Theology 101 — Shepherd

Christology Through Figures

By Jerry Batson, Th.D.
Special to The Alabama Baptist

For the past five weeks, Theology 101 has taken its start from Jesus’ summary statement in John 16:25 when He said, “I have spoken these things to you in figures of speech.”

Among those figures of speech Jesus used to refer to Himself and His ministry were Word, Lamb, Bridegroom, Bread and last week, Light. The Apostle John used this same explanation earlier when Jesus began the teaching about Himself as the Good Shepherd, writing, “This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them” (John 10:6).

Old Testament roots

This figure had its roots in the Old Testament. Isaiah prophesied, “Behold, the Lord God shall come … He shall feed His flock like a shepherd” (Isa. 40:10–11).

This figure sets forth rather clearly the nature of Christ’s death as substitutionary atonement. A foregleam of this truth was given when Isaiah wrote, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (53:6). Jesus said of Himself, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). A few words later, He added, “I lay down My life for the sheep” (v. 15).

However, Jesus did not leave the matter at the point of a death. He added, “I lay down My life that I may take it again … I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17–18).

Salvation as eternal security also finds itself interwoven into this figure of Christ as a shepherd. He declared, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27–28).

Personal identification

Salvation as a spiritual relationship with Christ stands out in the figure of the Good Shepherd and His sheep. Personal identification with Christ, as well as intimacy with Him, stand out in the verbs He used (knows, calls, hears, leads, follows). One may also notice Christ leads His sheep; He does not drive them. Herdsmen drive cattle, but shepherds lead sheep.

Psalm 23 reminds us our Good Shepherd knows about pastures of nourishment and waters of refreshment. A good response would be, as worded in a hymn: “Savior, like a shepherd lead us, much we need Thy tender care; in Thy pleasant pastures feed us, for our use Thy folds prepare.”

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