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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 sheep."
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 figure.
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
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
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
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 lamb.
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 trust.
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,
"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.
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