11For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. 12As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. 14I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. 16I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.
10Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. 11I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.”
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passages teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
Reflection: I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.
I love the image above. The shepherd is undoubtedly stronger, smarter, and more advanced than the sheep he is shepherding. However, he has come down to their level by putting on their “skin,” so to speak. He has wrapped himself in a woolen covering so that he might become one of the sheep himself. This way the sheep will recognize him, will trust him, and will take comfort in his presence.
In the same way, Jesus wrapped himself in our coverings. Not only did he come in actual flesh and blood, but Jesus took upon himself all of our sins, and injuries, and insults. He became one of us, so that we might become one with him. We know Jesus because of his willingness to enter into our human experience. In entering into that experience, he redeemed the human experience. Thus, our humanity has been brought up into the intimacy of the holy union between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As Peter writes, we have “become participants of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
Jesus did not stop wrapping himself in our human experience when he ascended into heaven. Through the Holy Spirit, the Trinity enters into our human experience every day. God, in effect, puts the woolen covering over Godself every time we take a step or breathe a breath. God, our shepherd, leads us by first knowing us, and God knows us by embracing us in all of our glory and all of our brokenness. How good it is to know that God cares enough for you and me that God would not shun us or expect us to perfect ourselves before we come up to God. God comes down to us to lead us into love, grace, and the beauty of the divine nature. After all, Jesus has the scars from the human experience to prove it.
Prayer Focus: I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.
All of us have experienced the “day of clouds and thick darkness.” For some, it drives them away from God and all that is good. Pray for those who have been scattered by suffering, those who have lost their faith in God due to the darkness that has overwhelmed them. Trust that God will dispel their darkness by shining gracious love into their lives. Offer some of that light this week to those you know who are suffering under the dark veil of hurt and grief.
Meditation Focus: Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.”
Begin by stilling yourself, finding a comfortable place and posture for reflection. Breathe in deeply through your nose, taking in the presence of God’s Spirit and letting the Spirit fill your mind. Breathe out deeply through your mouth, releasing all of the confusion or preoccupations of the mind. As you continue to breathe deeply, pray silently to God: “God and Creator of my mind center my thoughts upon you.”
Look at the four photographs above. Where do you see God in these images? Is God the gentle friend holding the lamb closely to the chest as the other sheep follow faithfully behind? Is God walking in the midst of the sheep, with a covering made of their wool wrapped upon God’s shoulders, so that God might take upon their very smell, essence, and identity? Perhaps God is the tenacious sheepdog, herding the sheep into the safety of a rock enclosure when danger appears nearby. Maybe God is the weathered soul, resting in a quiet moment of Sabbath, breaking from the arduous work of tending and protecting, with a lamb lovingly upon God’s lap.
Imagine yourself in one of these scenarios – being carried to a cool watering hole or following close behind God toward a field of tender green grass; looking upward at the large, but strange, “sheep,” mysteriously standing on two legs beside you and, yet, familiarly and gently nudging you forward with a staff of grace; frightened and shaking in your fleece at the sound of a hungry wolf’s call, trusting in the shaggy friend who stands between you and danger; or resting from a long day of playing and eating as you find the comfort of a soft and peaceful lap. Look out and see the pleasant pasture ahead, filled with clover blowing in the breeze. Smell the mixture of human sweat mingling with woven wool. Hear the sheepdog’s snarl as it backs down the sneering predator. Feel the calloused hand rub that soothing, sensitive place behind your ears as you drift into a soft slumber.
Know that you are in the presence of God. What do you notice about God? What do you realize about yourself? How do you feel? What is God communicating to you? God is a shepherd, leading us into a land of plenty, having wrapped Godself in the frailty of our human covering, rescuing us from danger, and granting us rest.
Journaling Focus: I lay down my life for the sheep.
Is there anyone or anything you would lay your life down for? Reflect on this question as you write this week. What do you value more than your own life? What would God say about your valuation of this person or thing? How can we model the sacrifice of Jesus in ways that might not literally demand our life, but still require us to lay down a part of us for the good of others? How have you had to sacrifice for others in your life? Why is such sacrifice important? Finally consider this: how does God redeem such sacrifices?
Seek out someone with whom you have lost contact. Let them know you have been thinking about them and care for them. Try to reestablish your lost connection with them beyond the initial act of reaching out.
Breath Prayer: Father, you are our shepherd.