“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” John 10:10-18
The dichotomy of giving life for life becomes clear by both illustration and reality with Jesus. We picture a shepherd walking, leading, and with his staff and dogs herding dumb sheep to grass, water, and shelter. But Jesus repeatedly describes Himself as the good shepherd who “lays down his life for the sheep,” five times in eight verses. In the East, shepherds would guide sheep into pens at night, and literally lie down across the opening to guard them from wolves or thieves, thus ‘laying down their lives’ for the lives of their own.
Jesus’s sheep, His children, are so valuable to Him that He loves them to death. He literally lays down His life for our sake and on our behalf so we can own life abundant. Who but God does that? He is perfect in love and perfectly our substitute. We are the ones deserving death, our sins have stained our lives beyond repair, but God, rich in mercy, intervened by sending Jesus to die in our place. The wages of our sin is death, but Jesus paid those wages in our stead by dying Himself to free us unto life eternal. What wondrous love! (John 3:16; Romans 3:23-25; 6:23; Ephesians 2:4-8; 1 John 2:2)
So how will I treat my own life in response? Do I spend my energy and resources to protect it, to sequester into my safety and comfort, or do I actively look for ways to offer it for my Lord and His children? How willing am I to set aside my preferences, ease, security, and pleasures for the benefit or upbuilding, or to fulfill the needs of, another? Who around me hungers for a note, a call, a meal, a word of true life?
Lord God, give me Your eyes and ears, Your arms of love and words of hope, to all who need Your life today. Out of love and gratitude for Your life laid down for me, I lay down mine to glorify You. (1 Corinthians 6:20)