Networks of railroad lines cross over the countryside, moving people and things from one location to another. As planners designed the original rail lines, they had to take into account the rise and fall of the land. A path had to be planned over the plains, across rivers, past mountains, and through steep valleys. Even when starting with the most gentle of grades, eventually a geographic difficulty would be encountered and they would need to encompass a new plan.
Imagine crossing a gentle land, then approaching a deep divide with sheer drops cutting away from the ground ahead. Stone sides seem to go down forever, plunging with such a severe fall in height that it makes my head spin. I know that if there is not some alternative measure, this trip ends right here and now. I also know that I cannot possibly force such a thing from thin air. I need a bridge that I cannot construct to move safely from one side to the other.
Now imagine that same location, the same sheer drop. This time however, a bridge is in place. It is safe, secure, solid and just waiting to provide a way to move across the decline. I think we can all agree that this is a good thing.
Fourteen words, just fourteen words and yet they create a bridge. Jesus is the good shepherd, the good bridge. Not a mere structure to move people from one place to another, but as one who lays down his life for his sheep. Starting with the first two words, “I am,” I hear an echo of Exodus three, where God is speaking to Moses. Moses, in a moment of witnessing God’s glory, listens and hears the words, “I Am Who I Am.” (Exodus 3:14) Notice again how the phrase starts, “I am the good shepherd.”
I am is a shepherd, but not just any shepherd. He is the good shepherd. The word, kalos means good; but this is not any ordinary kind of good. This type of good inspires and motivates others with a noble and pure goodness. This is the word of one who speaks with authority, who claims his name with no wondering or worrying.
Again, the words do not end here. The good shepherd is not merely a presence, but takes action in giving His life for the sheep. It is the ultimate moment that speaks to the bridge being there, safe and ready; and Jesus being the bridge. It is the bridge of a shepherd who has chosen to give His life for His sheep. It ties into the word of Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Chris died for us.” The good shepherd chose to be the bridge so that we could cross the divide that we could not cross on our own from death to life.