Parable of the Good Shepherd – John 10:1-18
Jesus is the good shepherd that will lead those who are called to Him to the eternal kingdom of God. There are other shepherds who will lead you in the opposite direction and allow you to die.
All Christian colleges probably have some similarities. It’s likely they are all more the same than they are different. There was nothing remarkable about the school Josh and Emily attended. As Christian colleges go, this one was fairly middle of the road. Not too old. Not too young. Not too conservative. Not too liberal. Just right. Unless you don’t like the middle. The library building was a two story structure made mostly of glass. The courtyard in front offered a dramatic view through the lightly tinted windows of college students weaving their way in and out of enormous stacks of books. It was a massive kinetic sculpture depicting how knowledge was absorbed before the invention of the computer. Josh bounced out of the giant glass doors directly into the path of Emily who was approaching from the courtyard. They had planned to meet in front of the library at two o’clock and for some reason Josh was on time.
“Look what I found in this economics book!” Josh announced to Emily as they stood on the library steps.
Holding his economics book flat like a portable table, Josh opened up a white sheet of paper with a hand drawn map. The map included names of buildings, descriptions of backroads and alleyways, with arrows pointing the way through a circuitous route to a big red X. At the top of the page were printed the words “Everything You Ever Wanted.”
Emily briefly scanned the map. “Josh, that’s a joke, not a treasure map,” she said.
“But it leads to everything we ever wanted!” Josh countered.
“Everything you ever wanted can be found in the pages of the Bible.”
“How’d I know you were going to say that?”
“You’re much smarter than you look,” Emily conceded.
“Let’s just follow the map for fun,” Josh said. “Maybe there’s something there that will help me study the Bible. Like a new laptop. Or some gold bars.
Emily said nothing.
“Maybe God is leading us here because he wants us to have everything we ever wanted,” Josh offered like a sales pitch. He was ready to go on a treasure hunt and he wanted Emily on his team.
“Let me see that!” Emily said as she reached for the map.
Emily took the map and sat down on a nearby bench. She took some time going over all the details. Josh sat down next to her studying the map himself. Emily’s mind was working overtime as she tried to imagine every building, every road, and every turn.
“This map is going through alleys and along service roads that we don’t normally travel,” Emily concluded.
“That’s because it’s a secret route,” Josh insisted.
“This is close by,” Emily said. “We should know what’s here but I can’t figure it out with these crazy directions.”
Josh smiled as he saw Emily’s curiosity peak. “Intriguing isn’t it?” he said.
Emily smiled and looked Josh in the eye. He was excited. She was amused. With the map in hand, Emily stood and turned right and left trying to figure out which way to go and where they would end up. She couldn’t decipher the map in her mind. It was too convoluted.
“You’re never going to let this go until we follow it to the end,” Emily realized out load.
Josh gave Emily a sheepish grin.
A few minutes later, with Emily directing their steps, map in hand, the couple found themselves on an isolated service road behind the library. The road was bordered by a block wall lined with green trash bins. The other side of the road was the library loading dock where two electric service trucks were parked. As Emily studied the map, Josh’s mind drifted in another direction.
“Sometimes I wish the Bible had a clear map like this for us to follow,” Josh confided.
Emily took her eyes off the map to answer Josh. “We have something better than a map. We have a personal guide. We simply follow Jesus.”
“But there are so many points of view on exactly what that means,” Josh countered. “Sometimes I feel like I’m getting pointed in ten different directions.”
Emily continued walking with Josh by her side, trying to respond to Josh’s concerns, while staying on target with the map.
“Did you see the new Bible study program our church put online last week?” Emily asked, as they came to the end of the block wall and turned right into a long alley behind a row of apartment buildings.
“Is that the thing you helped put together?” Josh asked.
Proud of her work, Emily was not sure she liked it being called a “thing.”
“That “thing” is an easy-to-follow Bible study program that’s free to anyone who wants clear direction about exactly what our church believes is the right way to follow Jesus,” she clarified.
“Is there a map?” Josh asked.
Emily stopped in her tracks. She wasn’t sure if Josh was messing with her or seriously interested in the topic at hand.
“In a lot of ways the Bible is, in fact, a map.”
Josh was listening to what Emily had to say about the Bible but his heart was on the treasure hunt. The map identified an apartment complex with a black gate, brown trim around the windows, and four garage stalls. He could see the building in question just over Emily’s shoulder.
“We have to cut through that apartment complex!” Josh said.
Emily left the Bible discussion behind and followed Josh to the black gate. When they came out the other side of the apartment complex, onto the sidewalk of a quiet residential street, Josh had the map in hand. Emily was now following Josh’s instructions. Her enthusiasm for the treasure hunt was waning. At the end of the block was a concrete aqueduct with a narrow dirt road running alongside.
“We have to take the aqueduct road,” Josh announced.
“Is that the last leg?” Emily asked, ready to move on with her life.
“Yes!” Josh proclaimed. “At the end of this road is our treasure!”
Traveling along the narrow dirt road with the dry concrete aqueduct protected by a chain link fence next to them, Emily tried to pull the conversation back to her passion.
“So did you see the online Bible study program?”
“I did,” Josh said. “I took the first three lessons.”
Emily was delighted to hear this news. “Did you find some guidance?”
“I like the fact that it’s specific to our church and not just some generic instruction.” Josh said. “It feels like advice from a trusted friend.”
Emily was again thrilled by Josh’s response. “That’s exactly what we wanted to accomplish!” she said.
Josh stopped to take another look at the treasure map while responding to Emily. “I know Jesus is my trusted friend, but for now I have to live in this world and it sure would be cool to find a treasure.”
Emily looked at the map Josh was holding. “It looks like it should be just around the corner,” she concluded.
Josh and Emily left the narrow dirt road and traveled along the stucco wall of a large commercial building that was situated at the back of a large parking lot. The red X on the treasure map was apparently directly in the middle of that parking lot. As they stepped out around the corner of the large commercial building, it was clear they had found what the map described as “everything you ever wanted.” It was the Dollar Store.
“There it is! Emily announced with a big smile. “Everything you ever wanted for a dollar!”
Josh was disappointed. Emily was amused.
“Not exactly what I envisioned,” Josh admitted.
“Maybe this world is pulling you in the wrong direction,” Emily suggested.
“Yeah!” Josh conceded. “I need a better map.