The Good Shepherd!
George Everard, 1885
"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!" John 10:14-15
There is something in the Lord Jesus — some office, some promise, some feature of His perfect character — that corresponds to every possible need of man.
Who is there but has to confess with David, "I have gone astray like a lost sheep!" But here is the all-sufficient answer. Jesus says, "I am the Good Shepherd."
The figure is full of beauty and encouragement. It represents Christ as taking for our sake, a position of humility — for the work of a shepherd is a lowly, self-denying work. He who fulfills it aright, must be willing to track the footsteps of the wanderer, to tend the sick one, to bear the weak and weary one in his arms or on his shoulder. He must be willing, by day and by night, to be in the midst of them when it is needful, and to spare no toil or labor in finding them good pasturage and in protecting them from danger.
And is not all this descriptive of that which I need from Christ day by day? I rejoice that my Shepherd is ever ready to restore me, when for the moment I have turned aside from Him. He chastens me, but He does not cast me off. He permits me to feel the bitterness of my sin — but as soon as I own it, He waits to pardon and deliver me. He is the One who really cares for me.
The hireling cares not for the flock — but the Good Shepherd does. He loves them, for they belong to Him. He cares for them with tenderer care than ever a mother cared for her infant child. He cares for their spiritual welfare, and He cares for their temporal comfort and success.
He is One ever near at hand. As the sleepless Guardian and Keeper of His redeemed people, He is never far away. But the feeblest cry of the weakest of His lambs, awakens His sympathy. He is so near that not a petition, not a sigh of the heart, can escape His notice.
He is One who knows each of His own, and all that concerns them. The expression used in the Revised Version is very suggestive of the closeness of the link that binds His flock to Him. "I know My sheep — and My sheep know Me." They are His very own — bought by Him, marked, and sealed, and loved by Him — His jewels, His precious treasure, the objects of His perpetual solicitude.
So, too, we have the intimacy of His knowledge. The Revised Version here again has important teaching: "I know My sheep and My sheep know Me — just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father." What knowledge could go deeper than this? So perfectly does He know all that concerns them — He knows their joys and their sorrows, their lesser troubles and their greater ones, their desolation when others join against them, or when they long for someone to love and care for them — and also they are left alone. He knows their sore temptations and dark hours, when they almost wish they were dead. And He knows, too, the hours when everything looks so bright and pleasant — and yet when danger is nearest. He knows and He undertakes for us under all circumstances. In infinite wisdom, though in ways past finding out — He sends the trial and He sends the relief. He gives the joy, and guards the heart, lest it prove a cause of harm.
He knows, He provides, and best of all He loves. "I lay down My life for the sheep!" Thrice He tells of this mighty proof of His changeless love (verse 11, 15, 17).
And we see how perfectly voluntary was the sacrifice. On the one hand, it was willing obedience to the Father — on the other hand, it was in tenderest love to His sheep. No love like this before or after it! Put together, all the love of bridegroom to bride, of parent to child, of brother to brother, of friend to friend — when placed beside the love of Christ — what is it but the tiniest flicker of a candle, compared to the full radiance of the noonday sun?
None can tell how much consolation is bound up in the thought of the Good Shepherd's care and love for His flock. In the hour when every earthly wish seems fulfilled — His presence gives additional gladness to the cup of blessing which He gives. In the hour when every light is quenched, and every mortal comfort dead — the sense of His abiding, constant affection and tender pitifulness brings a ray of hope into the soul, and points to a brighter future that lies before us.
But do you know Him as your Shepherd? Mark the expression, "My own sheep know Me." Do you know Him? Do you know His voice, and love to hearken, to trust, to obey it? Do you know Him as having found you when far off from God, as having brought you back to His fold? Do you know Him, as having washed you from the mire and the stain of past sins, and as having given you a conscience at peace through His atoning blood? Do you know Him, as guiding you day by day in paths of righteousness, as hearing your prayers, or keeping you from the power of the destroyer? Do you know Him by the Spirit which He imparts?
Remember that it is a personal, individual matter. Each sheep of the flock is sought and saved and led by the Good-Shepherd in a way only known to Christ and the soul — and, therefore, it cannot be ignorant of His merciful dealings.
How do you stand this day, my brother, with respect to the Good Shepherd? You have often gone astray in forbidden paths — but have you returned to Him as the Shepherd and Guardian of your soul? He has often come to you by the strivings of His Spirit and the calls of His Word — but have you yielded to Him? Have you entreated Him to receive you and to be with you and near you as your Shepherd all your days? Let there be no doubt about this. Let your eye be upon Him, and your whole life ruled by His grace and Spirit.
"From a sinful world I flee,
Shepherd of my soul, to Thee!"