Not too long ago, I was looking for a picture of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Honestly, I was expecting a picture of Jesus looking pretty docile and carrying a lamb with a serene sort of countenance. And, when I looked at western, classic European art, they had exactly this kind of image!
But, I got curious… how would other cultures portray it? So I looked at Eastern European art! And they portrayed it mostly as Jesus carrying a lamb with a severe kind of countenance, since Jesus is usually portrayed with a stern look on his face.
Then I looked at American colonial art from South America, and I found this:
It’s a stunning image and it really took me aback to see the suffering Jesus in the midst of His Passion carry the lamb. After all, when I hear of Him being the Good Shepherd, that is not the image that comes to mind! This is the kind of image that I expect to see when I look up images of Him carrying the cross! And besides, it seems like a huge creative leap to connect the Passion with the Good Shepherd.
But, the more I thought of it, the more I really liked the image. After all, in His parable of the Good Shepherd, what exactly is He talking about? Let’s look at the parable…
11I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12A 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. 13This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. 16I 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. 17This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No 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.”
The Good Shepherd is willing to give up His life, and Christ is the Good Shepherd. So, when we see an image of Him suffering the Passion… this is exactly who He is. The Good Shepherd laying down His life… for us.
Thank You for being the Good Shepherd and calling to us by name. Help us listen to Your voice when You call us.