Peter was commissioned by the Lord Himself to be a shepherd. On the shore of the sea of Galilee, the risen Jesus said to Peter, “feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17) and in doing so, Jesus restored Peter to ministry and commissioned him to be a shepherd of sheep. Peter’s understanding of the importance of this commission is revealed in his first letter to the churches in Asia Minor.
As Peter wrote his first letter, he must have recalled Jesus’ words and his teachings about sheep:
John 10:27-28 [Jesus said] ”My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
Clearly, Jesus revealed Himself as the Shepherd of the sheep, and He told that He would call His sheep, and He promised that He would keep His sheep in His loving care.
The theme of a shepherd tending sheep runs throughout the Bible. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David are identified as shepherds in the Bible. The revelation of Jesus being the Shepherd of sheep, “the flock of God” (Psalm 100:3, 1 Pete 5:2), is beautifully revealed in three psalms — 22, 23 and 24. These psalms are often collectively referred to as the Shepherd Psalms and they point us to Jesus who is the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd, and the Chief Shepherd.
The Good, Great, and Chief Shepherd
The Good Shepherd Psalm
Psalm 22 tells of the Shepherd as a suffering servant. The parallel New Testament verses are found in John 10:1-18 and tell of the Good Shepherd who calls His sheep to Himself.
Psalm 22 speaks of the cross of Jesus Christ who, as the Suffering Servant of God, came to the lost sheep of the House of Israel and gave Himself as a sacrifice according to the Law. Jesus lived a sinless life and presented Himself as the pure, unblemished Lamb of God to be sacrificed for the sin of the world. He conquered death and lives to be the door through which the sheep enter the sheepfold and the Shepherd who calls them:
John 10:7, 9, 11 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep…. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture…. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”
Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
The Great Shepherd Psalm
Psalm 23 is the Great Shepherd Psalm. It speaks of the risen Lord who protects, directs and corrects His sheep. Sheep are very foolish creatures. They wander off the path and need the Shepherd to keep them headed in the right direction. Sheep easily go far astray and lose their way. They need the Shepherd to seek them and to bring them back to the fold.
Psalm 23 speaks of the Shepherd’s love, comfort, and faithfulness that meets the daily needs of the sheep and gives them direction and hope. The parallel New Testament verses, that remind us of the perfecting work of God in our lives, offer a prayer of hope in the Great Shepherd:
Hebrews 13:20-21 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, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Jesus is the Great Shepherd.
The Chief Shepherd Psalm
Psalm 24 is known as the Chief Shepherd Psalm. This psalm speaks of a time yet to come, when Jesus will come for all sheep who have heard His voice and have followed Him. It is a future glory that awaits all who belong to the Chief Shepherd. It is a future time when all the earth will know that the Shepherd is sovereign over all (Psalm 24:1) Psalm 22 proclaims the fulfillment of God’s purpose and plan and the Chief Shepherd’s role as King of Glory:
Psa 24:7-10 Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory.
1 Peter 5:4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
Jesus is the Chief Shepherd.
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd:
he shall gather the lambs with his arm,
and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently
lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:11)
Hallelujah, what a Shepherd!
Hallelujah, what a Saviour, Sanctifier, and Sovereign!
Hallelujah, the name above all names!
Read also: Peter and the Wolf — an article about shepherds and how they use a rod and staff to direct, correct, and care for their sheep.
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When the Battle is Lost but the Victory is Won — Saying Goodbye to a Friend
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