Then the shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
No illustration of the relationship between God and His people is more iconic than that of shepherd and sheep…ironic because shepherds occupied one of the lowest rungs in the Hebrew world. Their occupation required of tending the sheep required them to live with the sheep, look out for them continually through the life of the animal— because of this the shepherd was perpetually dirty and considered ceremonially unclean.
On that Bethlehem night, the shepherds departed their flocks to see a very unique lamb… the Lamb of God! We are familiar with Micah 5 as the great prophecy regarding the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Micah also records that Jesus would be known as Israel’s Shepherd (Micah 5:2,4). But Israel’s Shepherd would not be a shepherd of goats and lambs but rather be the Shepherd of His people. Peter (I Pet. 2:25), calls Jesus the Shepherd of our souls. Consider the One who shepherds our souls—
Jesus is the Good Shepherd— In John 10:11, Jesus calls Himself “the good shepherd.” As the Good Shepherd, He took on Himself our sin, laying down on His own will, His life on the cross of crucifixion. He redeemed each of us, spilling His blood on the cross and giving His life for the sheep. Isaiah 53 says: “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
Second, Jesus is the Great Shepherd—Jesus, our Good Shepherd, laid down His own life for we His sheep. And that is good! In Hebrews 13:20 the writer labels Jesus as “that great Shepherd of the sheep.” It is in context of His resurrection from the grave this title is given. He rose from the grave! His resurrection proved He conquered and overcame death itself. The well-known Psalm paints a great picture of this: “The Lord is my shepherd… He restores my soul … Yea, though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me… Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
Finally, Jesus is the Chief Shepherd—As a Good Shepherd, Jesus paid the price of sin for His sheep. He gives certain hope through the power of His resurrection as the Great Shepherd. In I Peter 5:4, Peter calls Jesus the “Chief Shepherd.” He is Chief because He is coming again and when He comes, He brings the hope of reward, rewards that are eternal. Such reward, Peter notes, is given for those who tend, feed, care, pray… love His flock. Our lives are to be lived as an example and for the purpose of His use, and His glory. He sees…He rewards.
Sheep we are, therefore by nature timid, but we have nothing to fear, as we are secure in the fold of the Good Shepherd. We have certainty of forgiven sin and eternal life—that by the Great Shepherd. We enjoy the marvelous blessing of a returning and rewarding Chief Shepherd.
Jesus… the Good Shepherd… the Great Shepherd… the Chief Shepherd!
Merry Christmas and Maranatha!