Jesus: the Great

Shepherd of the Sheep

Jesus is identified or addressed by various names in the New Testament; for example, the Son of Man, the Lamb of God, the Alpha and Omega, etc. These names communicate and convey significance with respect to His Person and His work. Evidently the names of Jesus are very important, and we ought to take time to think about, and meditate on, them for our spiritual profit. His names reveal his character; His names reveal His roles. One special name which communicates and conveys peculiar comfort and peace is 'Shepherd'.

The compassionate Shepherd

Hebrews 13:20 reads, "Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen." What does it mean to say that Jesus is the great Shepherd of the sheep?

As our great Shepherd, Jesus feels genuine compassion towards us in our distress. Matthew 9:35 reads, "And Jesus was going about all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd." Jesus, as the great Shepherd, beheld the multitudes going astray, possessing various pressing needs, requiring support and comfort, and His heart tenderly went out to them. He empathized with their struggles and sympathized with their suffering.

How are you feeling right now? How has your week been? We never need to feel alone. We never need to feel forsaken. We never need to feel unloved and abandoned because Jesus feels compassion for us in our distress. What is your particular distress – physical illness, marital tension, relational strife, financial strain? In your distress, remember that Jesus feels for you, and with you. Here is at least one person who identifies with our pain – Jesus the great Shepherd. He feels genuine, heartfelt pity towards His sheep. Different ones may say to us in our distress, "I feel for you; I will pray for you. It just bothers me that you are going through this suffering." And, at times, there is a ring of hollowness and insincerity in their words; but that is never true of Jesus. He deeply feels for us, and with us, for He is the embodiment of compassion par excellence.

The nurturing Shepherd

As our great Shepherd, Jesus ministers to us by feeding us His Word. Mark 6:34 reads, "And when He went ashore, He saw a great multitude, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things." The multitude of people needed instruction, wisdom, and counsel, and in His role as a Shepherd, that is exactly what Jesus provided. He gave spiritual nurturing.

You too need to be fed by the Shepherd; you need to be fed by His Word. Maybe you have a perplexing question that you find very imposing, and that is weighing heavy on your mind, and you are desperately groping for an answer. Maybe you are wondering in what direction your life should be moving. Maybe a disturbing family issue has arisen in your life that requires immediate attention and decision; and you need to know how God's truth and standards figure in. Well, take comfort, my friend, because the great Shepherd delights in feeding the sheep. The Shepherd is pleased to give spiritual light.

The caring Shepherd

As our great Shepherd, Jesus protects and guides us. John 10:2 reads, "But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out." Jesus sustains an intensely personal relationship with His sheep. He is intimately knowledgeable of them, and He loves them.

We further read in this passage, "When he puts forth all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice" (Jn. 10:4). Jesus leads His sheep and He shows them the way that they should go; and the sheep follow Him because they know His voice, as those who have entered into spiritual fellowship with Him; and thus they trust Him, knowing that He is faithful.

We further read here, "And a stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers" (Jn. 10:5). So, the sheep know the voice of the Shepherd when He calls. He not only says, "This is the way, walk in it." But He also says, "I am in the way, follow Me." That is good news. You, my Christian friend, should take encouragement in the truth that as one of Christ's sheep, He is pleased to protect and guide you. While you are praying, the Shepherd is pleased to spiritually come, responding to your cry as one of His sheep; and He says, "This is the way, walk in it. Follow Me."

Maybe you need direction now – direction on how to handle that son or that daughter? Or maybe you are seeking for guidance, saying, "Lord, what do you want me to do in this ministry?" Or maybe you are asking, "Lord, how do you want me to relate to this brother or sister?" Or maybe you are pouring out your heart, crying, "Lord, it seems that my enemies are rising on every side and I have no defence. Lord, the wolves are coming in and they look like they are going to devour me." Remember that, as the great Shepherd, He will protect. He staves off the wolves; in fact He will destroy them. As the Psalmist rejoiced, "He leads me beside quiet waters...He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me" (Ps. 23:2b,3b,4). That is encouraging. As your great Shepherd, He protects and guides you. He cares for your well-being.

We read in 1 Peter 5:4, "And when the Chief Shepherd [which means that there are undershepherds of the Chief Shepherd who are to reflect His character and His nature] appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory." And in this same context, we read the exhortation, "casting all your anxiety upon Him [as the Chief Shepherd], because He cares for you." Do you have any anxiety? I suppose that the proper question is not whether you have anxiety, but rather, how much anxiety do you have? It is as the great Shepherd that Jesus receives your anxiety, because it as the Shepherd that He is pleased to carry the burdens of the sheep.

The sacrificing Shepherd

As our Shepherd, Jesus has laid down His life for us. John 10:11 reads that Jesus affirms, "I am the good shepherd;" not simply the great shepherd, but the good shepherd. Jesus, in effect, says, "I am love and nothing but love, and I only do good to My people as the good Shepherd." And as the good Shepherd, He "lays down His life for the sheep" (Jn. 10:11). He has died for the sins of His people. He has died on behalf of sinners so that they might have eternal light. We further read His words, " I am the good Shepherd [I am not here to harm you, I am not here to make your life difficult. I am not here to bring tears of sorrow, misery, and pain into your life]; and I know My own [in a personal way], and My own know Me [and they desire Me]. Even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again" (Jn. 10:14,15,17). Do you see, my brothers and sisters, how much the Shepherd values you? Maybe recently, you have said something like this (in your moment of weakness of faith), "God does not really care for me. God doesn't seem to be interested in what I am going through." Have you said something like that? You know that this cannot be true if it is the case that the good Shepherd has laid down His life for you, the sheep. If He has done that, will He withhold any good thing from you? Will He not freely give to you all things to enjoy?

My friend, never question the goodness of God; never question the mercy of God, regardless of what you are going through or what you are experiencing. Maybe the heavens seem like brass to you now, and God seemingly is not answering your prayers, but never question God because God is goodness, and nothing but goodness, and He can do nothing but goodness toward His sheep. And if He has laid down His life for you, is there anything else that He will not do for you?

Perhaps the above truths are not new to you. But maybe you need to be reminded of them again; and by the grace of God, receive them in faith. The problem is not that we do not understand these truths; it is that we do not hear these truths in faith. Perhaps you can affirm that Jesus is the great Shepherd; but have you felt its power, and have you derived comfort and peace from it? As you have received Jesus Christ as Saviour by faith, you must receive Jesus Christ as Shepherd by faith, if you are to know and experience a deeper comfort and peace. Let me invite you to do that right now. Acknowledge the above truth and now receive, by faith, Jesus as your great and good Shepherd. He truly and eternally loves His sheep.