John 10.11-18 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

Real shepherds do not cut and run

It is said that Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire, once had captured a prince and his family. When they came before him, the monarch asked the prisoner, "What will you give me if I release you?" "The half of my wealth," was his reply. "And if I release your children?" "Everything I possess." "And if I release your wife?" "Your Majesty, I will give myself." Cyrus was so moved by his devotion that he freed them all. As they returned home, the prince said to his wife, "Wasn't Cyrus a handsome man!" With a look of deep love for her husband, she said to him, "I didn't notice. I could only keep my eyes on you- -the one who was willing to give himself for me."

The story that Jesus shares here is one that has amazed me for so long, because I think it is so honest and raw. Jesus tells us that when the wolf is at the door only the real shepherd will stay knowing that the cost could be his life, but as he was bonded to the sheep for his very existence, how could he flee. The other side of the coin is the hired hand, the person just there to do a job with no skin in the game. Because they have nothing invested, they are satisfied to leave the sheep and move on to the next job, its all the same to them. Looking deeper we can begin to see that there have been plenty of hired hands in our lives. They could be activities like binge drinking or using a substance to cope. Sometimes it could be things we think are good like sports, games, or even church activities and service. All of these are there for us when things are good but when everything is collapsing and there seems all is lost, these evaporate like the hired hands in Jesus’ story. These things and people have no investment, they only take or mask the truth of our situation. The real Shepherd is the one that is there till the end, ride or die. Jesus literally offers to stand with us no matter what comes against us, and even goes so far as to promise us that no weapon formed against can prevail when he is with us.

On the road today: I have been guilty of using things and people to make myself feel better, but it never lasts when things get terrible. Do you have anyone or anything in your life that is a hired hand, only around when things are good? What if you could get honest and have a real relationship with the real Shepherd who will never leave or turn his back on you? Is it worth it to meet the true Shepherd? Stop on the road and have a conversation with him.