- Read John 10:1-21 here. Read Ezekiel 34 here (Ez 34 is a must read for anyone teaching John 10).
- If you missed Sunday’s sermon (29 March) on this text, you can listen to it here.
If you do a Google image search for “Jesus the Good Shepherd” you will find all sorts of peaceful and tranquil pictures. They often portray Jesus gently carrying a lamb, and also usually have very soft lighting. In 2 Corinthians 10:1 Paul appeals to his readers “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ“, so I certainly don’t want to imply that we should never think of Jesus as gentle. But I don’t think it’s the best image to have in mind when we read John 10.
In my experience growing up in Australia, both people I knew and stories I heard, men that work with sheep (sheep herders (drovers), and shearers) are a pretty tough bunch. They spend a lot of time in the weather (sun, rain, or cold). They do a lot of physical work. They’re strong, with rough hands. And they smell like sheep…not pretty.
Although the shepherd in John 10 shows a close affinity with his sheep: he knows their names (v3), and they know his voice (v4), the predominant image is that of defender. Jesus defends his sheep from thieves, robbers and those who would destroy his flock. He fights wolves (v12) and other predatory animals, eg. lions, or bears. He fights so much that he’s prepared to die protecting his sheep.
It seems to me that a more biblical picture of Jesus the Good Shepherd would be an earthy man standing watch at the gate of the sheep pen, at night, in the rain. Or perhaps a man fighting a wolf or pack of wolves, with his sheep in the background. Or perhaps a dying man, attacked by robbers, but who managed to send them packing before he collapsed.
Yes, Jesus was gentle at times. Yes, his motivation in all he did was love for his followers. BUT his actions were not those of the faint hearted. Jesus stood strongly between Satan and us, he suffered for us, he died for his sheep. Let’s acknowledge the Good Shepherd as strong and courageous and not picture him as a delicate figure in soft lighting.
Do you agree? What picture of a shepherd do you see in this passage?
Bonus: to read a description of an early Australian shearer, click here (then scroll to the bottom of the new window). I’m not saying it describes Jesus, but it certainly takes any romance out of the picture.
Songs & Scripture
This week we’re predictably looking for songs that talk about Jesus as our Shepherd. You must be able to think of a few Shepherd songs.
- The Lord’s My Shepherd – (crimond tune – this is the tune I grew up knowing)
- The Lord’s My Shepherd – (SOC – tune by Orlington – in my experience this one’s more common in Churches of Christ)
- The Lord My Shepherd Is – I don’t know this one, but it’s in all the CoC hymn books I can find. (SOC & GST have different tunes.)
- Like a Shepherd, Tender, True
- The Ninety and Nine (SOC – based on Luke 15:3-7)
- Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us
- I Am a Sheep (SFP – First written and performed by Dennis Jernigan in 1988.)
- Gentle Shepherd (SFP – a Bill & Gloria Gaither standard – copyright 1974.)