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Jesus, the Good Shepherd

Communication requires two things: a sender and a receiver. The most powerful transmitter in the world is worthless if no one turns on a radio, and all of the radios in the world are of little use if no one is broadcasting.

The same holds true with human interaction. Someone has to send, someone else has to receive. If either one is missing, communication fails. Wives tend to understand this, since husbands tend to have their “radios” turned off a lot. Kids too, for that matter. And yet wives and moms just keep transmitting . . . .

Why is this general topic so important? Because as Christians, you and I are in the communication business. That’s our job, that’s our calling, that’s our mission—and it ought to be our passion. When we listen to God’s Word, we are supposed to be the radios, receiving and actually hearing God’s message to us. But our life’s work is to be transmitters. In leaving us with His Great Commission, our Lord commanded us to center our lives upon the communication of the Gospel, which we all agree is the key to eternal life. The message we are to broadcast is very simple: Whoever believes that Jesus paid for the sins of the world through His sinless life and innocent death on the cross will be saved.

Understand that this is not part of our life’s work; this is our life. 

It is the sum and substance. Failure in every other secular pursuit is as nothing if we but succeed in our calling to “go and make disciples” for Jesus Christ. You and I are supposed to be the “senders” of the information—the transmitters. If Christians fail in this critical mission, Gospel communication fails. No one is saved by what they don’t hear. If Gospel communication fails, it must never be the transmitters who fail. Our communication can take many forms. Our actions often speak louder than our words. But while our actions might make those around us curious, it is always and only the Word of God that can convert and save, for through that Word alone the Holy Spirit works.

Jesus, of course, was the master Communicator. 

That means that whenever and whatever He communicated to us had a point and a purpose. It carried depth and wisdom. He used no pointless or “throw-away” words. That means that every word He spoke, every picture that He drew, every lesson that He taught deserves our careful study. So also, Jesus once said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11 ESV)

There are many things going on in those two simple sentences. A thorough analysis would fill pages, so we focus on just a few. First, if Jesus is the Shepherd, then we are the sheep. Sheep are stupid. Sheep are careless, helpless, and really good at getting themselves into predicaments from which they need to be rescued. I once heard a rancher explain how sheep, when attacked by a wolf, will run—but only until one of their flock is caught. They will then just stand and watch, until the wolf (which never tires of killing) looks for another victim.

That’s us, only we can’t even see our wolf, let alone defend ourselves. Our natural dilemma, once we come to realize the danger, is incapacitating and terrifying. We can only stand there, stupidly, waiting for our inevitable eternal destruction.

It’s then that our Good Shepherd enters the picture and places Himself between us and our terrifying enemy. More than that, our Good Shepherd “lays down his life for the sheep.” By His sacrificial death, He gives us life.

This is the simple, sublime message of the Gospel. This is what we have received from our God, and our life’s work is to communicate this life-giving truth to the world. The Good Shepherd has, once and for all, laid down His life for the sheep. Forgiveness and life are His gifts to mankind.

Michael Roehl is pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Bismarck, North Dakota.