When we think of a shepherd and his sheep, a lovely pastoral scene may come to mind, and we see sheep feeding safely in a green pasture as their shepherd watches over them nearby. We may feel envious of the sheep, peacefully grazing without any worries. But we believers actually do have the most wonderful Shepherd—our Lord Jesus.
We’ll see in this post nine ways Jesus has been and continues to be our Shepherd.
1. Jesus our Shepherd gave His life for us
God was in the heavens, holy and unapproachable by us fallen, sinful human beings. But two thousand years ago, God became a man, the man Jesus. The Lord Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life on earth, unlike any other person. He expressed God to humanity every place He went, with every action He took, and with every word He spoke. He ministered to people, full of compassion for the lost sheep of the world.
In John 10:11, before His death on the cross, Jesus told people what He would do: “I am the good Shepherd; the good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” Jesus the good Shepherd
willingly laid down His own life for the lost sheep of humanity. He made the ultimate sacrifice and accomplished redemption for us on the cross as our substitute. Surely no other shepherd is like our Lord Jesus! How thankful we are that He laid down His life for all of us lost ones.
2. Jesus shepherded us even before we were saved
Even before we were saved, Jesus shepherded us. We were lost and far from God. Though we were ignorant of His love, He guided us and protected us throughout our lives to lead us to His salvation.
First Peter 1:2 says we were “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father in the sanctification of the Spirit unto the obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” Before we believed, the sanctifying Spirit used all kinds of persons, matters, and things to work on us, His chosen ones, so that we would repent and turn to God.
When we look back, we can see all that the Lord Jesus did to bring us to Himself. As our good Shepherd, He found us lost ones, laid us on His shoulders, and brought us home to Himself. When we believed into Him, He forgave us, washed us, and entered into us as the life-giving Spirit to be with us forever. Now He is our indwelling Shepherd, caring for us both inwardly and outwardly.
A verse from a hymn by E.R. Charles speaks of Jesus’ love for us, even before we accepted salvation:
“I knew not of His love;
And He had loved so long,
With love so faithful and so deep,
So tender and so strong.”
3. Jesus is the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls
First Peter 2:25 says, “For you were like sheep being led astray, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” Now that we have turned back to Christ, He oversees our entire life and cares for us in a deep way.
Note 3 on 1 Peter 2:25 in the New Testament Recovery Version explains:
“Our soul is our inner being, our real person. Our Lord, as the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls, shepherds us by caring for the welfare of our inner being and by exercising His oversight over the condition of our real person.”
How intimate and detailed is His shepherding of us! He cares not only for the outward details of our lives, but also for our inner being, our real person. We can entrust ourselves to His shepherding and oversight. He knows our psychological and spiritual needs, even more than we do. In all circumstances, the Shepherd of our souls sees what we need and ministers Himself to us to meet that need.
Another verse in the same hymn says:
“Come and rejoice with me!
I, once so sick at heart,
Have met with One who knows my case,
And knows the healing art.”
4. Our Shepherd knows us
When the Lord Jesus was on earth, crowds saw Him, heard Him speak, and even followed Him around. But many in the crowds did not really know Him. They spent time near Him and talked about Him. They saw the miracles He did and heard Him speak. But eventually, most of the crowd left Him. They did not really know Jesus, this wonderful person, in a personal way.
But the disciples who were with Jesus knew Him in a personal, intimate way. They were with Him all the time and in the quieter moments away from the crowd. He spoke directly and personally to them.
But it wasn’t until after His death and resurrection that the disciples could receive this wonderful person into them and began to know Jesus inwardly. In John 20:22, on the day of resurrection, the Lord Jesus “breathed into them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit.” The disciples began to know Jesus not according to the flesh outwardly but inwardly, in their spirit.
When we were born again, the Spirit came into our spirit. So we too have the ability to know Jesus inwardly in our spirit. When we prayerfully open to Him, we can sense what He likes, what He dislikes, and how He feels about things. Each day as we open to Him, we can know our Lord in a subjective, personal way.
Additionally, Jesus as our Shepherd truly knows us. No matter how close our families and friends are to us, they cannot know us like He does. Our Shepherd who lives in us truly knows us, even our deepest inward being. He even knows us better than we know ourselves!
This verse from the same hymn expresses how precious it is to be known by our Shepherd:
“Come and rejoice with me
For I have found a Friend
Who knows my heart’s most secret depths,
Yet loves me without end.”
5. Our Shepherd guides us
First Peter 2:25 says, “For you were like sheep being led astray.” Before we were saved, we were lost in sin and far from God. But even as believers, we sometimes drift and lose our way. We’re easily discouraged and drawn away from the Lord and from His Word. Without the Lord’s shepherding us, we would have no hope of remaining on the Christian course. But by His loving presence, He personally guides us, just as a shepherd keeps track of each of his sheep.
Not only does Christ guide us back to Him when we are off the path, He also guides us in a positive way as the Spirit of reality dwelling in us. The Lord Jesus said in John 16:13, “But when He, the Spirit of reality, comes, He will guide you into all the reality.” After His death and resurrection, the Lord as the Spirit of reality came to live in us, and He makes all that the Son is real to us. By His guiding, we come to know our wonderful, rich Christ in a deeper way, especially when we exercise our spirit as we read His Word.
6. Our Shepherd feeds and waters us
Every day we need to be spiritually nourished, and our Shepherd knows this. Without such nourishment, we will become spiritually weak and dry. So where does our Shepherd lead us to eat and drink? The answer is, He leads us to Himself.
Christ Jesus said in John 6, “I am the bread of life.” Christ doesn’t send us somewhere else for food. He is the true bread that satisfies our hunger and strengthens us on our Christian journey, and He is constantly shepherding us back to Himself to be nourished. When we read and pray over the words in the Bible, especially in the morning, He feeds us. The Bible is our daily food to supply us every day of our Christian life.
We also sometimes feel dry in our Christian life. But our Shepherd doesn’t want us to feel dry. He wants us to drink of Him as the water of life. In John 7:37, Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” To drink, we have to come to our Shepherd. We can come to Him by praying even a simple prayer: “Lord Jesus, I come to You right now. I am so thirsty and I need You. Give me a drink.” One good way to drink of Christ is to call on His dear name. As we call, “Lord Jesus,” we drink of Him as living water, our thirst is quenched, and we’re revived.
7. Our Shepherd is our rest
Jesus our Shepherd also is our rest. Nothing and no one can give us rest like the Lord Jesus. He told us in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me all who toil and are burdened, and I will give you rest,” and in verse 29, “You will find rest for your souls.” To have rest in our souls, we need to come to Christ. Even in the midst of our busyness and toil, we can come to Him at any time. He is always right there in our spirit, so ready and available to us. When we come to Him in our spirit, we experience our burdens being lifted and Christ as our real rest. We can pray, “Lord Jesus, I come to You. Thank You for being my real rest.”
8. Our Shepherd is the righteous One in our spirit
Our Shepherd is the resurrected Christ who lives in our spirit. Romans 8:4 says, “The righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the spirit.”
We in ourselves are not righteous, but when we believed in Christ, we received and were joined to the One who is righteous. So as we exercise to walk not by our flesh, our fallen being, but by and with the Lord in our spirit, our daily living will be according to our spirit. Spontaneously, without our self-effort, we fulfill the righteous requirement of the law; we’re right with the Lord, with others, and with all matters and things.
9. Our Shepherd cares for us and saves us from anxiety
Human life is marked by troubles and sufferings, and we can easily become anxious. Although the Lord Jesus knows all, He still wants us to fellowship with Him and tell Him everything. First Peter 5:7 tells us we can cast “all our anxiety on Him because it matters to Him concerning you.” How can we do this? By prayer.
Philippians 4:6 says, “In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” When we bring all our cares to Him in prayer, we’re released from the anxiety consuming us. Then we experience the next verse: “And the peace of God, which surpasses every man’s understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.”
Our Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, isn’t far away from us. His presence in our spirit stirs a desire in us to eat of His Word, drink of Him, come to Him, walk according to Him, and rest in Him. He guides us and encourages us, caring for us according to our needs every moment. What a wonderful Shepherd we have!
You can read the full hymn by E.R. Charles and hear the tune here.