The Good Shepherd theme runs through much of scripture and those who heard Jesus speaking would have been familiar with such passages as Ezekiel 34, Psalm 23, and Isaiah 40.
Ezekiel makes clear that God is the Great Shepherd and that He gives shepherding responsibilities to many along the way throughout history. However, the point of Ezekiel 34 is that the designated shepherds have not been adequate and have not been obedient. Instead they have been selfish and have used God’s good gifts for their own purposes. God will reassert his power and authority. In the New Testament, Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who comes to fulfill the plan of God for His people. He is the great corrective to this misappropriation of the shepherds along the way.
John 10 tells us that there is one true entrance into the sheepfold and that is by means of the one true Good Shepherd. Christ’s shepherding actions bring us into the true and right relationship with God, the Great Shepherd.
Some of the class members shared the significance of the shepherd concept in their lives: experience with the character of sheep and how we are like them and need guidance and care; the fear of sheep when approached by another person and/or voice; Psalm 23 as a blessing and encouragement and as a saving experience during troubling times; knowing God’s shepherding care in times of difficulty and in times of challenging decision-making; and the wonderful use of the shepherd concept in teaching children confidence in God and His saving and loving power.
Two scriptural reminders of this important picture:
- Isaiah 40:11 (NIV) He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
- Hebrews 13:20 (ESV) Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
May you know the comfort and guidance of the Good Shepherd in your life this week.