In my mother-in-law’s guest room, Jesus is pictured as a shepherd. He holds a baby lamb and is followed by a dozen grown sheep as he walks barefoot on a hillside. His face as he looks down on the sheep is suffused with compassion and care.
Shepherds keep track of their sheep, and if even one goes missing, they do everything they can to bring them back. The sheep faced dangers in that land: lions and bears, crocodiles and cheetahs. This is to say nothing of human threats that must have always been present. A shepherd must have been a very tough character, working alone amid such danger.
Shepherd Jesus doesn’t call to mind this toughness, but maybe he should. At the end of the day, there are few people tougher than Jesus. Even though he was seen as dangerous by Jewish religious leaders and the Roman government, Jesus continued to preach his transformative (and transgressive) message of abundance and love, fully cognizant that it might lead to his torture and death.
This message is excerpted from “Jesus the Shepherd” by Karen Craigo in the May 2017 Gather magazine. Today is the Fourth Sunday of Easter.
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