During the Advent season, one of the things that struck me this year was that the baby Jesus, who was revealed to shepherds, came to be a shepherd, himself.
Once when Jesus “saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6.34, CEB). Interestingly, this phrase appears in the Old Testament (see 1 Kings 22.17 and 2 Chronicles 18.16, Isaiah 13.14, and a similar version in Numbers 27.17).
The point is clear, without God, we are like sheep without a shepherd.
God’s shepherd’s heart can be seen in Ezekiel 34.11-16 …
11 The LORD God proclaims: I myself will search for my flock and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out the flock when some in the flock have been scattered, so will I seek out my flock. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered during the time of clouds and thick darkness. 13 I will gather and lead them out from the countries and peoples, and I will bring them to their own fertile land. I will feed them on Israel’s highlands, along the riverbeds, and in all the inhabited places. 14 I will feed them in good pasture, and their sheepfold will be there, on Israel’s lofty highlands. On Israel’s highlands, they will lie down in a secure fold and feed on green pastures. 15 I myself will feed my flock and make them lie down. This is what the LORD God says. 16 I will seek out the lost, bring back the strays, bind up the wounded, and strengthen the weak.
Jesus also revealed his shepherd’s heart in his story about the shepherd who left 99 sheep to go and look for the one that was lost (Luke 15.3-7). It was God’s shepherd’s heart that led him to send Jesus to be our savior and our shepherd.
And, in John 10.11-16, Jesus says …
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 When the hired hand sees the wolf coming, he leaves the sheep and runs away. That’s because he isn’t the shepherd; the sheep aren’t really his. So the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them. 13 He’s only a hired hand and the sheep don’t matter to him. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I give up my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that don’t belong to this sheep pen. I must lead them too. They will listen to my voice and there will be one flock, with one shepherd.
Without Jesus, we are sheep without a shepherd. With Jesus, we have not only a savior, but also a shepherd, who protects us and leads us.
(This post is part of the Common English Bible Tour.)