SUNDAY MAY 8. MOTHER’S DAY & WORLD DAY OF PRAYER FOR
Acts 13. 14, 43 -52
Revelation 7.9, 14b – 17
John 10. 27 – 30
In a family gathering, a youngster stood up and recited the twenty-third psalm from memory. It
was a beautiful rendition. His words flowed like music. His folks applauded enthusiastically and
asked him to do it a second time. He proudly obliged. Then the patriarch of the family stood up.
In a cracked an halting voice, he began, “The Lord is my shepherd. There is nothing I shall
want…” His family sat there hypnotized till the conclusion. They were too overwhelmed to
applaud. One of their family members later summed up the reaction of all, “The boy knows the
psalm, but old man knows the shepherd.”
Jesus refers to his relationship with us as that of shepherd and his sheep. Some of us might like to
think that the application of shepherd to Jesus was original with him. Yet, scholars are quick to
burst our bubble on that point. Shepherding is the first occupation mentioned in the Bible. Abel,
Adam’s son was a keeper of sheep. Many famous figures in Hebrew history were shepherds
including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jacob’s sons, Moses and David. Later, the term shepherd
applied to leaders was quite common. The Greek poet Homer who lived out his life about a
millennium before Christ called the celebrated soldier Agamemnon “the shepherd of the people”.
The Pharaohs of Egypt are pictured with the staff of the shepherd in their hands.
The many references to sheep and shepherds throughout the Scriptures indicate that sheep were the
most important of all domestic animals. A flock of sheep, together with agriculture, were basic to
the economy. Wealth was measured in sheep. So, good shepherds were very important.
Shepherds were the sheep-tenders and it was a respected form of livelihood. The economic value
of sheep stands in direct proportion to the amount of supervision (guidance and protection) these
Sheep become lost easily; once lost they are defenceless. Although the shepherd’s work was often
boring, it was undoubtedly a job that called for diligence and endurance. They had to be constantly
on the lookout for wolves and thieves and in parched Palestine, know exactly where to find water
for the flock. It is not surprising, then, that the biblical writers employed the shepherd image to
God in the Old Testament, and to Jesus in the New Testament. Thus, when Jesus used the term
‘Good Shepherd’ in reference to himself, no one was surprised.
As we all know from history, not all shepherds are the same. Many generals and pharaohs such as
Ivan the Terrible, Stalin and Hitler seemed to be killers of sheep. As Arthur Tonne points out,
“Jesus took very special care of the physical needs of His sheep. He restored sight to a blind man.
He turned water into wine for the people. He healed a Roman Officer’s ill servant. He multiplied
loaves an fish for a famished mob. Surely our shepherd is one of a kind.”
Jesus’ concern went beyond the physical. Eagerly this shepherd listened to his sheep with both the
ears of his head as well as those of his heart. He was a most effective counsellor, advocate and
listener. Check it out in the Gospels. Look up Nicodemus, the widow of Nain, the blind fellow
and the leper. If you wanted his time, consider it was yours. His own agenda he put on the back
burner. His time becomes your time. You need no appointment to approach Him. This shepherd
is an all time winner.
As we learn from the gospel, Jesus was most anxious to get his sheep out of this transitory life an
into eternal life. His agenda was twofold – making both this life more attractive and heaven the
final stop. If you have the patience to find out, you will find that references are made to eternal life
a dozen times from chapters 3 through 6 of John’s Gospel. And today’s Gospel raises that number
to a mighty thirteen. “I give them,” said Jesus, “eternal life; they will never perish” (John 10: 27 –
Why do we need a shepherd?
We need the Shepherd because we are prone to wander. Jesus leads us back into the fold.
We need the Shepherd because we cannot find our way back again by ourselves. Jesus restores us
to full fellowship with God.
We need the Shepherd because He knows the way. Jesus can show us the way.
We are still very much defenceless in the world and in need of guidance. Every generation needs
the water of life, and must be led to it. Therefore if you are given the option of knowing either
Psalm 23 or the shepherd, be smart. Choose the shepherd.