It’s Good Shepherd Sunday all over again. This week, our lectionary seems designed to give preachers who messed up 4 Easter another chance. Actually, I prefer this week (Mark 6) over the other one (John 10) because these readings are more proactive and responsive to the needs of the desperate sheep (that's me).
When Jesus and his disciples reach the other side of the lake, they were met by a huge crowd of people needing help. Imagine a chaotic collection of poor, sick, and disabled individuals coming at you as you tried to escape for a few moments of rest. But when Jesus looked at them, he saw not an obstacle to his recovery but the heart of his mission: “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” These were his people, and he was their shepherd.
As Jeremiah points out, God had been angry with those who had been appointed to shepherd his people in the past. Rather than tend the needs of the flock, they had scattered, destroyed, and send them away. God’s people needed a good shepherd—one that cared more for the sheep than for himself (echoes of John 10 coming in here). God’s people were desperate for a leader and caretaker who would bring the lost sheep back into the fold, who would reestablish a sense of safety for the flock, and who would relieve the fears and anxieties of the sheep. That shepherd, of course, was Jesus, and we’re supposed to have that shepherd imagery in mind when we think of his messianic identity.
How often does God look down on us as a scattered, harassed people without a shepherd? Of course, we’ve already been given a shepherd and any “unshepherded” behaviors we exhibit are our own doing. In fact, I think that’s my focus for this week’s sermon. We have a shepherd; why aren’t we following him? We need to quit following the bad shepherds and look for one who will take care of us as only God can.