The Good Shepherd

Lay Down My Life?

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.” He then defined a shepherd’s role by explaining, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). But did he have more in mind than his death on the cross?

The Greek word translated “lay” in John 10:11 carries a twofold meaning: to kneel in humility and to construct a foundation. Jesus did both. He humbled himself to become the permanent, atoning sacrifice for our sins (Philippians 2:8). He also constructed the foundational principles of the laying-down life for us to build on (1 Corinthians 3:11).

The Good Shepherd modeled the laying-down life on earth. First, during three years of ministry, he equipped his disciples to desire that life. Jesus then experienced an excruciating death to restore our relationship with God. The apostle John received that equipping and witnessed Jesus’s death. Along with the other apostles, he not only observed what the laying-down life truly meant but also learned to practice it.

In his epistle, John said we demonstrate the love Jesus modeled when we “lay down our lives” for others. I grapple with that commandment daily. I don’t want to lay down my life for others. I want to enjoy the attentive, loving care of the Good Shepherd, but I’m often reluctant to put the needs of others above my own.

The word translated “good” suggests beneficence (see Romans 15:2; Ephesians 4:29). In other words, good is defined as that which benefits another person. In a spiritual context, that good includes directing someone toward choices that reap eternal benefits. Jesus did that while he lived on earth and now does it in heaven as he intercedes for us (Hebrews 7:25; Jude 1:24–25).

Our Good Shepherd has equipped us for the laying-down life by giving us the Holy Spirit. Through him, we’ve been given “everything we need for a godly life”—a laying-down life of working toward what is eternally best for ourselves and others (2 Peter 1:3–8).

The questions is, are we willing to follow our Shepherd’s example? Will we humble ourselves and build on the foundation he laid?

Good Shepherd, instill in my heart the desire follow your example and strengthen my resolve to lay down my life for others.

Dig Deeper

Read John 10:10–17, 24–29. According to these verses, what other actions and attitudes characterize the Good Shepherd? What is the relationship between the Good Shepherd and his sheep?

Learning to model the laying-down life was a process for the disciples too. Read Mark 10:35–37 and Luke 9:51–56. What should John and James have done in these two instances?

Read Philippians 2:1–8. How would the problems of verses 1–4 be solved if we had the mind-set of Jesus and modeled the laying-down life?

Denise K. Loock

This devotion is included in Restore the Hope: Devotions for Lent and Easter.

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