Jesus painted wonderful and memorable word pictures that describe God’s marvelous love for his people. In John chapter 10 he pictured God’s people as a flock of sheep. The Good Shepherd, Jesus, calls his sheep by name and they recognize his voice. He goes ahead of them and leads his flock out to pasture.
The flock is endangered by a wolf and made vulnerable by a hired hand. The wolf slips in to steal and destroy the flock. The hired hand flees, leaving the sheep to be attacked and scattered. Although the hired hand protects himself at the expense of the flock, the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Jesus’ metaphor is a striking way to think about God’s people (the flock of sheep), Jesus (the Good Shepherd), Satan (the wolf), and false teachers (the hired hand). The great affection of the Good Shepherd for his sheep is expressed by his willingness to die for his flock, an obvious reference to Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross at Calvary.
In his lovely portrait of God’s sacrificial affection, Jesus introduced the idea that he also has sheep that are from another pen. In other words, the people of God include more than citizens of Jerusalem or Israel. In fact, God sent Jesus to be Savior for people from every tribe, language, race, and nation.
Jesus emphasized his global mission to tell all people everywhere about God’s plan of salvation after his resurrection, just before he ascended back to heaven. We should not, however, mistakenly get the impression that the Great Commission was a sort of afterthought or last-minute addition to Jesus’ mission. The worldwide scope of Jesus’ mission is in the DNA of his words and works.
Missionary work is not an afterthought in Christianity; it is the very heart of God. The Good Shepherd has a love that leaves the ninety-nine in order to find the one lost lamb. And he rejoices when that endangered sheep is found. And the Good Shepherd calls his followers to share in the toil and the triumph of God’s global mission.
May the love of Christ compel us to go and tell the Good News,
Brother Richard Foster, Pastor
Grace Baptist Church, Camden, AR