Thursday, June 11, 2009
Current Study: First Peter
Today’s Topic: The Shepherd’s Gift
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 2:25b …you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
We have some friends out in South Dakota that raise sheep. At least they used to. I haven’t been there for several years so I don’t know if they still do or not. Seems to me they quit because they were too hard to take care of. I know my best friend from high school who used to raise them said the same thing. They would always jump or break through fences. They weren’t trainable. They had a rebellious and free spirit. They were very self-willed.
Sound familiar. Reminds me of a look in the mirror. But there’s a huge difference between someone who raises sheep and a shepherd. Mutton farmers simply grow sheep for slaughter with no real personal or consistent involvement with them. They pen them up, keep them fenced in, and feed them. They get disgruntled and discouraged by the work they demand when they escape their boundaries.
Shepherds, on the other hand, have the same ultimate goal – to raise sheep for slaughter. But they do so in a far different way. They live with their sheep. They invest all of their time in their sheep. They only pen them up at night for their own protection, not for his convenience. And they allow them to roam while they watch and care for them. If one gets out of line, he pursues it with the love of a father for a child. The sheep are the focus of his heart, and he would give his life to protect them.
Jesus called Himself a Shepherd in John 10 when he said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” This must be what Peter had in mind when he wrote about the death of Jesus making it possible for us to return to the Shepherd of our souls. How wonderful to know that Jesus is a Shepherd and not a mutton farmer.
Back in July of 1941, the men of Block 14 were digging gravel outside the Auschwitz concentration camp. Suddenly, the sirens began to shriek. There’d been an escape. That evening their fears were confirmed: he was from their block.
The next day, the block’s 600 men were forced to stand on the parade ground under the broiling sun. “At the day’s end,” wrote reporter Connie Lauerman, “the deputy commander, Fritsch, arrived in his crisply pressed uniform and shiny jackboots to announce the fate of the terrified men in dirty, striped prison suits. ‘The fugitive hasn’t been found,’ barked Fritsch. ‘In reprisal for your comrade’s escape, ten of you will die by starvation.’”
The men slated for starvation were selected. One of them, Franciszek Gajowniczek, a Polish army sergeant, was sobbing, “My wife and my children.”
Then a Polish Franciscan priest, Maximillian Kolbe, pushed his way to the front as S.S. guards sighted their rifles on his chest. “Herr Kommandant,” he said, “a request.”
“What do you want?” barked the commandant.
“I want to die in place of this prisoner,” pointing to Gajowniczek. “I’ve no wife and no children. Besides, I’m old and not good for anything.”
A stunned silence, and then “Request granted!”
What a gift! However, the voluntary gift of the life of our High Priest is beyond comparison with the gift of the Polish priest. Why? Because He rose from the dead to be our Shepherd and Overseer. He guarantees us life. The Polish priest’s gift was only for that day. Our Shepherd’s gift is for eternity. He is the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls forever. Hallelujah!