We’ve all seen images of the Good Shepherd and, sadly, most of them depict a sweet, slightly effeminate looking Jesus cuddling a fluffy, defenceless lamb. That image is taken from the prophet Isaiah’s vision of the shepherd who is tender and caring: “In his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom”.
And yet the prophet is also aware that the term “shepherds” refers to the kings appointed to rule God’s people. God has no patience with weak, vacillating leaders who quake before their enemies and make poor military alliances instead of trusting God. The ideal shepherd – the ideal king – “comes with power” and “rules by his strong arm”. Like David, the shepherd-king, he defends the flock against predators, especially the spiritual threats posed by the devil, our own fallen nature, or the confused philosophies of the world.
The Good Shepherd doesn’t sit in the field waiting anxiously for the straying sheep to return. Rather, he arms himself with weapons and sets out in search of that lost sheep, overcoming every obstacle to rescue them and bring them home. Sometimes his kindness feels like discipline as he cuts the lamb loose, dresses its wounds and curbs its propensity to wander. But it is still the kindest thing he could ever do for us.
The scriptures tell us how Jesus, our Good Shepherd, knows us, He feeds us, He guides us, He cherishes us and loves us, He protects and preserves us.
There is nothing our Good Shepherd won’t do for us to keep us safe.