Jesus taught his listeners that his relationship with us is like a shepherd to sheep. “‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’” (John 10:11) Those words remind us of our Lord’s sacrifice on the cross. His words also speak to the sense of responsibility that Jesus saw in his coming to earth. When he told the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15:3-7 our Lord made clear that lost people matter to God. By also telling the parables of the lost coin and the lost son, His message comes through that heaven is rejoicing over lost ones who are found. Although the priorities of Jesus were at odds with people who looked down on “tax collectors and sinners,” his words about his purpose were crystal clear. “‘For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.’” (Luke 19:10)
It’s no wonder that in one of our Lord’s dramatic resurrection appearances he commissioned Simon Peter to treat people as if they were sheep. After asking Peter three times if he loved Jesus, he commanded him with the words, “‘Feed my sheep.’” (John 21:17) Peter would later write about this relationship with some incredibly important thoughts. “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseer – not because you must but because you are willing….” (I Peter 5:2)
If all are God’s sheep, we can all be shepherds to someone. What should we do with God’s sheep?
- We should teach them. Our sharing of God’s Word with people we know should enable them to share it with others as well. “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (II Timothy 2:2)
- We should protect them. In his book “Letting God” Philip Parham describes how Palestinian shepherds would help sheep avoid eating from poisonous plants on the trails these animals would travel. “Only by rooting out the enemy plants, could he make the pasture safe for grazing.” People need protection from self-destructive behaviors – we’re in a battle with evil.
- We should guide them. This necessitates a continuous conversation with God and His word. Our internal G.P.S. can be mistaken. The Bible tells us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all you ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) Guidance comes from daily following God. We’re prayerfully reading his word and receiving encouragement from others to follow God’s path.
These actions take us back to the good shepherd. We want people to not merely believe in Jesus but to follow Him. Jesus said, “‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:12) As Thomas à Kempis once amazingly expressed it,“Follow me; I am the way the truth, and the life. Without the way there is no going. Without the truth there is no knowing. Without the life there is no living.”
This requires both our steadfast commitment and our loving compassion. God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel to question the compassion of Israel for its people. “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not the shepherds take care of the flock?” (Ezekiel 34:2) And so the Messiah came to show us how to do it. “As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so I will look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.” (Ezekiel 34:12) Let’s follow the example of Jesus. “When he saw the crowds he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) May we have our Lord’s compassion for the sheep! We are all God’s sheep, and we can be His servant shepherds too!
Pastor Ken Atchison
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com.