Through the dark night a robber came creeping and crawling over the back wall.
He wanted to steal the sheep one by one and pass them to the thieves outside. Then they were going to lead the sheep far away.
The robber called the sheep hoping that they would come to him trustingly. Then he could pick them up without any noise.
But the robber could not trick those sheep. Even the wee woolly lambs knew that he was not their good shepherd.
They knew what their shepherd did. He always came in by the gate. This man came over the back wall. They knew their shepherd's voice. This man's voice was strange. All the sheep were frightened. They began to bleat loudly. The watchman came running and the robber got no sheep.
In the morning a man came in by the door. He had been hired to take care of the sheep, but they were afraid of the hireling, too. He might take them where the grass was good but he could not be trusted. If a wolf came he would not care how many sheep were torn or how many lambs were killed. He would be careful to save himself from the wolf's teeth. He would run away and leave them to die.
So the sheep would not go with him. Then the good shepherd came to the gate of the fold. He called each sheep by its own name, for he knew and loved each one, and he had always taken good care of them. Every old sheep and every wee woolly lamb jumped up and came running to him, for they knew his voice and they trusted him. He would lead them where the water was cool and the grass fresh and good. If the wolf came he would drive it far away and never let a lamb be torn. So the sheep followed the good shepherd.
The people understood that story. The Pharisees were at best like hirelings, at worst like robbers. Wise men would not follow them. The Good Shepherd was Jesus. Wise men would follow Him. The Pharisees understood, also. The good ones looked down for they were ashamed. The proud ones stared at Jesus and scowled, saying to themselves, "We will kill Him as soon as we can find a way."
But Our Lord went on speaking gently: "I am the Good Shepherd. I know Mine and Mine know Me. I will never let the wolf tear My lambs. I will die to save My sheep."
This puzzled and worried Our Lord's real friends. They knew that wicked men were plotting to kill Him, but couldn't He save Himself? Jesus was wise and strong. People wanted Him for their king. Must He die? But Our Lord said again: "I am the Good Shepherd. I will die to save My sheep. No one will take My life from Me. I can lay down My life, and I can take i t up again. I will die but I will live again."
The apostles were even more puzzled. They thought that Jesus was going to be a king sitting on a golden throne, giving money to good people and punishing bad ones. Why should He suffer and die? We know that Our Lord was not going to be that kind of king; but we wonder, sometimes, why He suffered so much. He could have saved us by offering up one tear. Why did He let wicked men drag Him along the streets, strike Him with cruel whips, and nail Him to a cross to die?
There are many great and holy reasons, but here is one that will help us now: Strong and wonderful graces come to us from each of Our Lord's sufferings. As soon as we think of Our Saviour whipped or crowned with thorns or dying for us, grace comes into our souls. We remember our sins. Then we begin to be truly sorry for them, because our sins caused Him so much pain. We promise Our Lord to try our best to be good, and we do try harder to do right. We begin to follow Jesus closely, as closely as the lambs followed the good shepherd.
- Living in God's Grace, Imprimatur 1941 -
A coloring picture of the Good Shepherd can be found below: