“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Psalm 23 is credited to King David, who tended his father’s sheep when he was young. David was a shepherd who became Israel’s king. That was fitting, for in the biblical world, leaders were thought of as shepherds. They had a responsibility to protect and provide for their people. To say “The Lord is my shepherd” is to say that God is the ultimate source of safety and well-being.
Jesus calls himself “the good shepherd.” In other words, he is the true king over God’s people. But he is a different sort of king. Traditionally a king would take up a sword and raise an army to defeat the enemies of his people. That’s what David did. That’s also what some people expected Jesus to do.
But Jesus didn’t defeat great enemies by slaughtering them with weapons of war. He defeated them by being slaughtered himself. He let sin and death and all the powers of evil do their worst. And they did. But they had no power over Jesus, and death could not hold him.
Jesus rose from the dead. He is our good shepherd. He is our ultimate source of safety and well-being, now and forever.
Jesus, good shepherd, we trust you to protect us and provide for us. Thank you for green pastures and quiet waters, and for your presence with us in the darkest valleys. Amen.