Perhaps the greatest privilege and joy of involvement in the personal ministry of the Word is leading others to the green pastures of safety and security where Jesus, the Good Shepherd, never fails to care for them. Understanding and believing in Jesus as the only Lord and Savior is only the beginning, not the end, of their relationship with God and, therefore, only the beginning of our ministry to them. Yes, the Christian life begins with repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ as one’s sin-bearing Savior; however, it continues and thrives most fruitfully as disciples learn to walk humbly with our God by following the Good Shepherd. Therefore, meditating on the loving care of the Good Shepherd for His sheep builds up our faith and equips us to more tenderly care for those to whom He calls us to minister His grace and truth. Listen to how Jesus describes Himself.
“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep” (John 10:11-15).
In these verses, we find three truths that nurture our faith and assist us in directing others toward the pleasant pastures that are watched over by the Good Shepherd.
The Good Shepherd has already laid down His life for His sheep.
When Jesus first spoke the words cited above, His death was still in the future. He would lay down His life for His sheep. But His sacrificial offering is now complete. His sin-bearing and guilt-eliminating work was finished at Calvary, and our sin debt is already paid in full (Heb. 9:27-28). By consciously remembering this past demonstration of His great love, the believer’s heart is further assured of His continued love and care for them. By habitually remembering the sacrificial work of Christ on our behalf, we “keep [ourselves] in the love of God” (Jude 21).
The Good Shepherd will never neglect His sheep.
Jesus will not act like a hired hand who neglects the sheep, thus leaving them easy prey for the wolves. Instead, the faithful Shepherd stays by their side. He will never leave His sheep or forsake them (Heb. 13:5). Unlike the hireling, the Good Shepherd is committed to and concerned for each and every one of His sheep (John 10:13).The hireling flees because he is self-centered, but Jesus continues to serve us by feeding, leading, comforting, protecting, and disciplining those who belong to Him. Why? Because His commitment to His sheep is not found in empty words, but in the promises which flow from the blood He shed to purchase them (Acts 20:28).
The Good Shepherd wants to know His sheep whom He already knows.
Jesus the Good Shepherd knows His sheep in relationship, just as He knows the Father in relationship and the Father knows Him. In other words, Jesus knows those who are His own and the true sheep know Him. What a wonderful truth! But like every relationship, this one is not static. It’s either growing or decaying. Jesus knows us in relationship, but desires for us to know Him more deeply in the daily experience of our faith. Growing in Christ is more than gaining Bible knowledge, as important as that may be, but includes a deepening intimacy with the Good Shepherd as we listen to His Word and help others to do the same. Indeed, the apostle exhorts us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18).
The words recorded by John clearly reveal this truth: The Good Shepherd possesses unfailing love for His sheep. Jesus desires our greater good, and God “works all things together” for the good of those who love Him and are “called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). The author of Hebrews leaves us with a powerful benediction.
“Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (Heb. 13:20-21).
Let us lead others to the Good Shepherd who alone can make them “lie down in green pastures,” lead them “beside quiet waters,” and “restore” their souls (Ps. 23:1-3).
Questions for Reflection
How does meditating on Jesus as the Good Shepherd keep you immersed in the love of God? How can you more consistently direct others away from you, the counselor, to Jesus, the Good Shepherd?
Dr. Paul Tautges has been in gospel ministry for 25 years and currently serves as pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Cleveland, Ohio. He has authored eight books and contributed to two volumes produced by the Biblical Counseling Coalition. Paul blogs regularly at www.counselingoneanother.com.