The Shepherd who was King

The Good ShepherdPreparation

Prior to presenting the Communion talk, we recommend singing or performing a hymn based on Psalm 23. There are many variations, although Keith Greene’s is the one that moves my heart the most. 

Introduction

Q. What are some of the most well known images of Jesus?
One is that Jesus calls himself The Good Shepherd.

In John 10 Jesus explicitly refers to himself as the good shepherd.

John 10:11-18
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

“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. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that 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 again. This command I received from my Father.”

Jesus’ inspiration from scripture

Q. Which OT scripture comes to mind?
Obviously Psalm 23. Most people can even quote the first few verses.

Q. What adjectives come to mind when we think of a shepherd?
Typically things like comforting, patient, nurturing, guiding, sacrificial, and so on. Yet to the Jews of the first century, other images and OT passages would also be awakened.

Q. What other OT passages besides Psalm 23 come to mind?

  • Isaiah 44:28 refers to Cyrus, King of Persia, as a shepherd.
  • Psalm 78:71-72 refers to another King (David) as shepherding his flock, his nation.
  • Ezekiel 34 refers to the leaders of Israel as shepherds. But God doesn’t call them good but rather bad shepherds. Thus, God’s response to their shepherding was to send a good shepherd to them. In fact he says that He himself will do the shepherding, and that he will send another shepherd in the likeness of David.

So although Psalm 23 most easily comes to mind for us, it is likely that Jesus, in John 10, is referring to himself as the good shepherd of Ezekiel in contrast with those selfish, lazy, ambivolent shepherds.

Matthew 2:4-6 describes Herod’s search for the infant Messiah. Combining the terms “shepherd” and “ruler” was not a foreign concept to these Bible scholars. This prophecy from Micah 5 seemed to make complete sense to these men. In this passage, the shepherd is also called a ruler, a commander and even a mauling lion.

“When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Let’s make one more comparison – between Matthew 25 and Ezekiel 34.

Matthew 25:31-33
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”

Ezekiel 34:17
“As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats.”

Q. So, how does this change your view of Jesus the shepherd?
For me, it revolutionizes the image of a shepherd. Honestly, I believe the Jews listening to Jesus had a much clearer picture of what a shepherd was. They understood the bravery, the danger, the sacrifice. And they also understood the leadership role.

Just like when we hear the word “disciple” we know it is much more than a “member”- so the followers of Christ understood the range of meaning that accompanied his identity as a shepherd.

Jesus the Shepherd Ruler KingRamifications for you and me

Q. So, how should we be feeling?

  1. I can only speak for myself, but this view of the shepherd as king comforts me. Jesus, my shepherd will guide me through the valleys of the shadows and dismal fear.
  2. This view gives me confidence and security. Jesus will keep me fed – not just today but every day.
  3. This perspective makes me proud of my Lord. He embodies the so-called feminine strengths of concern – as well as the so-called masculine strengths of self-sacrificial rulership.
  4. This knowledge energizes me. Jesus once again lives up to the prophecies uttered centuries before – but embraces them and defines himself by them. Do you think it was others who defined Jesus as the messiah? No, he knew well each prophecy and made each his own.
  5. This truth emboldens me. Jesus is not just for the weak. Jesus clearly designates himself as the shepherd who rules, the shepherd who knows if you have been “naughty or nice” and will judge our hearts on the last day.
  6. Finally, this fact humbles me. I need a concerned shepherd. And I need a self-sacrifing ruler. I am not independent and autonomous. I am not an independent member of the flock. Jsus does care if I have wandered off from the flock and from his presence. And he inserts himself into my world to pull me back in.

Prayer

Dear Father, please forgive us for our human, weak images of Jesus. Forgive us for humanizing him. Give us the proper vision of our shepherd king. Help us feel the comfort that comes from knowing that Jesus cares for each of us. And help us feel the coruage that comes from knowing that the king of kings is on my side! We pray through our great shepherd and ruler, Jesus. Amen.

Reference

Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus – by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg, P45

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