Have you ever had a bad substitute teacher? I recall hearing about one at my high school. He was a fairly regular substitute until one day, he was talking to one of my classmates who was going through a hard time. He supposedly told her that she would be better off committing suicide. This was never proven, but our regular teacher believed the student and was so angry that she never allowed this substitute into her classroom again.
This reminds me of our Gospel reading from this Sunday. John 10:12-13 reads, “He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” This substitute was not invested into the lives of his students. He didn’t care for them as our regular teacher did, so when a difficult situation came up, he fled. He didn’t try to care for the student; instead, he gave uncaring, selfish advice. Essentially, he said, “It’s not my problem. You deal with it.”
Our regular teacher, on the other hand, was compassionate, because she was invested into her students’ lives. She was there for the student. She didn’t flee; she was willing to do whatever it took to bring this student back from the brink. She saw her student’s pain and said, “This is your problem, but it is also my problem because I care about you. Let me help you.”
Jesus is our regular teacher; he cares, because he is not just a substitute, but the real thing. John 10:14-15 reads, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Jesus is invested in our lives. He knows our pains, our weaknesses, our strengths and our joys. He is willing to go far beyond the extra mile to help us. Indeed, he cares for and loves us so much that he laid down his life for us. In this life, there will be many hired hands who claim to care for us and then abandon us when we need them most. But we can rest assured that the Shepherd will never leave us, because of the great love with which he loves us.