Many people are familiar with the precious words of Psalms 23 in the Old Testament about the Lord as our Shepherd. But did you know that the New Testament also shows us how Jesus is our Shepherd today?
Today we’ll read some verses and notes from the New Testament Recovery Version that reveal different aspects of what Jesus as our Shepherd did in the past to care for us and how He continues to shepherd us today.
1. Luke 15—the Shepherd sought sinners in the world
Luke 15 tells us that tax collectors and sinners were coming to Jesus. Seeing this, some self-righteous Pharisees and scribes criticized Him. In verse 2, they murmured among themselves, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Jesus responded to them with three parables that reveal God’s heart toward sinners. We’ll focus on the first parable in verses 3-7:
“And He told them this parable, saying, Which man of you, who has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he finds it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes into his house, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost. I tell you that in the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner repenting than over ninety-nine righteous persons who have no need of repentance.”
The parable Jesus told wasn’t about a judge going out to hunt for wrongdoers to punish them. Instead, He spoke of a shepherd who went after his lost sheep to bring it home. This shows us that Jesus is our Shepherd who sought us lost sinners and brought us back to Himself.
How did the divine, eternal Son of God go after us to find us? And where were we? As His parable illustrates, we were lost in the wilderness, a barren and forsaken place.
Note 1 on Luke 15:4 in the Recovery Version explains what that wilderness represents:
“Signifying the world. This indicates that the Son has come to the world to be with men (John 1:14).”
To go after us, Jesus had to come into this desolate world by becoming a man of flesh and blood. What a tremendous step our Shepherd took to bring us home!
This parable in Luke 15 shows us God’s love for us. We were sinners, lost in the wilderness of this world, far away from God and unable to come back to Him. But the Son of God became a man in order to go after us, find us, and bring us back to God.
Yes, Jesus welcomes and eats with sinners. And He rejoices to have us, who were once lost, back home with Him!
2. John 10—the good Shepherd laid His life down for the sheep
In John 10:11, Jesus said:
“I am the good Shepherd; the good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”
First, our Shepherd, Jesus, became a man to find us lost sinners in the wilderness of the world. What’s more, He laid down His life for us by dying on the cross. This is how He brings us back to Himself.
Note 1 on life in the Recovery Version shows us the result of Jesus laying down His life for us:
“Gk. psuche, soul; i.e., soul-life, and so in the succeeding verses. As a man, the Lord has the psuche life, the human life, and as God, He has the zoe life, the divine life. He laid down His soul, His psuche life, His human life, to accomplish redemption for His sheep (vv. 15, 17-18) that they may share His zoe life, His divine life (v. 10b), the eternal life (v. 28), by which they can be formed into one flock under Himself as the one Shepherd. As the good Shepherd, He feeds His sheep with the divine life in this way and for this purpose.”
The good Shepherd laid down His life for us in order to redeem us. Without this redemption, we could never come back to God. But because He died for us, we not only can be redeemed but even receive zoe, the divine life of God.
Not only so, all the sheep who are redeemed and share the Lord’s life are formed into His one flock.
In John 10:16, Jesus said, “There shall be one flock, one Shepherd.”
Note 2 on one flock in this verse explains:
“The one flock signifies the one church, the one Body of Christ (Eph. 2:14-16; 3:6), brought forth by the Lord’s eternal, divine life, which He imparted into His members through His death (vv. 10-18).”
Jesus certainly loves each of us and knows us personally by name. But He doesn’t want us to be individual and separate sheep. By laying down His life for us, He both redeemed us and imparted His life into us. His life in us makes us His one flock: the church, the Body of Christ. This one flock is the issue of the good Shepherd laying down His life for the sheep.
How wonderful that we’re no longer lost sheep, wandering all alone in the wilderness. We’re now redeemed sheep and part of the one flock under the care of our good Shepherd!
3. Hebrews 13:20—the great Shepherd was resurrected from the dead
“Now the God of peace, He who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, in the blood of an eternal covenant.”
We’ve seen how our Shepherd came into the world by becoming a man and laid down His life for us. But of course, that wasn’t the end. Jesus was raised from the dead!
Today the resurrected Jesus is the great Shepherd. But this isn’t just an objective fact; it’s something we can subjectively, personally experience all the time.
We must see what happened in Christ’s resurrection to make this possible, so let’s turn to 1 Corinthians 15, a chapter on resurrection. Paul wrote this profound word in verse 45:
“So also it is written, The first man, Adam, became a living soul; the last Adam [Christ] became a life-giving Spirit.”
This verse tells us that in resurrection, Christ, the last Adam, became a life-giving Spirit.
Let’s read part of note 1 on this verse to see what that means for us:
“First, in incarnation He [Christ] became flesh for redemption (John 1:14, 29); then, in resurrection He became a life-giving Spirit for the imparting of life (John 10:10b)…Now He is a life-giving Spirit in resurrection, with a spiritual body, ready to be received by His believers. When we believe into Him, He enters our spirit, and we are joined to Him as the life-giving Spirit. Hence, we become one spirit with Him (6:17).”
The Son of God came as a man of flesh and blood so He could die for us to redeem us. But He didn’t stop there. He wanted to impart Himself as life into us. As a man in the flesh, Jesus Christ could never enter into or live in us. But in resurrection, He became a life-giving Spirit; when we believed in Him, He as the Spirit came into us to live in our deepest part, our spirit!
Today the resurrected Jesus, the great Shepherd, is living in our spirit as the life-giving Spirit, shepherding us from within.
Let’s go on to see some of the details of how He shepherds us inwardly.
4. First Peter 2:25—the Shepherd cares for our souls
“For you were like sheep being led astray, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
The Lord who lives within us as the life-giving Spirit is the Shepherd of our soul. This verse conveys His tender feeling towards all His sheep.
Note 3 on this verse 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.”
The Lord is certainly concerned for the outward matters of our lives, such as our food, clothing, and housing. But He also knows that our soul, our inward being, needs a great deal of care all the time. This is why He’s the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.
Especially when we’re in painful or difficult situations, it’s easy for our soul to be in distress. We may sometimes feel as if we’ve been turned upside down; we don’t know what to think or what direction to take. But the Lord calms the turbulent storms in our soul and directs our thoughts, comforts our emotions, and guides our intentions in the right path.
Because the Lord continually oversees our souls, He knows when we’re anxious or in pain. He also knows how to console and encourage us when we’re in the depths of suffering and heartache.
Isaiah 53:3 says that the Lord Jesus “was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Whatever we’re going through, He’s more than able to sympathize with us and take care of our souls.
So no matter what we’re facing, we can turn to our Shepherd, Jesus, who lives in us. We can pour out our hearts to Him and let Him care for us, guide us, and give us His peace.
5. Revelation 7:17—the Lamb shepherds and guides us
“For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and guide them to springs of waters of life; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Jesus is the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world. Now the Lamb shepherds and guides us to the springs of waters of life. This living water is just the Lord Himself.
We see this in John 7:37, where Jesus cried out, saying:
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.”
The Lord doesn’t want us to be spiritually dry, unsatisfied, or thirsty; He wants us to drink Him as the water of life, which quenches our thirst. A simple way we can drink Him is to call on His dear name. As we call, “Lord Jesus,” we drink of the springs of waters of life. Our inner thirst is quenched, and we’re revived.
In Revelation 7:17, we also have the precious promise that God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. How intimate, comforting, and sweet this is!
When we’re full of sorrows, we can shed our tears before God so He can wipe them away. Then the Lamb guides us to Himself as the springs of waters of life for us to drink deeply. What a Shepherd we have!
We can be comforted knowing that the Lord Jesus today is our dear Shepherd. He showed His great love for us by becoming a man and dying on the cross to redeem us lost ones. And our Great Shepherd in resurrection became the life-giving Spirit who now lives in our spirit. He continually oversees our souls and shepherds our inward being in a detailed, intimate way. And in our sorrows, the Lord tenderly leads us to Himself as the springs of waters of life so our inner thirst can be quenched. How marvelous this is!
Of course, the Lord’s wonderful shepherding of us is not aimless. He wants us to grow in His life and be filled with Himself. So as our Shepherd, He cares for us and arranges the best circumstances for this growth to take place. This is how we will become His expression and fulfill God’s plan for mankind.
We hope reading these verses and notes has increased your appreciation of the Lord as our Shepherd. If you live in the US, we encourage you to order a free copy of the New Testament Recovery Version here so you can read all of the notes accompanying the verses we mentioned.