THE GOSPELS 91
THE GOOD SHEPHERD
In our studies, we have now come to a series of dissertations by Jesus in which He covers a number of important subjects. The first and foremost of these lessons identifies Jesus as our Shepherd, and points out our relationship to Him in this capacity. We need to pause and seriously consider this lecture, for the main points are often overlooked by many today who place their emphasis on being a part of some group called a “church”, and put their trust in that. From this lesson we will learn that a good Shepherd has a personal interest in each individual sheep, and that is the relationship we should have with Jesus.
The shepherd is a very important personality in the Biblical record. Abraham was a shepherd, and his problem with Lot was the result of their flocks needing pasture space. This showed the benevolent character of Abraham when he gave the best grazing land to Lot. David was a shepherd and the keeper of the family sheep. It was to the shepherds that the Angels first announced the birth of Jesus in the New Testament, and Jesus called those who were entrusted with the spiritual welfare, unity and love of the church, shepherds. It behooves us, therefore, to carefully consider the characteristics of the shepherd when Jesus calls Himself our Shepherd.
First, let us note that Jesus clearly distinguishes between the professional hired shepherd and the shepherd who owns the sheep he herds. Jesus says that He is not a hireling, but that the sheep belong to Him. The Father created us and we are His. Therefore, Jesus says that He is responsible for the family sheep. He is the “only begotten Son”, and so He is number one in the Family of God, the Elder Brother of all those who choose to be in that Family.
The outstanding characteristic of a real shepherd was that he, being responsible for the care and feeding, the protection and safety of his sheep, was willing to consider that responsibility more important than his own life. When David volunteered to fight Goliath, and Saul didn’t think he could do it, he told Saul that a lion and a bear had threatened his sheep and he had killed both of them. Shepherds protected their sheep with their own lives.
They also sought the best pasture and the most comfortable surroundings for them. David, in the 23rd Psalm, said, “The Lord is my Shepherd…He makes me to lie down in green pastures, and leads me by still waters”. John tells us that God loves us, and that He wants only the best for us. For this reason, the shepherd constantly disciplines the sheep to keep them from straying away from the safety of the flock. When we pray, God does not always answer our prayers the way we want Him to. He loves us and knows what is best, and so His answers are to give us only what is good for us and best for our lives.
Finally, it is important to realize that the good shepherd never sees his sheep as a flock, but is concerned for each one individually. At another time, Jesus said a shepherd would leave the main body of his sheep to go search for one that was lost. The lost are Jesus’ main concern. It is a mistake to consider yourself a “member of the group”. You are a child of God with a personal relationship to Him. Our human mind cannot comprehend a God who can give personal attention to every soul on earth. But neither can we comprehend a God who is able to encompass the entire universe in His controlling hand, and yet know every sparrow that falls. True faith is realizing that Heaven is not some place where God sits on His throne and looks down on the earth. It is a state of being, surrounding the glory of God, beyond all dimensions of space and time, and of a spiritual essence we will know only when eternity dawns and He takes us to be with Him forever.
Because Jesus is all of these things for us, we should constantly rejoice that we are His, and, resting in His peace, share our lives with Him in prayer and adoration every day of our lives. The Good Shepherd is there for His sheep, and His sheep are those who choose to be His, and who want what He has to give of goodness and righteousness and peace. He says all others are not His sheep,
so the choice is still yours.