The Divine Shepherd
"I am the Good Shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his
life for the sheep." "I am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of
Mine. As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down My life for the
Again Jesus found access to
the minds of His hearers by the pathway of their familiar associations. He had likened the
Spirit's influence to the cool, refreshing water. He had represented Himself as the light,
the source of life and gladness to nature and to man. Now in a beautiful pastoral picture
He represents His relation to those that believe on Him. No picture was more familiar to
His hearers than this, and Christ's words linked it forever with Himself. Never could the
disciples look on the shepherds tending their flocks without recalling the Saviour's
lesson. They would see Christ in each faithful shepherd. They would see themselves in each
helpless and dependent flock.
This figure the prophet
Isaiah had applied to the Messiah's mission, in the comforting words, "O Zion, that
bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good
tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities
of Judah, Behold your God! . . . He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather
the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom." Isa. 40:9-11. David had sung,
"The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want." Ps. 23:1. And the Holy Spirit
through Ezekiel had declared: "I will set up one Shepherd over them, and He shall
feed them." "I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was
driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was
sick." "And I will make with them a covenant of peace." "And they
shall no more be a prey to the heathen; . . . but they shall dwell safely, and none shall
make them afraid." Ezek. 34:23, 16, 25, 28.
Christ applied these
prophecies to Himself, and He showed the contrast between His own character and that of
the leaders in Israel. The Pharisees had just driven one from the fold, because he dared
to bear witness to the power of Christ. They had cut off a soul whom the True Shepherd was
drawing to Himself. In this they had shown themselves ignorant of the work committed to
them, and unworthy of their trust as shepherds of the flock. Jesus now set before them the
contrast between them and the Good Shepherd, and He pointed to Himself as the real keeper
of the Lord's flock. Before doing this, however, He speaks of Himself under another
He said, "He that
entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a
thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the
sheep." The Pharisees did not discern that these words were spoken against them. When
they reasoned in their hearts as to the meaning, Jesus told them plainly, "I am the
door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find
pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come
that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
Christ is the door to the
fold of God. Through this door all His children, from the earliest times, have found
entrance. In Jesus, as shown in types, as shadowed in symbols, as manifested in the
revelation of the prophets, as unveiled in the lessons given to His disciples, and in the
miracles wrought for the sons of men, they have beheld "the Lamb of God, which taketh
away the sin of the world" (John 1:29), and through Him they are brought within the
fold of His grace. Many have come presenting other objects for the faith of the world;
ceremonies and systems have been devised by which men hope to receive justification and
peace with God, and thus find entrance to His fold. But the only door is Christ, and all
who have interposed something to take the place
of Christ, all who have tried to enter the
fold in some other way, are thieves and robbers.
The Pharisees had not entered
by the door. They had climbed into the fold by another way than Christ, and they were not
fulfilling the work of the true shepherd. The priests and rulers, the scribes and
Pharisees, destroyed the living pastures, and defiled the wellsprings of the water of
life. Faithfully do the words of inspiration describe those false shepherds: "The
diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither
have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was
driven away; . . . but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them." Ezek. 34:4.
In all ages, philosophers and
teachers have been presenting to the world theories by which to satisfy the soul's need.
Every heathen nation has had its great teachers and religious systems offering some other
means of redemption than Christ, turning the eyes of men away from the Father's face, and
filling their hearts with fear of Him who has given them only blessing. The trend of their
work is to rob God of that which is His own, both by creation and by redemption. And these
false teachers rob man as well. Millions of human beings are bound down under false
religions, in the bondage of slavish fear, of stolid indifference, toiling like beasts of
burden, bereft of hope or joy or aspiration here, and with only a dull fear of the
hereafter. It is the gospel of the grace of God alone that can uplift the soul. The
contemplation of the love of God manifested in His Son will stir the heart and arouse the
powers of the soul as nothing else can. Christ came that He might re-create the image of
God in man; and whoever turns men away from Christ is turning them away from the source of
true development; he is defrauding them of the hope and purpose and glory of life. He is a
thief and a robber.
"He that entereth in by
the door is the shepherd of the sheep." Christ is both the door and the shepherd. He
enters in by Himself. It is through His own sacrifice that He becomes the shepherd of the
sheep. "To Him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear His voice: and He calleth His
own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth
before them, and the sheep follow Him: for they know His voice."
Of all creatures the sheep is
one of the most timid and helpless, and in the East the shepherd's care for his flock is
untiring and incessant.
Anciently as now there was little security outside of the walled
towns. Marauders from the roving border tribes, or beasts of prey from their hiding places
in the rocks, lay in wait to plunder the flocks. The shepherd watched his charge, knowing
that it was at the peril of his own life. Jacob, who kept the flocks of Laban in the
pasture grounds of Haran, describing his own unwearied labor, said, "In the day the
drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes."
Gen. 31:40. And it was while guarding his father's sheep that the boy David,
single-handed, encountered the lion and the bear, and rescued from their teeth the stolen
As the shepherd leads his
flock over the rocky hills, through forest and wild ravines, to grassy nooks by the
riverside; as he watches them on the mountains through the lonely night, shielding from
robbers, caring tenderly for the sickly and feeble, his life comes to be one with theirs.
A strong and tender attachment unites him to the objects of his care. However large the
flock, the shepherd knows every sheep. Every one has its name, and responds to the name at
the shepherd's call.
As an earthly shepherd knows
his sheep, so does the divine Shepherd know His flock that are scattered throughout the
world. "Ye My flock, the flock of My pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the
Lord God." Jesus says, "I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine."
"I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands." Ezek. 34:31; Isa. 43:1; 49:16.
Jesus knows us individually,
and is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He knows us all by name. He knows the
very house in which we live, the name of each occupant. He has at times given directions
to His servants to go to a certain street in a certain city, to such a house, to find one
of His sheep.
Every soul is as fully known
to Jesus as if he were the only one for whom the Saviour died. The distress of every one
touches His heart. The cry for aid reaches His ear. He came to draw all men unto Himself.
He bids them, "Follow Me," and His Spirit moves upon their hearts to draw them
to come to Him. Many refuse to be drawn. Jesus knows who they are. He also knows who
gladly hear His call, and are ready to come under His pastoral care. He says, "My
sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." He cares for each one as
if there were not another on the face of the earth.
"He calleth His own
sheep by name, and leadeth them out. . . . And the sheep follow Him: for they know His
voice." The Eastern shepherd does not drive his sheep. He depends not upon force or
fear; but going before, he calls them. They know his voice, and obey the call. So does the
Saviour-Shepherd with His sheep. The Scripture says, "Thou leddest Thy people like a
flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron." Through the prophet, Jesus declares, "I
have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn
thee." He compels none to follow Him. "I drew them," He says, "with
cords of a man, with bands of love." Ps. 77:20; Jer. 31:3; Hosea 11:4.
It is not the fear of
punishment, or the hope of everlasting reward, that leads the disciples of Christ to
follow Him. They behold the Saviour's matchless love, revealed throughout His pilgrimage
on earth, from the manger of Bethlehem to Calvary's cross, and the sight of Him attracts,
it softens and subdues the soul. Love awakens in the heart of the beholders. They hear His
voice, and they follow Him.
As the shepherd goes before
his sheep, himself first encountering the perils of the way, so does Jesus with His
people. "When He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them." The way to
heaven is consecrated by the Saviour's footprints. The path may be steep and rugged, but
Jesus has traveled that way; His feet have pressed down the cruel thorns, to make the
pathway easier for us. Every burden that we are called to bear He Himself has borne.
Though now He has ascended to
the presence of God, and shares the throne of the universe, Jesus has lost none of His
compassionate nature. Today the same tender, sympathizing heart is open to all the woes of
humanity. Today the hand that was pierced is reached forth to bless more abundantly His
people that are in the world. "And they shall never perish, neither shall any man
pluck them out of My hand."
The soul that has given himself to Christ is more
precious in His sight than the whole world. The Saviour would have passed through the
agony of Calvary that one might be saved in His kingdom. He will never abandon one for
whom He has died. Unless His followers choose to leave Him, He will hold them fast.
Through all our trials we
have a never-failing Helper. He does not leave us alone to struggle with temptation, to
battle with evil, and be finally crushed with burdens and sorrow. Though now He is hidden
from mortal sight, the ear of faith can hear His voice saying, Fear not; I am with you.
"I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore." Rev.
1:18. I have endured your sorrows, experienced your struggles, encountered your
temptations. I know your tears; I also have wept. The griefs that lie too deep to be
breathed into any human ear, I know. Think not that you are desolate and forsaken. Though
your pain touch no responsive chord in any heart on earth, look unto Me, and live.
"The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not
depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the Lord that
hath mercy on thee." Isa. 54:10.
However much a shepherd may
love his sheep, he loves his sons and daughters more. Jesus is not only our shepherd; He
is our "everlasting Father." And He says, "I know Mine own, and Mine own
know Me, even as the Father knoweth Me, and I know the Father." John 10:14, 15, R. V.
What a statement is this!--the only-begotten Son, He who is in the bosom of the Father, He
whom God has declared to be "the Man that is My fellow" (Zech. 13:7),--the
communion between Him and the eternal God is taken to represent the communion between
Christ and His children on the earth!
Because we are the gift of
His Father, and the reward of His work, Jesus loves us. He loves us as His children.
Reader, He loves you. Heaven itself can bestow nothing greater, nothing better. Therefore
Jesus thought upon the souls
all over the earth who were misled by false shepherds. Those whom He longed to gather as
the sheep of His pasture were scattered among wolves, and He said, "Other sheep I
have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice;
and they shall become one flock, one shepherd." John 10:16, R. V.
"Therefore doth My
Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again." That is, My
Father has so loved you, that
He even loves Me more for giving My life to redeem you. In
becoming your substitute and surety, by surrendering My life, by taking your liabilities,
your transgressions, I am endeared to My Father.
"I lay down My life,
that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have
power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." While as a member of the
human family He was mortal, as God He was the fountain of life for the world. He could
have withstood the advances of death, and refused to come under its dominion; but
voluntarily He laid down His life, that He might bring life and immortality to light. He
bore the sin of the world, endured its curse, yielded up His life as a sacrifice, that men
might not eternally die. "Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. .
. . He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the
chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like
sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on
Him the iniquity of us all." Isa. 53:4-6.