Ever wonder what people in the time of Christ did for a living? There are some clues in Scripture. Let’s try to name a few. There were fishermen; there were shepherds; there were tax collectors; there were soldiers; there were religious leaders; there were wheat farmers; there were grape farmers; there were wine makers; there were bread bakers; there were carpenters; there were builders. There were many others, I’m sure.
The occupation that I am thinking about today is shepherd. Shepherds seem to be central to the story of salvation history. Shepherds raised and tended sheep. We hear about them early on in the gospels. On that first Christmas morning, there were shepherds “tending their flocks by night.” Angels appeared to them to announce the birth of the Savior. They were guided to the “city of David” where they found this Savior “wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” They subsequently “made known the message” of the angels and many people came to know that the Savior had, at long last, been born. See Luke, Chapter 2.
In his public life, Jesus often made references to sheep and to shepherds. One famous parable is that of the Good Shepherd. Jesus refers to himself as a shepherd and as a gate for the sheep. In this metaphor, we, the people, are the sheep. Sheep are notorious followers. They follow the shepherd because they recognize his voice. If the shepherd guides one through a gate, the others follow. The Good Shepherd is then a leader who guides his flock. Christ is the Good Shepherd because he guides his flock of believers. They follow him because they have come to know and to believe that he is the Savior of all mankind. They know him and know his voice and they know he leads them on the path to righteousness and peace.
Christ makes the claim that he is the Good Shepherd and will lay down his life for his sheep. He knows his sheep and his sheep know him. He then makes the claim that there shall be one fold and one shepherd. He said: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never parish. No one can take them out of my hand.” See John 11:27-28. One fold and one shepherd in the life to come.
This Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday. How wonderful it is to know that, as a Christian, I am being led through the sheep gate to the Promised Land. How wonderful it is to know that I am being led by this “Good Shepherd” and that no one can take me out of his hand. I am so thankful for the Divine Providence that nurtures me, guides me, holds me in his hand, and has done so throughout my life. I am convinced that if you give him the chance, he will do the same for you. Jesus repeats the words of the Old Testament (See Mark 12:10-11): “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes.” Thank you, Lord. I am grateful that the builders rejected you and that you have become our cornerstone. Indeed, it is truly wonderful in our eyes. Amen.