“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
In this passage, Jesus Christ reveals himself as the Good Shepherd of a flock – the Church. He cares deeply for the sheep of his flock, and desires to act in accordance with the Father’s will for their benefit; in fact, he loves his flock so much that he is willing to lay down his life for it.
When a wolf arrives to attack a shepherd’s flock, he stands for their defense – to protect his beloved sheep. In such scenarios, a staff would be the weapon of choice for the shepherd; he would use it to guide his sheep away from the wolf, and to strike the wolf as it encroached into the territory of the sheep. Essentially, the staff is the shepherd’s utility weapon – strong enough to defend a lunge, and light enough to swing.
Therefore, as the enemy (Satan) launches an attack on the Church – the Good Shepherd defends us with his mighty staff. Consider Psalm 23:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
As danger encroaches into the territory of your life – be comforted by the protective staff of Jesus Christ, which shields us from the threat of the enemy.
However, we must realize that the staff has more than one purpose. Aside from its implementation as an assault weapon, the staff was also relied upon for discipline. Shepherds would use this very same tool of defense to correct the sheep in error; as sheep wandered from the flock, the shepherd would strike the animals with the staff and guide it back into place.
Our Lord does the same thing with the Church. As we wander of His straight and narrow path, he corrects us in our error; the Spirit acts to convict us, and make us aware of our mistakes – that we might return to the proper path. Though this conviction might be painful, it is ultimately for our own good.
The rod of correction imparts wisdom…
In the end we can be certain that Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd, is constantly at work for our own benefit. Whether for protection or correction, the Good Shepherd swings his staff for the welfare of his flock – that they might follow him on the straight and narrow path into eternity.