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The Good, Great & Chief Shepherd

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)

The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. (1 Peter 5:1-4)

The theme of shepherding runs throughout Scripture. Abraham, Jacob, Moses and David were notable shepherds in the Old Testament. In different ways, they each pointed forward to the Lord Jesus, who protects, feeds, tends and guides His sheep. In contrast to the irresponsible leaders of Israel who were supposed to shepherd the people of God, the Lord Jesus is the true shepherd who cares for the flock (Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34). 

Psalms 22-24 are collectively referred to as the Shepherd Psalms, and highlight the Lord Jesus as the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd, and the Chief Shepherd. He suffered and died to save us (Psalm 22), He lives to direct and provide for us (Psalm 23) and is soon coming back to reign as King (Psalm 24). The Lord Jesus is the Good Shepherd who gave His life, He is the Great Shepherd who rose from the dead, and He is the Chief Shepherd who is coming again. As the Good Shepherd He died for the sheep, as the Great Shepherd He lives for the sheep, and as the Chief Shepherd He will reward the sheep. As the Good Shepherd, He has saved us from the penalty of sin; as the Great Shepherd He is saving us from the power of sin; as the Chief Shepherd He will save us from the presence of sin altogether. He is the faithful witness, the firstborn from among the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth (Revelation 1:5). We have been saved by His cross, we are being guided by His crook and we await His crown!

In Christ’s earthly ministry and sacrificial death we perceive His goodness; in His resurrection and priesthood we perceive His greatness; in His future appearing and kingdom we perceive His glory. Acts 10:38 states that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil”. He is the great Prophet (Luke 7:16), High Priest (Hebrews 4:14) and King (Psalm 47:2). Yes, He is the Chief among ten thousand (Song 5:10) — all of the redeemed! Notice that as the Good and as the Great Shepherd, Christ stands alone. No one else could die for our sins or be raised for our justification. We could not participate or contribute towards our salvation in any way. But as the Chief Shepherd, we will be with Him for eternity and share His glory. “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:4). The very title implies that there are others among whom He is chief. Although we had nothing to do in the work of salvation, we can now partner with Him in service which will be rewarded at His coming!

Is the Lord Jesus being magnified in our lives? Is He becoming greater and more profound to our hearts as we follow Him? Are we seeing more of His beauties as time goes by? As a sinner, I first saw the Lord Jesus as the Good Shepherd; as a saint, I also see Him now as the Great Shepherd; and when He is revealed, I shall see Him as He is — in His glory as the Chief Shepherd. In the narrative of the Apostle Paul’s conversion, Luke writes that “a light shone around him from heaven” (Acts 9:3). When addressing the mob at his arrest, Paul himself describes it as “a great light” (Acts 22:6), and later to King Agrippa as “a light from heaven, brighter than the sun” (Acts 26:13). Over time, Paul became increasingly aware of how glorious this light was. Even so, may the value of our Good, Great and Chief Shepherd shine brighter and brighter to us, from our initial perspective as sinners saved by grace (John 10:11), to children of God doing His will (Hebrews 13:20-21), to the ever-nearing prospect of eternity (1 Peter 5:1-4) — that in all things He may have the preeminence (Colossians 1:18).

He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30)

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