The Shepherd searching for the sheep!
(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)
"This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for My sheep and look after them!" Ezekiel 34:11
The prophet looked into a distant future, and saw the day of Christ from afar.
1. Just so, I look back and see my sovereign Lord in the manger-cradle at Bethlehem. He has emptied Himself — He has laid all His glory down. He has come to my earth, not in the splendors of His divinity, but with an infant's palpable and pathetic claim for nursing and nurture. He has taken my nature in its feeblest and most helpless condition, and made it His own nature.
It is a long way for the Shepherd to travel in search of the sheep — no arithmetic can compute it, no history can describe the downward journey. But the Incarnation is not enough. Not at Bethlehem does the Lover of my soul find me who has departed from His fold.
2. Then I see my sovereign Lord on the hillsides and in the cornfields and on the lake-waters of Galilee.
Never a man speaks like this Man — His are the words of grace and truth, of fire and dew.
Never a man lives like this Man — He does not weary in healing, feeding, comforting, rebuking sin, and compassionating and blessing the sinner.
He is seeking me by the messages of His lips, and by the blamelessness and beneficence of His life. Patiently He is enticing me home. But the ministry of word and miracle is not enough. Not in Capernaum does the Flock-master find me, who am so persevering in my revolt.
3. Then I see my sovereign Lord beneath the olive trees in Gethsemane. He is praying with strong cryings and tears. He has come very near to the transgressors now, and more poignantly than ever He feels the awfulness of their burden. His sweat, falling down to the ground, is, as it were, great drops of blood. The Seeker is learning the sharpness of the crag, and the rush of the torrent. None has cared for me so much; none has borne a sorrow so deep on my behalf. But His intercession and His sympathy are not enough. Not in the agonies of the garden, does He succeed in finding me.
4. But, last, I see my sovereign Lord nailed to the Cross outside the gate on the Hill of Reproach. He dies for sin — but not His own; He is purer than the newborn lamb and the new-fallen snow. He lays my immeasurable guilt on Himself. He redeems me by the one perfect offering of His unblemished body and soul. The Good Shepherd is giving His life for His sheep! And this, at length, is enough — the atonement, the blood-shedding. It is enough for God — and it is enough for me.
On Calvary I behold the depth of my iniquity — and the wonder of His redemption!
On Calvary my God finds me, and conquers me, and saves me!
Never was there a sheep so silly, so fond of roaming, so bent on destroying itself!
Never was there a search so longsome, so untiring, and so fraught with suffering!
Never was there a Shepherd like my adorable Redeemer!
"I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep!" John 10:11