Jesus, the Good Shepherd

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In 1893, Ellen White wrote three consecutive articles in Signs of the Times about Jesus the Good Shepherd. These are selected passages from those articles.

The Good Shepherd is seeking his sheep, and what self-denial, what hardships, what privations he endures! The under shepherds know something of the stern conflict, but little in comparison to what is endured by the Shepherd of the sheep. With what compassion, what sorrow, what persistence, he seeks the lost! How few realize what desperate efforts are put forth by Satan to defeat the Shepherd’s purpose. When the Shepherd at last finds his lost sheep, he gathers it in his arms with rejoicing, and bears it back to the fold on his shoulders. And the harps of heaven are touched, and an anthem of rejoicing is sung over the ransom of the wandering and lost sheep. “Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance.”

The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost. A lost sheep never finds its way back to the fold of itself. If it is not sought for and saved by the watchful shepherd, it wanders until it perishes. What a representation of the Saviour is this! Unless Jesus, the Good Shepherd, had come to seek and to save the wandering, we should have perished.

“God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This love on behalf of man, expressed in the gift of his only-begotten Son, called forth from Satan the most intense hatred, both toward the Giver and toward the priceless Gift. Satan had represented the Father to the world in a false light, and by this great Gift his representations were proved untrue, for here was love without a parallel, proving that man was to be redeemed by an inconceivable cost. Satan had tried to obliterate the image of God in man in order that as God looked upon him in his wretchedness, in his perverseness, in his degradation, he might be induced to give him up as hopelessly lost. But the Lord gave his only-begotten Son in order that the most sinful, the most degraded, need not perish, but, by believing on Jesus Christ, may be reclaimed, regenerated, and restored to the image of God, and thus have eternal life (Signs of the Times, Nov. 20, 1893).

“I am the Good Shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also must I bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd.”

In the East it is the custom of the shepherd to name his sheep, and as the sheep learn their names, they respond to the voice of the shepherd. The shepherd goes before them and leads them out, guiding them from the fold to the pasture. The sheep recognize the voice of the shepherd and follow him. Jesus declared himself to be the true shepherd, because he gave his life for the sheep. He says; “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.”

Jesus spoke these words in the hearing of a large concourse of people, and a deep impression was made upon the hearts of many who listened. The scribes and Pharisees were filled with jealousy because he was regarded with favor by many. Among the multitude were also rulers, who were deeply impressed as they listened to his important words. While he represented himself as the True Shepherd, the Pharisees said, “He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him.” But others distinguished the voice of the True Shepherd (Signs of the Times, Nov. 27, 1893).

In the parable of the shepherd Jesus puts his own interpretation on his work and mission, and represents himself as the good shepherd, feeding and taking charge of the sheep. He said, “He that entereth not in by the door [by himself] into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” Christ said that all who came before him claiming to be the Messiah were deceivers. At the time of Christ’s coming there was much agitation concerning the appearance of the world’s Messiah. The Jewish nation expected that a great deliverer would come, and there were men who took advantage of this expectation, turning it to the service of themselves, that they might be thereby profited and glorified. Prophecy had foretold that these deceivers would arise. The deceivers did not come in the way in which it was prophesied that the world’s Redeemer should come; but Christ came, answering every specification. Types and symbols had represented him, and in him type met antitype. In the life, mission, and death of Jesus every specification was fulfilled.

Jesus was the good shepherd to whom the porter openeth, who knows the sheep, calleth his own by name, and leadeth them out. He it is who is stronger than the thief and the robber, those who enter not in at the door, but climb up some other way. The Pharisees were not able to discern that this parable was spoken against them, the professed leaders of the people, pastors of the flock. Jesus presented himself in contrast to them, and when they reasoned in their hearts as to what he could mean by the parable, he said: “I am the door of the sheep.… By me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy; I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” Christ presented himself as the only one in whom were qualifications for making a good shepherd. He is represented as the “Chief Shepherd.” Peter writes, “When the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” Again he is called 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, 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 forever and ever” (Signs of the Times, Dec. 4, 1893).