Throughout the course of human history, we have come to know many leaders- they were the ancient Chinese and Japanese emperors and dynasties. During the time of Christ, there were Roman emperors. We know of dictators, prime ministers, kings and queens, and presidents. There have been many leaders throughout history, but none of them called themselves a Good Shepherd, because a shepherd always goes first and asks others to follow him.
A leader might tell people what to do, and they even may tell others how to accomplish it, but Jesus actually showed us first. For example, a general of the army would tell his people that they must accomplish some victory. They would say go and take that city or attack that bunker. The General would tell them to engage the enemy and the soldiers would have to go and actually encounter the enemy. But Jesus has already gone into battle and defeated the enemy
. Jesus has gone before us. Jesus does not ask us to do anything that He hasn’t already done, or to go anywhere that he hasn't gone Himself. Jesus has engaged the enemy and won. Jesus presents us with a whole new way of looking at leadership, and a whole new look at our discipleship.
We are accustomed to being asked to do something that a leader may not have done before. For Jesus, a leader is the one who experiences everything first, and then tells his followers about it and asks them to follow Him. There are no surprises in life. We know that there will be challenges and sufferings; victories and joys. We are here to follow Jesus, not to try to invent new ways of finding God. We don’t have to sit around and debate what Jesus would said to us. We don't have to wonder what Jesus will ask us to do. We don’t have to be afraid of Jesus, and we don’t have to be afraid of life. Jesus isn’t going to suddenly spring surprises on us. We don't have to worry about what our vocation or our purpose is in life. We already know what that is- to love God and to love our neighbor.
We only have to be willing to follow.
Sounds easy and it is, except for our original sin, our inclination to resist God, and do what we want to do. It the same thing that haunted Adam and Eve. We want to take a bite out of the apple. Sometimes, we would rather explore the outer boundaries of life than listen to Jesus. We may experiment with drugs, and take issues in our lives to new limits. We would rather explore than enjoy life. When we go beyond the boundaries, we find ourselves lost.
But a Good Shepherd just doesn’t let us wander off. Jesus finds us and leads us back to the flock, back to the safety of the group. That is what the Church is intended to be, a place of safety, and a place we can find shelter.
Our most peaceful moments of our week should be in church.
There are many people we can follow. We can have many heroes in life. Society is always trying to create heroes for us to follow. They sell athletic shirts with names on them. (I have never seen a shirt with “Jesus Christ” on the back). They make movies. They want to create heroes. We all want heroes. No wonder the avengers had the highest grossing opening weekend that any other movie. We want to be like the heroes. But they are only imaginary. We can try all of them, but the true hero is the one who loves us, the one who knows us, and still loves us, one who will help us to get back, and that hero is Jesus.
Because Jesus loves us, and has already survived all the challenges we will ever face in life, we can follow Jesus with confidence. Unlike a General who send his troops into battle without knowing each one, Jesus know each of us intimately. Jesus makes our challenges, his challenges; our sufferings, his sufferings; our victories and joys, his victories.
We have a new leader, a shepherd, who goes before us so that we can follow. That is why we are called disciples.