Jesus portrays Himself in various ways. In one of His “I am” statements He refers to Himself as the good shepherd.
One of the things that piqued my interest is the fact that Jesus does not refer to Himself as a sheep herder but as a shepherd. There is a significant difference between the two: Sheep herders drive their herds much like cowboys drive their cattle by pushing them from behind, while shepherds guide their flocks by leading them from the front. Also herds and flocks carry different notions. While herding associates with feeding and running together, a flock is meant to congregate in places or alternatively head towards a location. To put it bluntly: Jesus is no cowboy and God’s children are not mindless sheep driven by one. In Psalm 80 we address God as the beloved Shepherd (Psalm 80:1):
“O Shepherd of Israel who leads Israel like a flock;”
In Psalm 23 we put ourselves in sheep’s shoes (that is to say if sheep wore shoes) because King David wrote the lyrics of Psalm 23 entirely from a sheep’s perspective:
“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me”
Psalm 23 could not showcase the relationship between sheep and shepherd more beautifully. I believe this is what Jesus is referring to when He says about His sheep (John 10:15):
“They know me, just as my Father knows me, and I know the Father.”
There is intimate knowledge, not just mere acquaintance, of all the parties involved. What a gift to know Jesus and to be known by Him!
“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” (Psalm 23:1)