An old Chinese proverb tells the story of a fox that was captured by a tiger. The fox said, "You can't eat me because the King has made me the leader of all the animals." The tiger did not believe him because the fox was crafty. So the fox said to the tiger, "Follow me and see if any animal in the forest challenges me." The tiger agreed to this and followed directly behind the fox as the fox began his walk through the forest. To the tiger's amazement it turned out to be exactly as the fox had said. Not a single animal they encountered challenged the fox. Indeed every animal they met fled in sheer panic. After several such encounters the tiger finally agreed that the fox was the leader of all the animals and let him go. It goes to show that it is always easier to lead when you have a tiger backing you up.
I choose to tell you this story for a simple reason: we need to stop and examine our relationship with the Christ the Tiger. It is important to do so in the light of the many things that he has said in this chapter about who the real leader is and what real leadership is about. Jesus directly challenges those who call themselves, the priests and prelates, the Pharisees and Saduccees, the lawyers and Levites who make known the Law and how to follow it. There is a controversy about Jesus having healed a man who was born blind and did this healing on the Sabbath. In doing so, Jesus provokes the leadership of the faith into finally dealing with him and this leads to his death on the cross.
You might wonder why Jesus would do such a thing? In making his challenge, Jesus labels those who claim to be decent shepherds and following God pretenders, thieves and robbers, and most of all he calls them blind. He boldly pronounces that he is the better leader and that he is God by telling them “I am the Good Shepherd”. But we need to be careful here, this is not a battle of political parties, trying to get someone to vote for them. Jesus goes much further than that. He claims that he can bring life to those who follow him. The heart of the argument that Jesus makes is this: “The thief comes for nothing but to steal, to kill and to destroy. I have come that they might have life and have life abundantly.” This means that those who try to live a life without the Shepherd live the shell of a life – a live that is not able to give life and a life that is not able to truly and full live.
So, in a real way not only do we learn something about Christ the tiger, we learn that there is a promise about having him in our lives. It is not just a promise. It is more than a huge promise. It is a life giving life, life transforming promise that, when you follow and walk before him, your life is never going to be the same again. It is also important to know that your Shepherd is going to lead you to where you need to be. This means you are not always going to go where you want to, but where you need to be, for your sake, for the sake of others and most of all for God’s glory.
We need to consider carefully how we live before the Lord, knowing not only that he is risen from the dead but that he is also Lord and King of all creation. Holy and faithful living is not just for those who are in the leadership, especially the clergy. It is for all who would walk before the Lord and with the Lord, so that we are with him even in the valley of the shadow of death, we continue to be who we are and continue to become the people that God created – filled with his peace, clothed with his love and moved by his power. We are to become the full life that God desires in the face of others.
So let us learn how to walk before the King and to live our lives to their divinely inspired fullest for the sake of his coming kingdom.