by Christopher Harbin

Laying It All Down
Christopher B. Harbin
Psalm 23; Acts 4:5-12; John 10:11-18; 1 John 3:16-24

The twenty-third Psalm is a beautiful poem. We memorize it and read it at Funerals. We post it on our walls, frame it in needlework, and cite it in cards and letters. We recite it or sing it when we find ourselves in need of comfort. The meaning of the Psalm, however, often eludes us still. Its meaning does not come clear so much in our moments of anguish and grief. Its meaning takes form in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ--The Lord God, our Shepherd, come in flesh and blood, laying down his life on behalf of his sheep.

This is the focus of celebrating the Lord's Table. We gather in remembrance of what Jesus has done for us, laying down his very life that we might enjoy full fellowship with God. The elements of bread and wine remind us of Christ's physical sacrifice for our spiritual needs. The call to mind that in order to break down any and all barriers to our fellowship with God, God chose to go as far as the cross, leaving us the challenge and call to accept the sufficiency of Jesus' life laid down on our behalf.

On one hand, it is a simple picture to process. On another hand, it stretches beyond the limits of our comprehension. Why would God go so far, do so much to allow us access to the throne of heaven--we who so often refuse to have anything to do with God?

Sheep in the field give little thought or attention to their shepherds. They may come for feeding time, allow the shepherd to shear them, care for them, and even follow certain directions toward a full stomach. They are not overly concerned, however, with becoming friends with and worrying over the desire or will of the one who cares for them. They are consumed rather, with eating, drinking, and procreating. They are consumed with themselves and with one another.

Yet it is for people just like such sheep for whom Christ lay down his all. The point was to care for our needs ...

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