The Way of Loving Jesus: Loving Suffering

The Way of Loving Jesus: Loving Suffering

March 27, 2024

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13 NLT

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. John 10:11 NLT

The words of Jesus from John 15:13 are often found in places of tribute to first responders, military personnel, missionaries, and those who physically suffer and die for the good and welfare of others. Rightfully so. These sacrifices are breathtaking and “thank you” is inadequate to express our gratitude or pay our debt.

But few of us will ever be called upon to lay down our lives like that. That is not the central message of Jesus’ words. His description of what a shepherd does for sheep gives further insight into what he meant.

I have been privileged to visit Israel twice, and both times the place identified as Shepherds’ Field, believed to be where shepherds were when the angels appeared announcing Christ’s birth, was a favorite for me. There were actual ancient sheepfolds carved into the hillsides where shepherds kept their sheep, and the guides shared with us what sacrificial lives shepherds led. The life of a good shepherd there is still a very demanding, continually active one, even more so in the days when Christ spoke. A shepherd must know each sheep individually, he must clear dangerous paths for the sheep to walk, he must lead the sheep to good and healthy pastures and protect them from dangers and predators. At night, the sheep are gathered in a pen for safety. There in Shepherds’ Field are deep caves and pens without doors. The shepherd on duty gives up the comfort of home to stay overnight with the sheep. He will stretch out his body across the opening and will sleep at the gate to the pen. The shepherd puts himself at risk to prevent harm from coming to his sheep. The shepherd literally, in a variety of ways, lays down his life, puts aside his own comfort and desires, for the sheep. This life is its own kind of chosen and willing suffering.

Good parents do the same types of things for their children. These parents give up sleep, time, and money to lovingly raise their children. Parenting is daily and continually laying down your life, your preferences and desires, for your children. As they mature, they will find ways to willingly do that for their parents and their own children. Sometimes it is relatively mild, but there is not a godly parent alive who has not suffered and wept for his or her children.

Jesus is asking us to follow Him by willingly sacrificially responding to the needs of others and giving up our own comforts and conveniences for their benefit as needed. Jesus laid down everything for me. How can I specifically choose today to sacrificially deny myself for others?

  • Jesus, I choose to follow You in the way of loving suffering, laying down my life for everyone and anyone, whether or not I believe they deserve it.