Text: Psalm 23
Psalms 22, 23 and 24 reveal different aspect of the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Psalm 22 He is portrayed as the suffering Saviour, “All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him … They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture” (:7-8, 18). In Psalm 23 He is the Shepherd of His sheep. In Psalm 24 He is the Glorious King, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in” (:7). In these Psalms we see the cross, the crook, and the crown.
The Scriptures reveal the Lord Jesus as the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd, and the Chief Shepherd.
The Good Shepherd
“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
He died on the cross for our sin. This is the part of His ministry which is past and never to be repeated. It is through His finished work on Calvary that we have the privilege of receiving salvation and forgiveness of sin. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6) … “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:5-9) … “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10).
Being the Good Shepherd indicates that He is unique, for Jesus willingly lay down His life for us. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all … he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:6, 12) … “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). As David fought the lion and the bear to save his flock, so Christ delivered us out of the mouth of the “roaring lion” (see 1 Samuel 17:34 and 1 Peter 5:8).
The Great Shepherd
“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant” (Hebrews 13:20).
Here we see our Shepherd rising from the dead, and protecting those who believe in Him. This is His present ministry toward His people. The resurrection of Christ is a sign that His work on the cross settled the sin question once and for all.
It is through Him that we can have constant victory over the power of sin. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2) … “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). This victory over sin is at the very centre of holiness in the believer’s life. “The everlasting covenant – The Christian covenant, which is not temporary, like the Jewish, but designed to remain for ever. By the application of that blood, by which this covenant was established, may he make you, in every respect, inwardly and outwardly holy!” (John Wesley).
The Chief Shepherd
“And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (1 Peter 5:4).
Our Shepherd is returning to take us to be with Him. Here we see His future work on our behalf. He is coming to deliver and bring us to glory. “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5) … “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is!” (1 John 3:2) … “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). Our Chief Shepherd must fulfil His promise to His flock. “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3).
These aspects of Christ’s role of Shepherd are only a reality for those who have accepted Him as Saviour. Such a personal relationship with Him is given to those who have repented of their sin and are committed to following Him wherever He leads. “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).