Jesus often uses the image of the Shepherd to describe God’s love for us. Being a shepherd is actually a very thankless job and it’s an appropriate one for Jesus to use. Some scholars say that the “Good Shepherd” image is more like the “crazy” shepherd because no shepherd in his right mind would go chasing after one stray and leave the 99.
But God’s love for those who stray is just as boundless as it is for those who follow him without question.
But here’s the even tougher part…imagine the great joy the shepherd might have in recovering that lost sheep…only to turn that sheep over to the owner who puts the sheep to death.
Now that just seems mean.
But that’s exactly what happens with God. Suffering does not cease in the world simply because we follow God, nor does it cease when we return to God after falling astray. The shepherd can’t take suffering away. In some ways the shepherd knows that these sheep will suffer, will die and there’s not a darn thing he can do to stop it.
So the shepherd embraces our own suffering. God becomes like us–and enters human life, including our suffering and death and the shepherd leads himself to the slaughter.
For us. And more importantly to show us that no suffering is beyond God’s healing mercy. Despite the evil that is constantly all around us that makes it very hard to believe in God. Despite the fact that people get killed just for going to the movies. Despite the fact that children die and parents suffer and there is a whole lot of pain in the world…God doesn’t abandon us!
God is the shepherd who hates to see his sheep suffer.
And therefore God redeems all suffering through the cross of Jesus Christ. We need not be afraid of anything, even death, because God will make a way out of no way. God somehow, even when we think it’s impossible, will bring us into a new life, where no suffering will ever harm us again.
None of us will escape suffering in our lives. Some of us may be suffering right now. Know that the Shepherd suffers along with you.
And will bring you to a place that is beyond all your wants and needs…even beyond death…to new life.