There is a cross-over between the Good Shepherd chapter (John 10) and Christmas. And it is important!
We know the name Immanuel from the Christmas story. "The virgin will conceive and bear a son and will call his name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14) The name Immanuel means "God-with us." or more precisely "With-us God" because the order of the parts matters. Jesus is God, and in certain ways that is not surprising. But that He would be "with us," actually want to be in our world, be one of this skin-covered, sometimes achy, hungry, tired and sore bunch called humanity; and want to hang around with sinners who (alone) can't seem to sort our right and wrong or truth and error, and (together) congeal into a mob of "who-knows-what-they-will-do-next" bunches of out of control sinners. That is amazing!
With-us God! That is what He takes on Himself.
There is a word for it. "Shepherd." Jacob, way back when describes it. "there I was: day by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes." (Genesis 31:40) As a young man David learned humility by being out with the sheep day and night. That is how God prepared him to be king.
And so Jesus came to be among us, to eat with the tax gatherers and sinners; to know the troubles of their soul. and there is a reason why the favorite word for Jesus in the last book of the Bible is "The Lamb."
The first Gospel starts with Jesus being called Immanuel. (Matthew 1:23) And it ends with the promise "'I Am' with you" (Matthew 28:20) using the Greek translation of the personal name of God "I Am." The story is from Immanuel to Immanuel. From "With-us God" to "'I Am' with you."
How is He with us? Let's ask that question of John chapter 10, the Good Shepherd chapter. When we do here are some of the answers:
- "He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out." (John 10:3) He knows them each individually, completely and intimately, in fact knows us better than we know ourselves. And He does not send or drive. He leads us, going with us. Part of the leading is that He leads where He has already been: facing temptation, dealing with aloneness, acquainted with sorrows, able to comfort, even having gone through death before us. In every part of life He knows the way.
- "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10) Every blessing and joy, every single thing that enriches our life and is a goodness from God, every one of them is from Jesus. He came to bring them. After all He is the one who enriched the wedding at Cana when they had run out of wine (John 2:1-10), and described "in the father's house" with the words "music and dancing". (Luke 15:25)
- "The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." (John 10:11) Even that part of our life that is the worst -- even there He came to be our "Immanuel." He is our "With-us God" even in the times we don't even want to be with ourselves. That's how much the measure of the Shepherd He fits!
- "My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me. I give eternal life to them and they shall never perish and no one shall snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:27-28) Jesus has decided to be "With us" for how long? Eternity! So much He welcomes us, so much He desires to have us living and be able to share His life with us, that He pushes the limits and decides that it should never, ever end. That we should never ever end. That is how much He is Immanuel; "With-us God."
Now that is one amazing Shepherd! Good? More than just good! He is the Phenomenal-and-astounding -beyond-all-measure Shepherd!
Lord Jesus, thank You for being my Shepherd, for knowing me, calling me, leading me through all I have to face in this life, for giving every blessing, for taking my sin and going to death for me, for calling me into Your Easter, for claiming me as Your own and leading me into eternal life. Help me to begin the eternal celebration even now, as I continue the walk through this life and this world. Amen.