The Great Shepherd

Now may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep with the blood of an eternal covenant, our Lord Jesus,

Hebrews 13:20

In the last article, we looked at how Jesus was the ‘Lamb of God’. Here, he is referred to as ‘The Great Shepherd’. What does it mean that the ‘Lamb’ is also known as ‘The Shepherd’?

In the Old Testament, and especially in the Psalms, God is often referred to as a Shepherd, and his relationship to his people as that of a Shepherd to a flock:

Psa 23:[1] Yahweh is my shepherd: I shall lack nothing.

Psa 77:[20] You led your people like a flock, by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Psa 80:[1] Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock, you who sit above the cherubim, shine out.

Jer 23:[3] I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and multiply. [4] I will set up shepherds over them, who shall feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be lacking, says Yahweh.

1Pe 2:[25] For you were going astray like sheep; but now have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

1Pe 5:[4] When the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the crown of glory that doesn’t fade away.

A shepherd plays three important roles toward his sheep. First, he is a protector: the shepherd must stand watch over the sheep (1Sa 17:34-36), and keep them safe from predators (Amo 3:12). Second, the shepherd is a leader to the sheep. Unlike goats, which can forage for themselves, sheep must be led to places with food and water (Gen 29:2-3, Psa 23:2), and even led on the way home (Ezk 34:12-14, 1Pe 2:25). Shepherds often carry a staff, that can be held on the shoulder so the sheep can see it, and follow along; or it may be tapped on the ground so they can follow the sounds (Psa 23:4). And third, the shepherd is a nurturer. He must be careful of the lame and sick sheep, and any pregnant ewes must be especially cared for (Gen 33:13). Lambs too young to walk must often be carried by the shepherd (Isa 40:11). These duties will only be carried out by a shepherd who truly cares for the sheep. Hirelings have no interest in the flock (1Sa 17:20, Zec 11:17, Joh 10:12).

The prophecies of the Messiah describe him as a Shepherd:

Isa 40:[10] Behold, the Lord Yahweh will come as a mighty one, and his arm will rule for him. Behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. [11] He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will gather the lambs in his arm, and carry them in his bosom. He will gently lead those who have their young.

Eze 34:[23] I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd.

Zec 13:[7] “Awake, sword, against my shepherd, and against the man who is close to me,” says Yahweh of Armies. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; and I will turn my hand against the little ones.

Jesus explicitly applied this imagery to himself:

Joh 10:[11] I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. … [14] I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and I’m known by my own; [15] even as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep.

Jesus serves his flock in the role of a shepherd: he protects his flock (Mat 10:29-32), guides his flock (Joh 12:26, Rev 14:4), and nurtures his flock (Luk 12:24, 1Pe 5:7). John 10:11-15 shows us that Jesus even dies for his sheep, giving up his life as a sacrifice to God on their behalf, which we looked at in the previous article.

But Hebrews 13:20 shows us that God did not allow Jesus to remain in the grave, after giving up his life for the sheep. God resurrected Jesus from the dead, which reveals much about the work that Jesus accomplished:

The Father set His seal of approval upon the work of Jesus Christ on the cross by resurrecting Him from the dead and exalting Him to sit at the Father’s right hand. [Job 19:25-27; Psa 16:10; Luk 24:4-7; Act 1:22; Act 2:24-33; Act 3:15; Act 4:10,33; Act 5:31; Act 10:40; Act 13:30-37; Act 17:3,31; Rom 1:4; Rom 4:24-25; Rom 5:10; Rom 6:4,9-10; Rom 8:34; Rom 10:9; Rom 14:9; 1Co 15:20-28; 2Co 5:15; Gal 1:1; Eph 1:20; Col 2:12; 1Th 1:10; 2Ti 2:8; Heb 1:3; 10:12; 12:2; 1Pe 1:21]

The Christian Confession of Faith, IV.C.4

The Resurrection of Jesus displayed that he is the Son of God:

Rom 1:[4] who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,

The Resurrection is also a proof to the world that God will judge the world:

Act 17:[31] because he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he has ordained; of which he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead.”

But most importantly of all, the Resurrection shows us that God was completely satisfied with the work that Jesus accomplished on the cross. Jesus laid down his life on behalf of the sheep, cleansed them from their sins, purified them, and brought them before God, and turned aside God’s wrath against them for their sins. In resurrecting Jesus from the dead, God showed that he accepted this sacrifice on behalf of the sheep. The Resurrection is therefore the ultimate proof of God’s eternal favor and fellowship towards his people:

Psa 16:[10] For you will not leave my soul in Sheol, neither will you allow your holy one to see corruption.

Luk 24:[4] While they were greatly perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling clothing. [5] Becoming terrified, they bowed their faces down to the earth. They said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? [6] He isn’t here, but is risen. Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee, [7] saying that the Son of Man must be delivered up into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again?”

Act 2:[24] whom God raised up, having freed him from the agony of death, because it was not possible that he should be held by it. [25] For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before my face, For he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved. [26] Therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced. Moreover my flesh also will dwell in hope; [27] because you will not leave my soul in Hades, neither will you allow your Holy One to see decay. [28] You made known to me the ways of life. You will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ … [32] This Jesus God raised up, to which we all are witnesses.

Rom 6:[9] knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no more has dominion over him! [10] For the death that he died, he died to sin one time; but the life that he lives, he lives to God.

Eph 1:[20] which he worked in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places,

The resurrection is the proof from God that the work of Christ to atone for the sins of his people was accepted by God. It is therefore the proof that there is no more enmity between God and his people, and is the proof of God’s eternal favor and fellowship with them.

Because Jesus was resurrected, the people of God (those who believe the Gospel) can even know with certainty that they will be raised to eternal life with him:

Joh 5:[21] For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom he desires.

Rom 6:[4] We were buried therefore with him through baptism to death, that just like Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. [5] For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will also be part of his resurrection; [6] knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be in bondage to sin. [7] For he who has died has been freed from sin. [8] But if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him;

Php 3:[10] that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death; [11] if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

All the blessings of God flow to his people because of the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross, and the Resurrection is the proof of this glorious truth.

See what a mockery the doctrine of Universal Atonement makes of the Resurrection! The Resurrection shows that God accepted the work of Christ on behalf of all for whom it was intended; but the doctrine of Universal Atonement teaches that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ was made on behalf of all who ever lived, but then God fails to accept that sacrifice on behalf of the vast majority of those who ever lived. It teaches that God raised Jesus from the dead, but then fails to bring to heaven all those for whom Jesus died. It therefore makes a complete failure of the work of Jesus Christ, and a complete mockery of the true nature of the Resurrection. This is why the Christian Confession of Faith teaches that those who believe the doctrine of Universal Atonement deny the very heart of the Gospel, and are blasphemers:

Those who deny the effectual work of Jesus Christ, claiming instead that the blood of Jesus Christ atoned for everyone without exception (including those in hell), deny the very heart of the gospel. They do not believe that it is the work of Jesus Christ alone that makes the difference between salvation and damnation; instead, these self-righteous boasters believe that it is the effort of the sinner that makes the difference between salvation and damnation. These blasphemers deny that Jesus Christ made full satisfaction for sins and that Jesus Christ accomplished and ensured salvation for all whom He represented. They trample underfoot the precious blood of Jesus Christ, treating it as something of no value. They glory and boast in themselves, for whatever one believes makes the difference between salvation and damnation is what one glories and boasts in. There is not a single one of these blasphemers who is a child of God. [Psa 25:14; Psa 74:18; Psa 94:4; Psa 139:20; Pro 30:12-13; Isa 28:14-18; Isa 42:8; Isa 48:11; Joh 16:8-14; Rom 3:27-28; Rom 4:2; Rom 10:3; Rom 16:17-18; 1Co 2:12; 2Co 10:3-6; Gal 1:8-9; 6:14; Eph 2:8-9; Phi 3:18-19; 1Ti 4:1; 2Ti 3:2-5; 2Ti 4:3-4; Heb 10:29; 1Jo 2:22-23; 4:6; 2Jo 1:9]

The Christian Confession of Faith, IV.C.6

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the proof that the work of Jesus Christ was effectual to save all for whom it was intended. This is how Jesus, the Great Shepherd, protects, guides, and nurtures his people. Hallelujah!

Rev 7:[15] Therefore they are before the throne of God, they serve him day and night in his temple. He who sits on the throne will spread his tabernacle over them. [16] They will never be hungry, neither thirsty any more; neither will the sun beat on them, nor any heat; [17] for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shepherds them, and leads them to springs of waters of life. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

3 Know that the Lord is God indeed;
Without our aid he did us make:
We are his flock, he doth us feed,
And for his sheep he doth us take.
(Psalm 100, 1st Version, The Psalms of David in Metre)

See Also:

What Did the Work of Christ Accomplish?

Judging Saved and Lost

Jehovah Will Provide (Yahweh-Jireh)