Feb 23, 2016, 10:08 AM
Invariably it is said of our shepherd that he is the Good, Great and Chief Shepherd. These adjectives portray a growing reliance in the person and character of the shepherd. He does not remain an ordinary shepherd but becomes better at it. Thus he graduates in the eyes of the sheep from good to great, excelling in his ability, reliability, faithfulness and trust governing the relationship. We cannot talk of a shepherd where there is no sheep; the two are inextricably linked. A strong bond knits the shepherd to the sheep and vice versa.
Think about this, anyone you call sheep today will take offence because sheep have been qualified as stupid animals whose behaviour is termed sheepish. Calling somebody a sheep in modern day parlance is humiliating and insulting, to say the least. Well, the beauty of being a sheep in the biblical context is captivating. As sheep, all you need to do is follow the shepherd. He provides you with everything. King David was a shepherd par excellence. Here’s how in the 23rd psalm he described the role of his God whom he considers his shepherd.
“The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want (lack anything). He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.” Isn’t it amazing that the sheep is totally dependent on the shepherd for everything – its food, shelter, security, welfare and well-being! When we look closely, the sheep accomplishes nothing on its own. It is shepherd-dependent.
We observe that in the first instance the sheep lacks nothing. When the Lord is our shepherd we shall lack nothing, absolutely nothing. The reason is that the shepherd knows what the sheep needs and he provides it and provides for it before the need becomes apparent. Secondly, the psalmist agrees that the shepherd would lead the sheep to green pastures, understand green grass. Such a provision is a constant feature; grass is all around. Not only grass, the shepherd ensures that the sheep is watered in all seasons. The sheep does not have to worry about where it will get its next meal from. The shepherd leads the sheep. And because he has its interest at heart, it trusts in his leadership, to ward off any danger.
Thirdly, the shepherd puts the heart of his sheep at rest by restoring its soul. He leads them the right way – through the paths of righteousness. Because of all the shepherd does for the sheep, it cannot fear or entertain doubts about its shepherd. Whatever he does is governed by his love for the sheep. It will be disastrous for the sheep to decide to run its own life because that will lead to its downfall; it will go astray, go hungry and would be at the mercy of robbers and wild animals. It is in its best interest to cling to the shepherd.
Jesus is that shepherd. He declares; “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) “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.” (John 10:14) It is a close-knit relationship that has its roots on the dependence of the sheep with regard to the shepherd and the sacrifice the shepherd is willing and ready to make for the sheep.
Total dependence is what God demands of his sheep, total commitment and reliance as well. Jesus warns that his shepherding cannot be compared to that of a hireling who is put in charge of the sheep. The hireling has no stakes in the game; in case of danger he abandons the sheep to its fate in order to save his own life. The Good Shepherd would rather lay down his life for the sheep. That is exactly what the Lord has done.“I lay down my life only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up.” (John 17-18)
The reason our Lord Jesus went to the cross was for the salvation of his sheep - you and me. “For without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22b) Sin is not forgiven where blood is not shed. The blood of rams, goats and pigeons were a foreshadowing of things to come when the Lamb of God, The Messiah, will offer his blood for humanity.
Shepherds are by nature caregivers prone to be of service to the people whom they serve. Much of the time though they want to be served.
Here’s how our Lord Jesus defines his role as a shepherd. The “Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve; and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
Your life and mine are in safe hands when we follow the CHIEF, GREAT and GOOD SHEPHERD.