Philip Keller in A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 writes, “When all is said and done the welfare of any flock is entirely dependent upon the management afforded them by their owner.
“The tenant sheepman on the farm next to my first ranch was the most indifferent manager I had ever met. He was not concerned about the condition of his sheep. His land was neglected. He gave little or no time to his flock, letting them pretty well forage for themselves as best they could, both summer and winter.”
“They fell prey to dogs, cougars and rustlers. Every year these poor creatures were forced to gnaw away at brown fields and impoverished pastures. Every winter there was a shortage of nourishing hay and wholesome grain to feed the hungry ewes. Shelter to safeguard and protect the suffering sheep from storms and blizzards was scanty and inadequate.
They had only polluted, muddy water to drink. There had been a lack of salt and other trace minerals needed to offset their sickly pastures. In their thin, weak and diseased condition these poor sheep were a pathetic sight.”
“To all their distress, the heartless, selfish owner seemed utterly callous and indifferent. He simply didn’t not care. What if his sheep DID want green grass; fresh water; shade; safety or shelter from the storms? What if they did want relief from wounds, bruises, disease and parasites?
He ignored their needs-he couldn’t care less. Why should he-they were just sheep-fit only for the slaughterhouse.”
Thankfully, Jesus, is not that kind of Shepherd. He is the very antithesis of the hired hand and the neglectful shepherd. In one of the great I AM statements in John’s Gospel, Jesus claims to be the consummate Shepherd.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.” (John 10:11-14).
One of the most poignant portrayals of Jesus is him in the midst of sheep holding a a little lamb. But it is more than just a feel-good metaphor.
Jesus is our protector. Our guide. Our defender. He diligently watches over us. Gently prods us. And lovingly provides for us. Homer Hailey commented about Jesus’ role in relation to our needs this way. “Man needed–and needs a Shepherd to guide him through pleasant pastures and by placid streams and to provide for him a shelter in the time of storm and a fold wherein is found protection.”
Jesus “I AM” claim is an affirmation that He is the prophesied Messiah (Ezek 34:23). In fact, it is an assertion of his Godhood. Just like Jehovah is pictured as the Shepherd of Israel (Ezek 34:11-16), so is Jesus, the Son of God, the one Shepherd of the one sheepfold.
True to his word, on Friday The Good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep. For me. For you. But on Sunday, God raised him from the dead to become “The Great Shepherd” and “The Chief Shepherd. (Heb 13:20; 1 Pet. 5:4).
Hear the voice of the Shepherd? He’s calling you to follow Him and safely dwell in his fold.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman