Imagine the criminal being sentenced for a crime.
The more shocking the crime the more it will help us to grasp the full force of God’s love and the true meaning of mercy.
The hired man on hearing sentence pronounced is likely to add; “and I hope they throw away the key!”
The good shepherd on the other hand stands before the judge and doesn’t plead for leniency or mitigation but rather offers himself – his life – to take the place of the guilty prisoner and serve the time on his behalf.
The hired man simply runs away. The good shepherd lays down his life.
This image also helps to explain the difference between our understanding of mercy and God’s understanding.
Our understanding is little more than mitigation, leniency, a lighter sentence whereas Gods understanding is paying the full price on behalf of another.
The pain and the price of injustice, of mercy, do not disappear magically, rather it is always being absorbed in human flesh and ultimately in the Godhead – there are no short-cuts.
So what do you think; are you more hired man or good shepherd? I think I’m more hired man!
Finally, the image helps to explain the difference between a job and a vocation.