Jesus, Our Good Shepherd
4th Sunday of Easter
May 8, 2022
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want….
Though I walk through the valley of darkness, I shall not fear.”
The 23rd Psalm is one of the most beloved passages in all of Scripture, the Lord, our Good Shepherd. We hear it sung at almost every funeral, and with good reason. Our lives are filled with both mountains and valleys alike, and we are comforted to know that Christ is with us through it all. What are some of the characteristics of Jesus, our “Good Shepherd?”
Jesus will guide us on a path we need to travel on, not necessarily the most pleasantone. Notice that he promises to be our guide in green pastures (which we all want) as well as through dark valleys (which most of us would prefer to avoid). Valleys and darkness are as essential to our growth as green pastures are, yet when we enter such a time of trial and difficulty, we can feel that God has abandoned us, our Shepherd no longer is with us, or our sufferings are meaningless. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. It is easy to follow Christ in the good times; the test is trusting him in the darkness.
The Good Shepherd remains by our side even when we can’t see him or sense him. How easy it is to follow Christ when it is sunny and warm and we are in a place with lots of “green pastures”! But love is proved by sacrifice and difficulties, not just in good times. Love that is not tested does not mature. Our whole eternity is being decided precisely by our response to the times of both green pastures and darkness. Earth is a time of testing, and we grow the most when we are deeply challenged. Yet Jesus, the Good Shepherd, knows our limits and will give us no more than we can endure, if we trust him to the end.
The teacher is always quiet while the test is being administered. The spiritual life goes in cycles of light and darkness. Jesus often allows us to have experiences of his presence and closeness, times when we are deeply fed so that during the tests (the times God seems to grow silent), we will remember our experiences of him and his words and persevere. This is how it was with the disciples as they cycled through three years of his presence, the darkness of the crucifixion and abandonment and the joy of the resurrection. Christ the Good Shepherd is with us through it all.