A shepherd has a special job. He has a very close relationship with his sheep. He knows them and cares for them self-sacrificingly. The psalmist David, who was a shepherd himself, knew what he was talking about when he said: “The Lord is my shepherd …”
In John 10:11, Jesus calls Himself “the good shepherd.” Many artists have portrayed Him as a shepherd. Many of us are familiar with the picture of Jesus standing in the middle of a flock of sheep, carrying a lamb in His arms. This picture reminds us of the actual pastoral work of Jesus. It also chronicles the Christian’s life in four important points: lost, sought, found, and carried home.
It was precisely for this reason that Jesus came into this world. With compassion, He observed the wandering, lost humanity. Matthew writes: “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). He wants to be this shepherd since He calls Himself the good shepherd. In Luke 19:10, we read: “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
The image of Jesus as the shepherd was already seen by the Old Testament poets and prophets. Through the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord said: “I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them” (Ezekiel 34:23). And David sang in Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Jesus was seen as a full-time shepherd, doing helpful and blessed pastoral work.
He seeks the lost and those who have gone astray
From our own experience, we know how far we can become estranged from God. Isaiah wrote: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). Becoming lost can quickly turn into panic and hopelessness. Imagine a lost hiker in the desert. The moment must be terrible when he realizes he is really lost. His heart is filled with fear! A situation like this can become a death sentence.
This is also the situation of a spiritually lost person. In this seemingly hopeless circumstance, there isn’t a greater comfort than knowing that the Shepherd is looking for the lost. This awareness brings hope and the possibility of salvation.
The good shepherd seeks the lost until He has found them
Jesus emphasized this fact when He talked to His disciples about the good shepherd in John 10. He showed them how He values every single soul. Regardless of the effort or cost, He searches for each individual until He has found them. He is prepared to leave the 99 in the pasture and find that one lost sheep. He finds them immersed in lusts and addictions, in foolishness and uncertainty, in the crevices of stubbornness and hardheartedness, in impurity and fornication, and in the thorns of despair and weariness of life. No case is hopeless, because the Shepherd searches for everyone with His love and grace until He has found them.
He carries the sheep home on His shoulders
What a beautiful picture! Sheep are some of the most helpless, defenseless, and awkward animals. If lost, they rarely find their way home again. For this reason, the shepherd has to search, find, and bring his sheep home. As mothers, fathers, pastors, and prayer warriors, we often plead: “Lord, please bring our lost ones home!”
Although Jesus compares people to sheep, in reality, we are not sheep but moral human beings with a free will. Often, we deliberately choose the wrong path. We need to be willing to be found, saved, and brought home. Even in Jesus’ inner circle of disciples, there was a “lost child.” We hear His heartfelt prayer: “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12). Without question, Jesus interceded for Judas, but in spite of that prayer, he was lost.
Pastoral work is difficult. A pastor met a poor man on the side of the road, breaking up rocks while on his knees. “My friend, you have a difficult job,” he said, “but it is like mine. You have rocks to break, and so do I.” “Yes,” the man replied, “If you want to break hard hearts, you have to do it like me – on your knees.”
Should this kind of pastoral work be unsuccessful? Even for you? Who should save you from your lost, helpless, and despondent situation? Jesus wants to be your shepherd! Grasp His saving hand and allow yourself to be lifted up and carried home!