“… Jesus is the conquering King and the Good Shepherd. He has power over death. But he also has a soft spot for the Mary Magdalene’s of the world. The regal hero is relentlessly tender.” —Max Lucado, Unshakable Hope
I prayed and pondered for weeks about the opening post of this series because I wanted to come up with a way of describing Jesus that, for me, was intensely personal.
Of course, Jesus is the Good Shepherd. We all know that that is one of the titles He claims for Himself, but that did not even begin to touch the deep emotions that His name stirs in my heart when I think of Him as my Shepherd.
Nor does it do justice to the kind of Shepherd I have found Him to be.
Then, I read Max Lucado’s book, Unshakable Hope, where in his chapter, Joy Is Coming Soon, he walks the reader through the Bible’s description of the encounter Mary Magdalene has with Jesus on resurrection morning.
A Relentlessly Tender Shepherd
Yes, finally! That is exactly the way I would describe Jesus and His shepherding style.
He is relentlessly tender with His sheep. Even when He is correcting them. When He is instructing them. When He is nurturing, even when He is in one of His playful moods and is joking around with us, yes, He is at all times—relentlessly tender.
Max used these adjectives to illustrate the fact that Jesus allowed Mary to come close to Him in her abject grief and actually touch Him, when she finally realized who was standing outside that empty tomb, speaking to her.
She didn’t recognize her Lord. So Jesus did something about it. He called her by name. “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!'”
Maybe it was the way he said it. The inflection. The tone. The Galilean accent. Maybe it was the memory associated with it, the moment she first heard someone say her name unladen with perversion or an agenda.
When she heard him call her by name, she knew the source. “She turned and said to Him, ‘Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher)” In a second. In a pivot of the neck. In the amount of time it took her to rotate her head from this way to that, her world went from a dead Jesus to a living one. Weeping may last through the night, but joy…
She took hold of him. We know this to be true because of the next words Jesus said: “Don’t hold on to me, because I have not yet gone up to the Father”
Maybe she fell at his feet and held his ankles.
Maybe she threw her arms around his shoulders and held him close.
We don’t know how she held him. We just know she did.
And Jesus let her do so. Even if the gesture lasted for only a moment, Jesus allowed it. How wonderful that the resurrected Lord was not too holy, too otherly, too divine, too supernatural to be touched. [scripture references deleted by me]
You can find this story in the Bible, book of John, Chapter twenty.
Shepherding Like Christ…
- Sheep are notoriously stubborn and pigheaded. So are we humans.
- Sheep are NOT the brightest bulbs in the box. Neither are we humans.
- Sheep are wayward, wandering, and willful. (That last one bears repeating!) And, so are we humans.
- Sheep are constantly getting themselves into messes that they have absolutely no hope of extricating themselves from without A Shepherd.
Ahem! Do I even need to say it?
Shepherding ain’t for sissies or the weak of heart!
Shepherding like Jesus is one very tough assignment.
Just thinking about it’s challenges makes me wonder why anyone would even want to shepherd sheep. It reminds me of something I heard Chuck Swindoll say many years ago. I’m probably paraphrasing but I think it went something like this,
“If you want to be in Ministry there are two things you must accept. People are SINFUL and SELFISH. If you can’t handle that truth? Get yourself another profession.”
That little “gem” was to come back to my mind (and keep me patient) many times in later years.
So, if what Chuck says is true, why should anyone want to Shepherd God’s sheep?
Well, let’s talk about that.