The Good Shepherd


When asked for their favorite Bible passage, most people name Psalm 23, which begins with the much-loved words: “The Lord is my shepherd.” Sheep and shepherds figure prominently in the Bible. Abraham, the nomadic father of monotheistic faith, kept flocks of sheep. David, the greatest of Israel’s kings, began life as a shepherd boy. In the prophetic books, God’s relationship with his chosen people is described in terms of a shepherd and his flock. Jesus is identified both as the Good Shepherd and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World. This meditation brings together Bible texts about shepherds, sheep (lost and found), and sacrificial lambs with art works from my collection.

My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace. (Jeremiah 50:6, KJV)

This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. (Ezekiel 34:11-12, NIV)

Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulder and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:4-7, NIV)

I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:3-4, KJV)

When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36, NIV)

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. (Isaiah 53: 6-7, KJV)

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1: 29, KJV)

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me--just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10: 11-14, NIV)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23, KJV)

This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
     “Yes, Lord,” he said. “you know that I love you.”
      Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.
      Again, Jesus said: “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
      He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
      Jesus said: “Take care of my sheep.”
      The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
       Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
       Jesus said: “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:14-17, NIV)

Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever. (Psalm 28:9, NIV)

He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:11, KJV)

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20, NIV)

From The Holy Bible in the King James Version, [KJV](Thomas Nelson: 1976) and The Holy Bible: New International Version, [NIV](New York Bible Society International: 1973)