The role of shepherd may be the most vital of any in the Body of Christ. Where are the shepherds?
“So when they had eaten their breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I have affection for you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I have affection for you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you have affection for me?” Peter was grieved because he asked him the third time, “Do you have affection for me?” He said to him, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I have affection for you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” John 21:14-17 WEB (Emphasis added)
It was in this exchange, one of the last between the Lord and His disciples prior to His ascension, that the Lord revealed the priority of His heart and a key for us in returning His love. There were many other things the Lord could have asked of Peter, but it was the importance of nurturing and protecting His flock that was foremost on the Lord’s heart.
This flock, for whom Christ died, is His most precious possession. That’s saying a lot considering He is the almighty Lord over everyone and everything in the universe, possessing all that there is to possess. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one in purpose and in every other way; a relationship too mysterious for us to grasp.
He (for they are one) considered humanity a prize for which He willingly paid the infinite price which necessitated Jesus laying aside His divinity and assuming the humble, limited form of mankind for eternity. He lived a perfect life in this dreary fallen world; tempted to the extreme by Satan himself, and died a horrific death; tortured, rejected by His followers, mocked and spat upon by the world:
“…Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb 12:2 WEB (Emphasis added)
If we look about at other people, or even gaze into a mirror, there is no way for us to understand how such odious and unlovable creatures could ever merit anything other than a quick trip into God’s dustbin, or an eternity separated from Him. If we even marginally deserved the salvation that He has so freely given to us, it would not be grace, but justice.
When your parents leave you alone at home, their departure, as they go out the door, is typically preceded by a series of warnings (even threats) and instructions: “Don’t forget to lock the doors, don’t stay up all night; no parties; mow the grass every week; feed the animals”…the list varies, but there is always a list.
What were the items on Jesus’ list? “feed my sheep”, “tend my sheep”.
The divine order established by the Lord includes five key ministries: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds (pastors), and teachers. Christ fulfilled each of these roles in His lifetime, but how is He most commonly portrayed in parables? It is the ministry characterized as a nurturer and protector; that of shepherd. Our Lord Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1 KJV
It is this shepherding, protective and nurturing role that the Lord clearly held to be of highest importance. Shepherds differ from the other ministries in their accountability for the constant, day-to-day care for the flock.
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and I’m known by my own; 15 even as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14-15 WEB
The Good Shepherd; the example to all shepherds; knows each of His sheep, and they know Him by His voice. His commitment goes beyond that of a hireling because He loves the sheep to the extent that He died for them. We belong to Him.
By the same token, a good shepherd in service to the Lord gives his life for the sheep. His concern for them is so strong that if one goes astray, he will not rest until that lost one is restored to the flock, and then there is hot soup, grilled cheese sandwiches and rejoicing all around!
There is a desperate need for real shepherds; men of God with tender hearts for the sheep, and the moxie to confront predators and guide the sheep when they seem determined to stray into peril. It takes more dedication to speak a word of admonition than to give a compliment in most cases. In these evil days, there is no shortage of persons of both sexes calling themselves pastors, either by virtue of some academic credential or by a self-appointed assumption of power resulting from their ability to establish a following. Scripture describes them thus:
“These are hidden rocky reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you, shepherds who without fear feed themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn leaves without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; 13 wild waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the blackness of darkness has been reserved forever.” Jude 1:12-13 WEB (Emphasis added)
“As I live, says the Lord Yahweh, surely because my sheep became a prey, and my sheep became food to all the animals of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my sheep, but the shepherds fed themselves, and didn’t feed my sheep;” Ezk 34:8
Shepherding God’s people carries a heavy responsibility, but God is able, and through the leading and the power of the Holy Spirit, His servants are equipped and enabled to perform His will for the flock.
The gifts of the Spirit, and the five-fold ministries were bestowed on the Church by Jesus at His ascension. His Church is an organism, not an organization, and it grows and matures by that which each joint supplies.
“…but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, Christ; 16 from whom all the body, being fitted and knit together through that which every joint supplies, according to the working in measure of each individual part, makes the body increase to the building up of itself in love.” Eph 4:15-16
This message has applications for sheep as well as shepherds. Is the shepherd you follow a man of God? Is he feeding you from the word of God, or merely tickling your ears? Does he know your needs? Is he a master, or, like our Lord, a servant? If he is a man of God, have you submitted yourself and your ministry to him? He cannot be held responsible for your wellbeing unless you have submitted to him. He may rebuke you or question certain things in your life. That is his responsibility before God.
The shepherd’s ministry is so precious to the Lord that He has promised a special reward to those who perform it faithfully; a crown of glory:
“Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion, but voluntarily, not for dishonest gain, but willingly; 3 neither as lording it over those entrusted to you, but making yourselves examples to the flock. 4 When the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the crown of glory that doesn’t fade away.” 1 Pet 5:2-4 (Emphasis added)
Is God calling you to be a shepherd? If so, accepting such a role should be done with sober prayerfulness. It is a responsibility that the Lord does not take lightly, but the joy in caring for His flock will far surpass any other reward He can give you. His selection carries with it the ability and the authority to perform the task He has chosen you for. As you share the concerns of His heart, you will be drawn ever nearer to Him.
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- Don’t Mess With Israel by Greg Lauer @alittlestrength.com