The Good Shepherd gives new life beyond the grave
From a sermon by Basil of Seleucia (5th century)
For the sake of his flock the shepherd was sacrificed as though he were a sheep. He did not refuse death. He did not destroy his executioners as he had the power to do, for his passion was not forced on him. He laid down his life for his sheep of his own free will. “I have the power to lay it down,” he said, “and I have the power to take it up again.” By his passion he made atonement for our evil passions, by his death he cured our death, by his tomb he robbed the tomb, by the nails that pierced his flesh he destroyed the foundations of hell.
Death held sway until Christ died. The grave was bitter, our prison was indestructible, until the Shepherd went down and brought to his sheep confined there the good news of their release. His appearance among them gave them a pledge of their resurrection and called them to a new life beyond the grave. “The good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep” and so seeks to win their love.
[excerpt from HOMILY 26.2]