John 10:14-15 “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.”
Many years ago, when one of our boys was just a toddler, he was with his mom at Costco. They were in the check-out line and my son was sitting in the cart seat, facing his mother. From there he could see who was behind him. There were two women next in line. He gently pushed him mom’s arm to move her out of the way, so he could address these two ladies. He proceeded to get the attention of one and looked at her with all the innocence a child can muster. He asked her, “Do you know why Jesus died on the cross?” “No,” she hesitantly replied. Pointing his chubby little index finger at her, he said, “He died for your sins.”
At that moment the gospel message and the death of Christ became intensely personal. The question is, “Did Christ die for the sins of humanity, generally?”, or “Did he die for my sins, specifically?” The invitation is for all. The application is specific and personal. How do we know this? Because love knows. Love is not general. Love, when given, is very specific.
Jesus reaffirmed that in the verses above, where it says, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” To know the sheep he has to know each sheep, just as each sheep knows him.
Awhile back when I was going through a curriculum on spiritual formation I learned the word, particularization. Particularization in this sense means that in the sea of all humanity, over all time, God sees you as a particular individual that he knows. He knows your history. He knows your motivation. He knows every page of your story. Not only that, he knows your future. And with all of that in mind, Jesus said, “I know my sheep.” and he said, “I lay down my life for the sheep.”
That is love. It’s general in that he loves the world. And it’s very intimate and personal. He knows you, and you, and you. And he loves you. And he died for you so your sins could be covered by his grace and love and you could be reconciled to him. That’s a very particular kind of love. And that’s the love he invites us to have for him. Love for him is not a general love for an impersonal God. It’s a love for Jesus, the Son. Which then leads us to greater love for the Father and Spirit.
As we get closer to Good Friday, rejoice in Jesus’ love for you. He knows you. He did this for you – and me.
“Lord, we thank you for a love that knows me and chooses to love me anyway. Thank you for the sacrifice you made for me. Guide me in loving you in a more personal way. As I walk through this week toward Easter, give me new understanding of who you are and how you love the world, including me. In Christ, I pray, Amen.
If you’ve missed out on the previous Holy Week devotionals, you can start here.
Good Friday’s Devotional can be found here.