I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
The greatest love stories on earth all include the element of death. Whether it is the familiar story of Romeo and Juliet, or an ageless tale from the walls of ancient Egypt; death and love go hand in hand.
They are opposites. One offers to make the world bright. The other threatens to darken it. One promises beautiful new beginnings, the other only knows endings. Love is meant to be shared, to be talked about, sung about, rejoiced over. Death is the quiet crash, the hushed subject lest it hears its name and comes too soon; an occasion to forget, to mourn.
In God’s eyes, the two were meant to merge. All the beauty and hope in love, all the pain and despair in death collided one afternoon upon a hill, upon a cross, upon a man. His heart was ground zero where the height of love met the depth of death.
Life was a product of his love. We were created by him, for him. Love drove him to live a life he knew would end. Then he died to murder death.
When guiding the sheep, he chose the pasture he knew was filled with wolves. He intended for his life to be forfeit. The good shepherd counted the cost and continued forward. Why? For the sheep.
Love begs us to give and the greatest thing we have to give is our life. Of course death finds its way into the greatest love stories – it’s the highest thing we have to give.
The Gospel is supposed to make you uncomfortable at first, to think that God would die for love, before it makes you eternally, deeply, and viscerally thankful.