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"I give up my life for the sheep... so that I can take it up again"

April 7, 2023

Daily Scripture

John 10:14-18

14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I give up my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that don’t belong to this sheep pen. I must lead them too. They will listen to my voice and there will be one flock, with one shepherd.
17 “This is why the Father loves me: I give up my life so that I can take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I give it up because I want to. I have the right to give it up, and I have the right to take it up again. I received this commandment from my Father.”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

John wanted his readers to know Jesus didn’t stumble into his saving death by chance but chose that course (verses 17-18). Talking about himself as shepherd, Jesus “declares that violent death is not just a dangerous possibility; it’s his vocation. The best explanation of why is found in… this very down-to-earth picture of the shepherd and the sheep. The sheep are facing danger; the shepherd will go to meet it, and, if necessary, he will take upon himself the fate that would otherwise befall the sheep. In Jesus’ case, it was necessary, and he did.” *

  • One thing all four gospels made a point of is that Jesus intentionally went to Jerusalem before that fateful Passover (Matthew 16:21, Mark 10:32-33, Luke 9:51, John 12:12). John even showed that the disciples knew this wasn’t, humanly speaking, a good idea (John 11:8, 16). But Jesus went, not for himself but for the sake of his “sheep,” the ones already in his flock and all the others he wanted to reach (verse 16). When have you sensed that you matter that much to Jesus?
  • Here, as in the passages we read yesterday, Jesus said his death would not be the end of the story. In today’s reading, he linked dying and rising even more closely: “I have the right to give [my life] up, and I have the right to take it up again.” That’s why, in the next chapter, he would make the powerful statement that “I AM the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). Does it make sense to you that the Creator of life would be able to give it up and take it up again?

Dear Jesus, I choose to trust you to be my shepherd. Shelter me, care for me, and guide me to the truly good life—a life shaped by your self-giving love and example. Amen.

GPS Insights

Leah Swank-Miller

Leah Swank-Miller

Leah Swank-Miller is Director of Student Ministries at Resurrection Overland Park. A Kansas native, she has been a professional actress for the past 15 years, and she loves to see the vastness of God’s creation through theatre and the arts. Leah is pursuing an M.Div. from Saint Paul School of Theology. Leah, Brian, and their two children love to play tennis, golf, soccer, and board games.

There’s a hymn I used to sing growing up that I loved. “Oh, love that Jesus did bestow, oh love that would not let me go.”

I used to envision the type of love described in these lyrics as always holding me close when I tried to run away. It was a restraining love. But the more I understand the sacrificial love of Christ Jesus, the more I know it as a love that will not let me go when the ground beneath me gives way. When my body, mind, or spirit feels shaky and like I am slipping away, Jesus will not let me go. 

There’s a funny video on YouTube that makes me chuckle every time. It’s a video of a sheep stuck in a trench, tail up in the air. A good shepherd comes along and pulls the sheep out of the ditch, and the sheep scrambles to their feet, running right back into the trench headfirst. Every time this happens the shepherd comes to pull the sheep back out again. This imagery speaks to me. The continuous cycle of going headfirst into the same problem I was just stuck in, and while I kick my legs in distress, my Good Shepherd pulls me up, reminding me He will not let me go. 

I tried to research some facts on sheep and discovered that falling in ditches is not the leading cause of danger for sheep. Aside from illnesses, coyotes account for 51.7 percent of sheep deaths, followed by dogs and mountain lions. A shepherd knows that predators can be all around, and when they see sheep unattended, they know that those sheep are even more susceptible to death. 

When I think of Jesus’s choice to protect His sheep and rescue those who weren’t a part of His flock, I’m reminded that Jesus indeed came for ALL people. He knew the costs, and he did it anyway. He went into the most dangerous situation and rescued us all from the fate of death, taking it upon himself instead. We go headfirst into the same trenches and wander into fields of danger time and time again and through our lives, even into death. Jesus is always the love that will not let us go. 

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Wright, N. T., John for Everyone, Part 1 (p. 151). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.