During this Season of Lent, I am clearing out the cobwebs, ignoring the distractions, and preparing my heart for Easter Sunday by diving into God’s Word. I have accepted the #LentChallenge of reading the New Testament in 40 days. You can accept the challenge and use this easy-to-follow READING GUIDE too.
This week was I finished the Gospels of Matthew and Mark and began Luke.
* Emmanuel: God With Us *
Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Jesus, even after his resurrection, came back to reveal himself to the disciples, to assure them of what they had heard and seen. Just as the Gospel of Matthew began with Jesus being called Emmanuel (Matthew 1:23), it ends with his great commission and gentle reminder that He is “God with us.” No matter what I do, or where I go, I am never alone.
* The Meek & The Lowly Are Favored *
Luke 2:8-20 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see — I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger. … The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Having visited the Holy Land and seeing shepherds in the fields with their flocks of sheep, the art of their profession and blessed calling is not lost on me. The lifestyle of a shepherd is not glorifying or prestigious, but rather dirty, self-sacrificing, and denounced by society. Shepherds, still today, are homeless wanderers and despised scum. They are not even recognized as citizens or welcomed in towns. Yet, it is the lowliest of society who God favors and blesses with His presence and special message about Jesus’ birth. God favors the disfavored. He raises up the lowly and humbles the powerful. Even Jesus, later on in his ministry, called himself the Great Shepherd of people.
Do you know what a shepherd does? A shepherd is much more than the caretaker of a flock of sheep. He is the leader, the voice of reason. Sheep are very intelligent animals, but they are meek and mild. They cannot defend themselves if attacked. They’re social beings, living in communities with other sheep called flocks. Sheep rely on their shepherd to lead them to food, water, and shelter. While in the Holy Land, our tour guide, Wisam (called “Sam” for short) further explained the shepherd and sheep relationship:
Sheep are so dependent on their shepherd that they cannot survive in the wilderness without him. A shepherd loves his sheep and protects them at all costs, even putting himself in danger to save an animal. But the shepherd is stern with his flock and, if necessary, will teach them hard lessons. If, for example, a lamb is too adventurous or notorious for running away from the flock or keeping too far a distance, the shepherd will intentionally break one of its legs. He’ll then bandage the broken leg. While mending, the animal is completely dependent on its shepherd to carry it from place to place. The shepherd will provide its food, water, shelter, protection, and companionship. Wherever the shepherd goes, the lamb goes. When the lamb’s leg has healed, the shepherd removes the bandage and sits the animal on the ground. However, instead of walking away, the lamb remains by the shepherd’s side at all times. The animal has learned a valuable lesson: this shepherd is my comforter, provider, and protector.
Lord, my Shepherd, this is my simple prayer: I want to be your lamb.