Saturday, February 4, 2017
Lord Jesus Christ: Our Good, Great and Chief Shepherd
The Shepherd’s Psalm, namely Psalm 23, looks forward prophetically to our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31, etc.), Who is the Good (John 10:11,14), Great (Hebrews 13:20), and Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). As the Good Shepherd, Jesus contrasts His relationship to the sheep, which is loving, guiding and protective, with that of others who seek to harm the sheep for their own selfish interests (John 10).
Jesus enters the sheepfold, which symbolizes His followers who trust Him as the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven, by the door, for He Himself is the only Door to salvation. Only a thief or robber would climb into the sheepfold by jumping the fence, or by lowering himself from a tree, rather than by entering through the door (John 10:1-2; 7,9).
Similarly, false prophets or teachers deceive the sheep by telling them there are other passageways to Heaven. Often they are disguised in sheep's clothing, but they are actually predatory wolves (Matthew 7:15). We can be saved only by His grace through our faith in Christ, not by works or by following other religions (Ephesians 2:8-9; Matthew 7:13-14).
God designed us in His image (Genesis 1:27), for His good pleasure (Ephesians 1:5,9; Philippians 2:13), to enjoy fellowship with us (1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 John 1:3). Our hearts, souls and minds are hardwired to desire communication with Him (Acts 17:27-28).
The porter, or gatekeeper, who opens the door to the Shepherd (John 10:3) may therefore represent that innermost part of our being designed to trust Jesus by hearing His voice (1 Kings 19:12), not only listening to Him but following Him, for in Him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17: 28).
Jesus’ tender call is not a universal, one-size-fits all appeal to the masses, but a specific invitation unique to each of us, which is why each of us has a distinct salvation experience (John 3:3-8) based on His knowledge of each of us from before the beginning of time (Psalm 139:16). He knows each of us intimately, completely and how best to woo us (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Some are led to the Lord by a loving parent in the family setting (Ephesians 6:4; Proverbs 22:6); others may first respond in anger to a fiery street preacher, then feel conviction from the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:4). Still others may visit a church expecting a social outing and emerge born again (John 3:3-8) as a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) when they hear God’s Word (Romans 10:17; 1 Corinthians 1:17).
Jesus may first knock on the door of our heart (Revelation 3:20) through tragedy (Luke 15:17-18), through dissatisfaction with the emptiness of the world (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3), or through the majesty of His creation (Romans 1:20).
He calls each of His sheep by name and leads us out (John 10:3) of the miry clay of sin, setting us on the solid rock that is Himself (Psalm 18:1-2 40:2; 1 Corinthians 10:4). Once He rescues us, He goes before us and shows us the way through His Word (Psalm 119:105), His love (1 John 4:7-8), and His example (1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Peter 2:21).
Once we have experienced His truth (Psalm 31:5), love (1 John 4:7-8) and grace (1 Peter 5:10), we will follow only Him and not be misled by listening to false teachers (1 John 4:1), for we fear and flee from them, just as sheep will not listen to, obey or follow anyone but their own Shepherd (John 10:3-5).
Salvation in Jesus’ day was not found in the religious system of the Pharisees, for they had ignored God’s Word to favor their own traditions (Mark 7:8; Colossians 2:8). Jesus compared them to thieves and robbers who attempted to steal, kill and destroy the sheep, but the flock did not follow their strange voices (John 10:8-10).
In contrast, any man entering by Jesus will be saved, will have liberty in daily life, and will find bountiful provision, for Jesus came to resurrect us from death in our sins (Ephesians 2:1,5; Colossians 2:13), to give us eternal life (John 3:16), and to give us life more abundantly (John 10:8-10).
Jesus did all this by being the Good Shepherd Who knows His sheep, Who is known by His sheep, and Who gave His life for the sheep. We cannot trust a false teacher or prophet, for we are not his; he does not care for us; and he will abandon us in danger to save himself. When he flees, he allows our enemy the wolf, or Satan, to pursue, capture, and scatter us (John 10:11-14).
It is only Jesus who owns the sheep, for He bought us with the price of His own shed blood (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23). Just as God the Father knows Jesus His Son, so Jesus knows His Father, and He followed His Father’s perfect will by laying down His life to save us (John 10:11-14).
Jesus told His disciples that His Father loved Him because He was willing to sacrifice His own life to save us. He obeyed His Father’s commandment to lay down His life and to take it up again by His own power (John 10:15-18)
Jesus foretold the plan that He would later reveal fully to the apostle Paul (Romans 11:11-25), namely, that He did not come only to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but also to bring sheep of a different fold and to lead them. They too would hear His voice, be united with the others in a single fold, and follow Him as the only Shepherd (John 10:16).
Not only Jews, but also Gentiles, could call on His Name (Acts 4:12), be saved, and enter the assembly of believers who trust in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only path to salvation. Sadly, many of the Jews who heard Him were not His sheep, and therefore failed to believe Him and be saved, and even tried to stone Him (John 10:26,31).
Praise God that Jesus Christ is the Shepherd not only for His chosen Hebrew people who believe, but for all who hear Him, trust Him and follow His voice! He alone is good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon [Him] (Psalm 86:5). Praise God, as we shall see in future posts, He promises eternal security for His sheep!
© 2017 Laurie Collett