From Notes of Addresses
One of the sweetest titles the Lord ever gave Himself when here on earth was that of Shepherd. It is a name which carries with it the thought of His tenderest care and solicitude for those who belong to Him. It is John’s gospel, more than Any other, that brings Him before us in that character. In chapter 10 He gives the very special features of the true Shepherd in contrast to “the hireling, whose own the sheep are not.”
Being described by prophetic utterance as “The Shepherd of Israel,” of whom David was the great type as the Shepherd King, we have in Christ the true Shepherd; a contrast to all those who had assumed to be in that position for Israel, but who had failed to shepherd the sheep of His pasture. He assures us that He has other sheep that are riot of this—the Jewish—fold, and thus He announces that we too are the sheep of His flock, and there shall be one flock and one Shepherd.
He told us that He is the Good Shepherd, and fully bears out His own description of such, in that He has given His life for the sheep. As great David’s greater Son He has in the depth of His own love delivered us from the mouth of the great Devourer as did David the little lamb in His day. Shall we ever forget the Lord in that character? How precious He has made Himself to be to us, and we give expression to our feelings of love and praise oftentimes thus:—
“We’ll sing of the Shepherd that died
That died for the sake of the flock,
His love to the utmost was tried,
Bat firmly endured as a rock.
When blood from a victim must flow,
This Shepherd by pity was led
To stand between us and the foe,
And willingly died in our stead.”
It has often been said that Psalm 23 is the great Shepherd Psalm simply because it begins “The Lord is my shepherd,” but I think Psalms 22, 23, and 24, are all Shepherd Psalms. In Psalm 22 we have the outward journey of the Shepherd seeking the lost sheep. In Psalm 23 we have the homeward journey of the Great, Shepherd that bears over rock and waste and wild the sheep He had found. Psalm 24 gives us the Chief Shepherd of the sheep landing the sheep home amid a host of others. He goes out alone; He comes home again as the Lord of Hosts. Thus it is that these three Psalms give us the Shepherd in the yesterday, the today and the tomorrow of His love; all corresponding to the titles that are given Him of the Good, Great and Chief Shepherd of the sheep. It is in death He proves Himself the Good shepherd and in Resurrection He is the Great Shepherd, and when He comes in glory He will come as the Chief Shepherd.
Let us look particularly at His gracious activities as the Great Shepherd of the sheep on the day when He was brought again from the dead, and see how beautifully he fills the description of Himself as it is given in Psalm 23.
What a busy day He had on that first day of the week after He had risen from the dead as the Great Shepherd. It had been announced, in Zechariah 13:7, that the Shepherd should be smitten and the sheep scattered. Now His first business, and apparently His whole business, that day was caring for and recovering the sadly scattered sheep, who had lost sight of Him, and who had consequently lost heart. The wolf—the open adversary—had scattered the sheep, but here is the Great Shepherd of the sheep busy from early morn till late at night gathering the scattered remnants of the flock. How well we can see in all this that He is the great Gatherer while the Devil is the great scatterer.
MARY MAGDALENE. This dear woman was evidently the Great Shepherd’s first care that morning. Want was what truly described her. Without Him the whole world seemed to be in want. What a heart hunger, what a want was hers such as she had never before known. No one would fill the void His death had made for her. It is not for deliverance she is now craving, she had had that, and could never lose it. But it was the Mighty Deliverer she had lost, and the result was a broken-hearted woman!
She is verily a seeking soul, and they that seek find, for had He not said Himself, “Seek and ye shall find.” The language of her heart was “One thing have I desired . . . that will I seek after.” He Himself is going to satisfy that longing soul. He is going to appease that heart hunger of hers, and immediately He is found near her. With His own skilful touch of compassion He touched the sore spot at once and said more than angels had thought of saying. He adds to their question another “Whom seekest thou?” Here is the Great Shepherd fulfilling His mission. “He calleth His own sheep by name.” “Jesus saith unto her, Mary!” Suddenly the want in her heart was at an end. Satisfaction, peace and rest are hers. She is at once in green pastures, beside the water of quietness and lying down in rest and peace. Now she can say “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.” Not “there is no want,” for there is plenty of it; but in the midst of all the want “I shall not want.” Oh for such a vision of the risen Christ!
SIMON PETER. The next evidently to have the Shepherd’s care was poor, dear, backsliding Peter. “The Lord is risen and hath appeared unto Simon” is the joyful news that runs round the little circle of disciples. Simon? Yes, Simon! Poor unhappy heart-broken Simon must be got ready for the meeting in the evening. He is here as the great Gatherer of the scattered sheep. He is just as ready to confirm his love to a backslider as He is to respond to the love of a devotee.
The last that had been seen of Simon was when he went out of the High Priest’s house in a flood of tears. He had been sitting in the seat of the scornful, and standing in the way of shiners and had become a moral coward in the process.
What a meaning to Peter would those words have in Psalm 23. “He restoreth my soul, He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” How well He is justifying His own name as the Great Shepherd of His sheep! And He leads us into such paths as will glorify His name too.
Nothing is said of that interview, but that He had appeared unto Simon. It is not so much what was said as what he saw. We sadly need a revelation of Himself. Note it is the revelation of Himself that restores all these wanderers, and is the means of drawing them together. Lose sight of Him and we soon scatter and turn back. This is what took place with Israel. “As for this Moses . . . we wot not what is become of him.” This was the reason for their saying to Aaron, “up, make us gods, which shall go before us.” People do not readily go back to the world unless they have made themselves gods. “Little children keep yourselves from idols.”
THE TWO GOING TO EMMAUS. A deep shadow is on the spirit of these two. They had buried their hopes in connection with Christ in the garden sepulchre of Joseph the devoted councillor. They too had lost sight of Jesus. They were verily walking in the valley of the death shade. Death had shadowed their lives, and blasted their hopes as it has done for many since then, but as yet they knew not the Great Shepherd. He was only that in resurrection and they knew nothing of the triumph that had been witnessed in the early hours of that morning, they had heard it but the whole thing was so unaccountable that they could not believe it. The story of certain women was to them impossible. They are walking in the valley of the shadow of death, reasoning and saddened as they go.
Then was fulfilled the part of the mission of the Great Shepherd “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for Thou art with me,” for it is written “As they reasoned Jesus Himself drew near” and went with them. His rod and His staff comforted them. His rod for correction and direction, and His staff for protection. “Fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” is His correction. He then spread a table before them in the wilderness, anointing their heads with oil, giving them such a sample of the work of the Holy Ghost in His wonderful exposition that their cups ran over, as their hearts burned within them. But you must observe, wonderful as the ministry was, it never altered their course a little bit. They still moved on the way from Jerusalem—Jerusalem, where they hail been bidden to stay. But it had no doubt prepared them for the next step in the recovery, and that is a fresh revelation of Himself. Ministry may lead to heart burning but a view of Christ is necessary to move their feet in the right direction, that is back to the place of departure. Their eyes were opened and they recognised Him. He who was supposed to be the Guest became Host, and the giving of thanks for the bread was an eye-opener to them. He went and they returned.
THE GATHERING OF HIS PEOPLE. No sooner had they been all gathered in one flock than the Great Shepherd is with them, in the midst of them. A little foretaste it was, doubtless, of the dwelling in the house of the Lord for ever; while each one would have his own story to tell of the goodness and the mercy that had followed them to that glad moment.