The image of Jesus as the good shepherd is one of my favorite images of Jesus. I love the idea of Jesus knowing us in the way that a shepherd knows their flock. That Jesus knows us fully, personally, and loves us completely. This is Jesus’ relationship with God the Father, as he explains in the gospel, and this is his relationship with us as well. Woah! That is the sort of strong, knowing love I dream of. But is this the sort of love that we love God back with? Do I know God that level of well? No, no I definitely do not. And if I’m being honest, this quarantine has made my struggling prayer life even harder being separated from my church community, but this is a reminder that if we are so inspired by this love, then we’re called to increase our personal relationship with God, hard as it may feel to do, and hard as it may be to do.
I see the shepherd in sort of a similar role to a teacher, forming their flock of students. Jesus was a teacher, and I think that is something we recognize in his call. We are part of a community responding to the same beautiful call, even if we may hear and respond to it in different ways. Our teacher is patient. He will teach us that call and come back for us even if we fail to heed it and patiently wait for us to come back to that call even if he has to carry us for a bit or tolerate us wildly running around the sheepfold before entering and understanding. He’s CHOSEN to lay down his life for us and teach and lead us. Again, so beautiful. “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” One flock, not one fold. Jesus is talking about the Gentile believers part of a different fold, but this implies that various folds can be part of the same flock even if they respond differently to the call of their shepherd. There is diversity within the flock, rather than uniformity, and that is good and healthy.