Have you heard the saying, "I know a guy"? Today I made a U-turn and drove twice as far as I needed to buy tires from my favorite service guy. Brad has been absolutely top-notch in every interaction I've had with him for the four years I've been driving a Mazda. He takes a very proprietary interest in me and my car. This week's Gospel provides clarity on an even more elevated level of care.
Jesus said: "I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father." John 10:11-18
Jesus, in calling himself the good shepherd, explains very clearly that He is willing to die for His sheep. He is also clear as to why. It is because of the love between Jesus and His Father. This kind of love is otherworldly in that it is unconditional, agape love. It is not an emotional love. It is a choice freely made. In the case of the good shepherd, Jesus is making it clear that His care for HIs sheep is rooted in love, not duty or obligation.
The sacrificial nature of this kind of love emanates from a loving God who loves us beyond our ability to grasp. We know unconditional love when we see and experience it just like we do when we receive excellent service. Our good shepherd knows what we need and He provides it exactly when we need it. We simply have to trust.