Following the Good Shepherd

When Jesus walked among men, He found few true followers. Granted, thousands assembled and partook of the loaves and fishes, untold numbers sought Him out for His healing beneficence, and admiring throngs cast their cloaks on the ground before Him during His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. People followed Him along the roads of Galilee, up and down the hills of Judea, along the way from Bethany and in the streets of Jerusalem.

But being a true follower meant more than merely accompanying Him. During His mortal ministry, He proclaimed, "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." (Matt. 7:14.)

Did His words portend the absence of so many at gatherings of the Saints in future times?

He is called "the Good Shepherd." He not only went into the mountains seeking the lost one that strayed, but He also gave His life for the entire flock. He taught, "it is not the will of the Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish." (Matt. 18:14.)

"I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep," He said. (John 10:11.)

Our finite minds cannot comprehend His infinite Atonement. Many cannot even comprehend His life and ministry. Some claim there is no Messiah, no Savior who came among men. Others acknowledge that there was one known as Jesus the Christ, but say He was nothing more than a good man, a great teacher, a learned but wandering rabbi.

Jesus recognized how the populace rejected Him. One of His statements that best reflects His feeling of loneliness is recorded in one of the Gospels: "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." (Luke 9:58.)

" 'No room in the inn' was not a singular expression of rejection — just the first," said President Thomas S. Monson of the First Presidency. "Yet He invites you and me to host Him. 'Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.' (Rev. 3:20.)

"Who was this Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief? . . . He is the Son of God. He is the author of our salvation. He beckons, 'Follow me.' (Matt. 4:19.) He instructs, 'Go, and do thou likewise.' (Luke 10:37.) He pleads, 'keep my commandments.' (John 14:15.)

"Let us follow Him. Let us emulate His example. Let us obey His word." (Conference Report, April 1992, p. 84; or Ensign, May 1992, p. 60.)

Accepted by relatively few, Jesus, nevertheless, sweat drops of blood in anguish and gave His life on the cross. Why? So that all would be rescued from the grave and so that all who follow in His footsteps might have eternal life.

He had detractors in His day, men and women filled with pride and vanity who could not — would not — accept and acknowledge Him as the Son of God. They were not contented to merely reject Him; they worked long and hard to persuade others also to turn away from Him. Some were not satisfied until they turned public opinion against Him; until He was led as a lamb to the slaughter; until he was scourged, beaten and crucified. It is a sad fact that detractors of "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6) are as active in our day as were those in His day. There are those today who scourge Jesus in their minds, who reject Him and His teachings. And, having done so, they relentlessly work to persuade others to reject Him.

Ever the Good Shepherd, He stands ready to rescue the very souls of those who endeavor to destroy His work as well as those who strive to further it. President Gordon B. Hinckley said, "Even to those who reject Him, He is 'the light [which] shineth in darkness.' (John 1:5. [Conference Report, October 1991, p. 3; or Ensign, November 1991, p. 5.] )

It was a challenge for the people of Jesus' day to abide by His teachings. It was easier for them to fall by the wayside than to walk the narrow path and enter at the strait gate. From then until now, those who take upon themselves His name have the choice to be quitters, to abandon the more excellent way in favor of the more easy way of the world; or to be valiant followers of Jesus Christ, to forsake the enticings of the world for the blessings of His gospel.

It remains a challenge to live "in the world." But adherence to laws of the Lord — answering to the voice of the Good Shepherd — will bring happiness and peace.

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