The Bible gives us a picture of Jesus being our shepherd. What does that mean and what can we learn from this imagery? You will be surprised to know how much powerful truth there is to the phrase “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
It’s easy to miss the significance of the truth behind Jesus being our Shepherd because much of popular culture is unaware of the profession and work of tending to sheep. In ancient near-east culture, however, the profession of a shepherd was a popular one. Because sheep were a popular source of meat and their wool was a major source of material for clothes, shepherding was a popular profession.
People in Israel understood the images and the roles of a shepherd as one who would sacrificially and devotedly take care of their sheep. Here are three things we must understand about shepherds and how Jesus becomes our Shepherd.
He lays Himself down for us
The job of a shepherd was not always an easy and safe one. The Bible tells us that the young shepherd boy David had to fight off lions and bears just to protect the sheep. Being a shepherd sometimes meant guarding your sheep with your life. Jesus is that Shepherd to us.
John 10:11 tells us, “I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (ESV). Jesus loved us so much that He went as far as to lay down His own life to save us from the dangers of our sin and shame.
He guides us
To understand the work of a shepherd, we must understand the nature of sheep. Sheep are actually known to have long memories and can easily remember the face of their shepherd. When they see their shepherd they instantly follow and the shepherd guides them to where they can feed and can be protected.
Psalm 23:1–2 tells us, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters” (ESV). Just like a shepherd, Jesus guides us into the right paths lovingly if we know His face and follow Him.
He restores us
Not all sheep are obedient at all times. When sheep are stubborn, they can get in trouble: break bones, get injured or lose their way. When a sheep is injured or lost, a shepherd carries the sheep on his or her shoulders back to safety.
1 Peter 2:25 says, “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (ESV). Jesus is also in the business of restoring us as sheep who have gone astray.