Monday, April 24, 2006

There's A New Shepherd in Town

God gave very low marks to the shepherds of Israel. He looked at their work and saw terrible abuse of power, a deliberate compromise of truth and a blatant neglect of God. God's flock was malnourished, uncared for and unprotected. The situation was so intolerable that God decided to intervene. But he did so in a very unexpected way. God told Ezekiel, "I myself will tend my sheep" (Ezekiel 34:15).

Ezekiel must have thought, "That sounds great and all, but how exactly is that going to happen? God is way up there beyond the azure blue, and we're stuck down here by the Kebar River."

Roll the clock forward 600 years.

When Jesus was teaching the sheep of Israel, they were still living under the kind of religions leadership that abused its power, compromised the truth and neglected the heart of God. At one point, Jesus looked at the people and saw that they were "like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36).

A little while later, Jesus blasted the shepherds of Israel. He said, "All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers" (John 10:8). They used their authority to pursue their own agendas. Then Jesus identified himself as the Shepherd spoken of through the prophet Ezekiel: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:11).

As the Good Shepherd, Jesus would do a number of things for the sheep. First, he would feed the sheep with God's truth. Second, he would seek out the lost sheep. Third, he would lead the sheep and protect them from their enemies.

He went on to say, "I am the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6).

But the shepherds in Israel didn't really like what he had to say about them or about himself. They did not like the truth he taught, the way he led or the life he offered. So, they treated him like a sheep. They abused him, compromised the truth about him and rejected him.

And the most amazing thing is: He took it. He let it happen. The Good Shepherd became like one of his sheep, and like a sheep he was led to slaughter.