Friday, August 6, 2010

Rabbi Jesus-- The Good Shepherd--Part 2

Psalm 100:3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

I was talking to Morgan today and telling her how we are the LORD's people, the sheep of His pasture. Like a light bulb coming on she exclaims, "Mom, I am a pastor! We are all pastors!" Praise the Lord that we are not all pastors...amen! However I do love that verse.

I want to head back to the book I mentioned in the previous post before diving back into what it looks like to be a disciple of Christ.

One of the most popular images of Jesus is as the "good shepherd." who hasn't seen painting after painting depicting Jesus with a lamb slung tenderly across his shoulders? This image comes from Jesus himself, who said: " I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me--just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:14-15). His words conjure another favorite image, that of the shepherd in Psalm 23:1-3a:

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not be in want...
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.

Any rabbi worth his salt would have known that the mere mention of the word "shepherd" would have caused the rest of that passage to float through the minds of his listeners. Even now we find great comfort in this psalm.

They go on to write:

But Jesus was doing more than evoking a comforting image of himself. He was also evoking an image of power, because shepherd imagery is often used to describe kings.

Here is where it gets really good! What is shepherd imagery used to describe? Kings. Although some of you have studied David and seen him come from the fold of sheep to be anointed as future king over the people of Israel (2 Samuel 16) we normally don't think of a king when we think of a shepherd. Praise God for that little power packed verse tucked in the same passage when Samuel was searching for the king to anoint and David was not yet standing with his brothers:
7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
Morgan was getting in trouble today for her attitude and she said, "mom, I need a heart like yours." Well, I sure wouldn't go that far AT ALL. Yet her theology is so correct. The Lord looks on the heart regardless of outward appearances there is nothing hidden from the Creator of our hearts. The true prophets of the Lord were to lead, teach, guard, and guide the people of Israel from running after other harmful things. They were to teach them the word of the Lord.
Just like them shepherds performed the following duties: They would herd, tend, and guard the sheep. I love that picture of unity, then tending to their very basic needs and guarding them from any harmful pestilence. The Lord, our Good Shepherd is indeed good. He will never lie to us. He always has our best interest at heart and He will guard us jealously. His love is so measureless, so concerned, and so intimate. He knows us. He made us. We are His. A shepherd was a keeper, a defender, a protector and a guardian of those entrusted to his/her care. I love that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:38) and how we have a defender alright. If anyone touches a child of God, they touch the apple of God's eye Zech 2:8 (the cornea metaphorically speaking. The most important part of the eye.)

So, I am just sick. I finished my post and it erased from this portion down.

Let me just try to persevere and remember my point...ugh!!

In Isaiah, for instance, King Cyrus of Persia is called a "shepherd" (44:28), and in Psalm 78:71-72 King David is pictured as "shepherding" his people. Most interestingly, in Ezekiel 34, God expresses his anger at the leaders of his people by describing them as "bad shepherds." He then promises to save his flock and to send a good shepherd to lead them. Could this be what Jesus was thinking of in John 10?
Listen to what Herod's counselors told him after his encounter with the wise men who had come looking for the newborn king of Israel. They quoted Micah 5:2 (See Matthew 2:6):
6" 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'"

When Jesus called himself "a shepherd" in John 10, he was hinting at his identity as the messianic king, the future ruler of God's kingdom.
Such a reference would have astonished his listeners. But they would have been stunned by another allusion. Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 25:31-32:

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

Now listen to Ezekiel 34:17:
" 'As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats.

What is so stunning about Jesus' words is that by using the metaphor of a shepherd sorting his sheep, he is linking himself to God, who is often called the "Shepherd of Israel." No doubt many of his listeners were shocked. Others would have been scandalized. We need first-century ears to hear Jesus' claims to oneness with God the Father.

So are the teachers we are sitting under pointing us to Christ or away? Are we becoming more intimately acquainted with Christ or are we in it for what we think He has to offer us? I asked Morgan to go to the store with me the other day and she asked me if I was going to buy her something. I told her no so she said she did not want to go. We can so be like that with Jesus where if we feel like nothing is in it for us then we don't want to go along for the ride. However, we miss truly knowing and beholding the glory of God when we settle for the things that would so easily lead us astray. Christ is the good Shepherd. His love is a purifying, protecting, measureless love. It is in the intimacy that He leads us and none of that will happen by accident. We must sharpen our swords and stay alert.

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fuzzytop said...

Jenny - love your thoughts here... Especially that the shepherd not only tends the sheep, but separates them from the goats as well.


michellemabell said...

Amen Jenny. Great post.
I never really grasped the magnitude of Jesus as our Chief Shepherd until I read A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Philip Keller. Wow did that open my eyes and heart to what a shepherd really does and is and who we are as sheep.
I also especially loved the question you posed at the end about am I sitting under teachers who are pointing me to Jesus?


Warren Baldwin said...

Very well stated.

I like how you include stories of Morgan. Makes it very real. I remember my own three grappling with some of the spiritual issues. You are doing a good job explaining things to her.