Hope in the Age of Darkness: Gifts of the Incarnation
When we last visited Ezekiel he was talking about the shepherds who did not care for the sheep. In this later part of the same chapter, we find Ezekiel prophesying about how God will “judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats.” It begins on a harsh note as the sheep go beyond eating the grass to the point of trampling the rest of the field … beyond drinking from the stream to polluting it. This sounds like judgment on our current treatment of the our planet and its ecosystems.
Ezekiel then talks about how the fat sheep have “pushed with flank and shoulder” and butted the weaker animals until they have “scattered far and wide.” Again, I hear what sounds like judgment of our culture today where we have so much divisiveness and where people are bullied and assaulted, both verbally and physically … for what they believe or think … for who they are or who they love … for the color of their skin or their cultural heritage.
The darkness of Ezekiel’s day sounds so eerily familiar … until … we hear the word of hope!
God will save the flock, and there will be one shepherd. For Ezekiel, this was God’s “servant David.” He will feed them and care for them as a good shepherd cares for the flock. Surely, we see God’s incarnate love made real in David.
This passage from Ezekiel is what Jesus quotes in John 10:11-16, as he says, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.” Then Jesus concludes by saying, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
As we hear Ezekiel and then Jesus make this claim about the flock, there are two things that stand out for me. First, the good shepherd doesn’t harm or banish the offending sheep or goats. God doesn’t even banish or harm the predators. They are simply given their place, but the flock will be protected and cared for by this good shepherd. This shepherd will maintain a sense of justice, and by caring for the weakest of the sheep will provide strength, not just for some, but for the entire flock.
Second, the good shepherd is the epitome of God’s incarnate love. You see, being the good shepherd doesn’t just come down to a task or a job. It is the primary identity of Jesus, and it is the calling of every disciple following after Jesus. We are called to embody God’s love in powerful and meaningful ways … for our friends and enemies alike.
It is to live as though we fully understand that every person ever born is a beloved child of God who, regardless of who they are, belong to the one flock loved and cared for by the good shepherd.
God who shepherds us in the love of Christ: May we see ourselves intimately connected with Jesus as we live out the full embodiment of love in ways that transform our world. Amen.