David was the shepherd who faithfully kept his daddy’s sheep, protecting them from bears, lions and other dangerous predators (I Samuel 17:34-37). Decades later, as an old king, he could remember the ways that God led and protected him throughout his lifetime. He joyfully sang, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:1–6, NKJV).
Speaking in parabolic language, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me” (John 10:14, CSB). A first-century shepherd lived with his sheep. He knew them by name. “Come on Blackie. Follow me Freckles. You too Snow White! Let’s go down to the river for a cool drink of sparkling clear water!” When the shepherd called, the sheep recognized his familiar voice and they obediently followed his lead.
Sheep have plenty of enemies. Lions and bears love to feast on tender, juicy mutton. Lamb chops are a five-star delicacy! Sadly, sheep don’t have claws or sharp teeth. They don’t have the defense mechanisms of a porcupine or a skunk. They don’t growl and they can’t run fast. Sheep need a shepherd because the enemy will “steal and kill and destroy!” (John 10:10).
Jesus said “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep!”(John 10:11). If push comes to shove, a good shepherd won’t run from a fight. He’ll go toe-to-toe with the bear or the lion. If he has to, the shepherd will die for his flock.
On Mount Calvary Jesus stood up for His sheep-like followers. He duked it out with the Devil! He laid down His life. He promised “I lay down my life so that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again” (John 10:17–18, CSB). They buried his body in a grave on Friday, but on Sunday, He busted out, alive! The grave couldn’t hold Him!
There’s another famous story about shepherds. “In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today ... ’ ” (Luke 2:8-12, CSB).
I want to be ready and waiting when Jesus returns. I want to see the sky filled with the choir of heavenly carolers, singing praises to the King. Like an observant sheep, I’m sure I’ll recognize His familiar voice. I want to follow my Shepherd to the River of Life for a cool drink of sparkling clear water!
Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20).