Matthew 9:36 - When He [Jesus] saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
The work of a shepherd in Palestine was sometimes dangerous. There were predatory animals to drive off. There were vicious robbers who tried to steal the sheep. A faithful shepherd sometimes found it necessary to risk his life for their welfare. Christ, the Good Shepherd, was not only ready to risk His life for His sheep, He gladly sacrificed it. Only in that way was He able to lead His sheep from earth's dry and desolate places to the eternally green pastures of heaven.
The first page in the history of mankind is a dark one. It casts a shadow over every page that follows. The story of man moved swiftly and suddenly from the joy and glory of the Garden of Eden into a world of sin, of pain and suffering, of fear and grief, of strife and disappointment, of disease and death. But the very first page is brightened by the promise of a Good Shepherd who would give His life for humanity, the sheep of His flock. It throws light on every page that follows. The keen regret for a paradise lost is softened by the blessed assurance of paradise regained. Christ, the Good Shepherd, gave His life on Calvary so that whoever believes in Him, whoever accepts Him as his own Shepherd Savior and follows Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life. The Good Shepherd came to give His sheep abundant life. His promise is this: "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:27-28).
David, the author of the 23rd Psalm, was a king with great responsibility. He certainly knew something about sheep; in his youth he had been a shepherd. He had led the flocks of his father through the valleys and over the hills near Bethlehem. And he realized what it meant to a sheep to have a faithful and skillful shepherd to look after all its needs.
How the 23rd Psalm takes on a new and richer meaning when we have learned to know the Good Shepherd as Christ, our Savior! In life, through life, there is none so loving, none so tender, none so wise, none so strong. In danger He will give us direction and courage; in grief He will console us; in sorrow over sin He will forgive us; in death He will take us home with Him to heaven.
THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, keep us close in the strong arms of our Good Shepherd, Jesus. In His Name we pray. Amen.
From "Christ, the Good Shepherd," a sermon excerpt from Rev. Dr. Armin Oldsen, former Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
1. Have you ever spent much time around sheep? Has anything surprised you about them?
2. Do you like the Bible's frequent analogy of calling people "sheep"? Do you prefer another animal as an example?
3. Is there anyone who would be considered "sheep" in your life?
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