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June 2020

Facing the Wolves

Year A – Revised Common Lectionary – Proper 6 – June 14, 2020

Scriptures: Matthew 9:35-10:8(9-23)

If a sheep went up against a wolf in a battle out in the wilderness, who would probably win? One of the animals is a predator with sharp teeth and the other has no natural defenses besides the ability to see a predator sneaking up from behind and the ability to run away.

But what if a sheep under the protection of a shepherd with a long sturdy staff went up against a wolf in a battle? The sheep protected by a shepherd has a much better chance of surviving. Jesus is often called the Good Shepherd and for very good reasons.

Matthew 9:35 says, “When (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus was sent to us to help us, to protect us and guide us to a place of safety and joy. Jesus came to be our shepherd.

In Matthew’s Gospel, we also hear Jesus telling his disciples that he is sending them out to tell people about God’s love and forgiveness. But he says something that probably scared his disciples. He said, “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves.” That does not sound very safe. A sheep surrounded by wolves is not in a happy place. I wonder if the disciples thought that perhaps they should bring along some weapons to protect themselves.

Jesus is saying two things to his followers. One seems comforting and reassuring. Jesus sees the lost people and he has compassion on them. He can see that they need a shepherd. The other seems a bit scary and challenging. Jesus is sending out his disciples like sheep among the wolves. Both are true. What we need to remember is that it is Jesus saying both of these things. And Jesus is and will always be the Good Shepherd.

Yes, the world can be a dangerous place. We have to be careful and watch for wolves or bad people who want to take advantage of us, or harm us. But we are being sent out by Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who will never leave us and who is with us in every situation, both peaceful and dangerous.

Our Good Shepherd loved us so much, that he laid his own life down for us. Jesus died for us to take away the burden of our sin. He died to bring us back into a loving relationship with God. Jesus battled something more dangerous than wolves in order to protect us, the sheep of his pasture. Jesus battled death and he won. Jesus brings to us the promise of life eternal, never to be separated from God, ever again. We can face the wolves of this life, with Jesus by our side.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, Thank you for being our Good Shepherd and for always being with us to protect us from harm. Help us to be alert and careful, but always brave enough to tell others about your love. Amen.

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