in what the Bible calls hell. Whatever else hell is, one thing is for certain: it is eternal separation, disconnection and isolation from God, the source of all love, joy, peace and life. The consequences of living in such a state for all eternity are unthinkable. Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins and to provide the only way for us to come back to God so we could live forever with him.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd
lays down his life for the sheep
Second, the reason Jesus did this was for the simple fact that no matter what we have ever done or have failed to do, God loves us. His Word, the Bible, says, ”I have loved you with an everlasting love.”5 And again, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”6
To receive God’s gift of forgiveness and the gift of eternal life, it isn’t enough to acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God who died for the sins of the world. This is necessary, but it is much more than this. It also involves a commitment of your life to God by praying and confessing your sinfulness to him, thanking his Son Jesus for dying on the Cross in your place, and inviting him into your heart and life as personal Lord and Savior.
When you do this and truly mean it, God has promised to forgive you for all your sins and give to you the gift of eternal life. When you come to Christ in this way, Jesus says, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost. Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
1. Country magazine, Feb/Mar. 1994.
2. Luke 15:4-7 (RSV).
3. John 10:11, (RSV).
4. Isaiah 53:6, (RSV).
5. Jeremiah 31:3, (RSV).
6. John 3:16, (RSV).
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