Posted by: alisonwalley | 12 April 2009

The good shepherd

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)

A good verse for Easter, as we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. A comforting verse for Christians as we think of the care a good shepherd takes for his sheep. A verse which we can associate with Psalm 23 to make it personal: “the Lord is my shepherd”.

But maybe a shocking saying for those who first heard it, for whom there were other Old Testament associations.

It seems to have been common to talk about God’s people, the Israelites, as sheep. Psalm 95 is a good example, reminding hearers that “we are the flock under his care”. And if the people were like sheep, the leaders should be like shepherds: Moses pleads with God to provide a leader so that “the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd” (Numbers 27:15-17); the prophets Micaiah (2 Chronicles 18:16) and Zechariah (Zechariah 10:2) lament the lack of shepherds for the sheep.

David, of course, famously called God his shepherd in Psalm 23, but it’s Ezekiel who develops this idea most strongly (Ezekiel 34). The word of the Lord comes to him and he attacks the leaders of the day for not caring for the people. Furthermore, God says, he’s had enough of all these shepherds who only care for themselves and he will remove them from the job. Instead

“I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As shepherds look after their scattered flocks when they are with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them…” (Ezekiel 34:11-12).

But if God is the good shepherd, what is Jesus claiming when he says:  I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14) ?

And if, as Ezekiel goes on to say, God will appoint someone like David to be the true shepherd, it means Jesus is also claiming to be the heir of David. No wonder the Jewish religious leaders were alarmed!

On that first Easter day, Jesus explained to two of his disciples what was said about him in “all the scriptures” (Luke 24:27). I’d like to suggest that we need to read more of the Old Testament so that we can better understand the glories of the New.

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Responses

  1. Hi there,
    Thank you! I would now go on this blog every day!

    Have a nice day
    Bodyc


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