A Shepherd looks at the GOOD SHEPHERD #13
Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life,
that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay
it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power
to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father
OVER AND OVER in this book the point has been made that the
hallmark of the Good Shepherd is His willingness to lay down His
life for His sheep. It cannot be otherwise. The essential nature
of Christ demands it. Because He is love, selfless love, this
must be so.
This love of God is the most potent force extant in the
universe. It is the primal energy that powers the entire cosmos.
It is the basic driving initiative that lies behind every good
and noble action. Without it all men of all time would languish
in despair. They would grope in darkness. Ultimately they would
know only separation from the goodness of God which is death.
But - and it is a remarkable "but" - Christ was willing to
leave His glory; to come among us expressing that love, giving
tangible form to it in a sacrificial life. I have written of this
love at great length in "Rabboni" Here I quote from its pages
"With our finite minds we cannot probe but a short distance into
the vastness of Christ's pre-earth existence. But with the
enlightenment that comes to our spirits by His Spirit we sense
and feel the magnitude of His enterprises in arranging and
governing the universe....
We earth men can barely conceive of a relationship so sublime
that it contains no trace of self-assertion, no ulterior motives
for self-gratification. But that is the secret to the strength of
God. Here was demonstrated the irresistible force of utter self-
lessness. In the total giving of each to the other in profound
'caring' for each other lay the love of all eternity. This was
love at its loftiest level. This was love at its highest source.
This was love, the primal source of all energy....And the essence
of this energy was love.
In that outer world love was the moving force behind every
action. Love was the energizing influence at work in every
enterprise. It was the very fabric woven into every aspect of
Christ's life. It was in fact the basic raw material used
ultimately to fashion and form all subsequent matter.
To the reader this may seem a bit obscure, a bit beyond belief.
But if we pause to find parallels upon our planet, earth, we may
soon see the picture in practical terms. What is the most
irresistible force upon the earth? Love? What pulverizes strong
prejudice and builds enduring allegiance? Love? What binds men
together in indestructible devotion? Love? What underlies all
generous and magnanimous actions? Love? What is the source of
strength for men and women who gladly serve and die for one
another? Love? What energizes the loftiest and most noble
enterprise of human hearts and minds? Love? If this be true of
selfish mortal men, then how much more is it the very life of God
- And this is the life of Christ.
It was in the setting of a realm permeated by love that the
generous thought of sharing it with others came into being. Of
course it could scarcely be otherwise. For if heaven was such a
happy home it would scarcely have been consistent for God to want
to keep it to Himself. Love insists on sharing.
So the concept was born of love that other sons and daughters
should be brought into being who could participate in the
delights of paradise. That such a remarkably generous endeavour
was even considered is in keeping with the character of God. He
chose to do this in love and out of love simply because of who He
'Praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for giving
us through Christ every possible spiritual benefit as citizens of
Heavenl. For consider what he has done-before the foundation of
the world he chose us to become, in Christ, his holy and
blameless children living within His constant care. He planned,
in his purpose of love, that we should be adopted as his own
children through Jesus Christ-that we might learn to praise that
glorious generosity of his which has made us welcome in the
everlasting love he bears toward his Beloved[' (Eph.1:3-6,
Like all other divine enterprises it undoubtably first found
expression in the mind of God The Father. Yet it was agreed to
completely by God The Son ...."
All of this Christ did deliberately, freely, gladly out of
His own generous good will toward us. It was not that we deserved
or merited such magnificent mercy, but it was because of His own
inherent character. He really could not do otherwise. There was
nothing in us to earn His gracious attention. The only compulsion
upon Him was the compulsion of His own wondrous love.
Are we surprised then that it is for this reason He stated He was
loved so dearly by God the Father. This love was not and never
can be anything soft or sentimental or insipid. Rather, it is
strong as steel, tough as tungsten, yet glittering with the
incandescent brilliance of a diamond.
It had to be for Him to endure the abuse and calumny of His
earth days at the hands of wicked, selfish men. His entire
interlude upon the planet represented the utmost in ignominy.
Born into a peasant home, surrounded by the appalling filth of an
eastern sheepfold, His birth could not have been more debasing.
The long years of His youth and early manhood were spent in the
most wicked town in Palestine. Nazareth was notorious for its
wicked ways. Yet there He toiled, sweated, and hewed out a meager
living working in wood to support his widowed mother and
He lived in abject poverty without a home to call His own.
He literally laid Himself out for others. His strength and
stamina flowed out to those who followed Him. His great vitality
restored the sick, raised the dead, fed the masses, ministered to
those in sorrow, and propelled Him from one end of the country to
the other with incredible energy. Everywhere He went, men and
women sensed the touch of His strength, the impact of God's love
Inherent in Christ in perfect poise were the divine life of
undiminished deity and the delightful life of untarnished
humanity. Though He was the suffering servant, He was also the
magnificent Lord of glory - God, very God.
At His death this became supremely evident. In that terrible
agony of the garden, in the ignoble lynching by the mob under
cover of darkness, in the atrocious trials and beastly behavior
of men determined to destroy Him, in the crucible of His cruel
crucifixion, He emerges ever as the One in control. He chose to
die this way. He chose deliberately to lay down His life in this
manner. It was all His doing and His dying for dreadful men.
No matter what the scoffers and skeptics may say, He stands at
the central crossroads of human history as its supreme character.
No other individual, with so little ostentation, so shaped the
eternal destiny of men.
But His death was not His end. It was but the conclusion of
a magnificent chapter in the story of God's plan for man.
Death could not hold Him. Decay and decomposition could not
deteriorate Him. The spices and wrappings and grave clothes that
enfolded Him were for naught. They were powerless to prevent His
resurrection. With majesty and growing grandeur He took His place
of power. His position of omnipotence was reinstated. His
coronation as King of Kings and Lord of Lords was celebrated in
the throne room of eternity.
All of this Jesus foreknew and declared fearlessly to the
young man born blind. He stated these facts with calm assurance
to any who would listen - the Pharisees, Scribes, and others who
now encircled Him.
They knew full well what it was that He implied. He was in
truth telling them that He was none other than God. He was
declaring unashamedly that He, their Messiah, the anointed One of
God, their Promised One, was now among them. He had chosen to
come to His people. It would be but a brief sojourn, and then He
would return to the splendors from whence He came.
But why had He come? Why suffer? Why lay down His life? Why
endure such agony for sinners?
Because men were lost. And His commission from His Father
was that He should come to seek and to save those who were lost.
He knew this to be His unique responsibility in the redemptive
enterprises of God. He recognized it was His responsibility to
carry out and execute in precise detail this executive order of
His audience then, and most men ever since, refused to
believe they were lost. In truth it is exceedingly difficult to
convince human beings that they are in peril. Like the Scribes
and Pharisees of Jesus' day, we are prone to pride ourselves upon
our religiosity, our cultural achievements, our educational
attainments, our material possessions, or any other attributes
which we naively suppose are indicators of our success in living.
We who are in the family of God, who have been found by the Good
Shepherd, often seem to forget just how "lost" we really were. As
we look out upon a confused society and bewildered world we allow
its trappings and trumpetings to blind us to the lostness of our
families, friends, or acquaintances. We are dazzled by the
glittering exteriors and flashing facades put on by people in
desperate peril away from God. Fine language, impressive homes,
beautiful cars, elaborate furnishings, glamorous holidays,
affluent incomes, sharp clothes, and clever minds are no criteria
for having either succeeded or found the reason for our being. We
can have all these and still be far from God.
This explains why God, in Christ, by His Spirit, continues
to pursue men. His approach to them polarizes people. He is
willing to lay down His life for them in order that He might also
take it up again in them. Some are delighted to discover He has
drawn near, ready to pick them up in His own strong arms. Others
turn away, go their own way, and refuse adamantly to have
anything to do with Him. To those who respond He gives Himself in
"Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm
shall rule for him: Behold, his reward is with him, and his work
before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall
gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and
shall gently lead those that are with young" (Isa. 40:10-11).
What a remarkable portrait this is of our Lord, laying down
His life for His sheep. He feeds them; He leads them gently; He
gathers them up in His strong arms; He carries them close to His
It is in this way that He also takes up His life again in
us. Caught up into His care, encircled by His strong arms,
enfolded within His love, we find ourselves in Him. This is part
of the great secret to sharing in His life.
Much more than this, however, is the fact that it is to Him
an endless source of satisfaction. He looks upon the outpouring
of His life, the travail of His soul, the generous giving of
Himself repaid and returned in sons and daughters brought to
glory. Men and women, retrieved from their utter lostness and
dereliction, are restored to the grandeur of wholesome godliness
and new life in Him.
Often as I let my mind wander back to the great storms and
blizzards that we went through on my ranches I recall scenes full
of pathos and power. Again and again I would come home to our
humble cottage with two or three tiny forlorn, cold lambs bundled
up against my chest. They would be wrapped up within the generous
folds of my big, rough wool jacket. Outside hail, sleet, snow,
and chilling rain would be lashing my face and body. But within
my arms the lambs were safe and sure of survival.
Part of the great compensation for enduring the blizzards,
fighting the elements, and braving the storms was to pick up lost
lambs. And as I picked them up I realized in truth I was taking
up my own life again in them; my life that had been expended
freely, gladly on their behalf.
It is as I am found in Him that He, too, revels and rejoices
in my being found. No wonder there is such rejoicing in heaven
over one lost soul who is brought home.
Sad to say, many of Jesus' hearers did not and could not
understand. In fact, they went so far as to say He was insane.
To be continued