New Testament Shepherds (A start)

24 May

If Psalm 23 is the Old Testament’s most well-known ‘shepherding passage’, John’s record of Jesus’ teaching in John 10 is the most well-known of the New Testament. “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11; 10:14). Jesus here declares Himself to be the one promised in the Old testament, the fulfilment of the Shepherd motif, the leader of God’s people who, rather than devouring the flock (Ezek 34:10), lays down His own life for their good (John 10:11). Robert R. Monti notes the link in his Short Pastoral Theology, “In contrast to Israel’s past leaders and the shepherds of Jesus’ day, His pastoral activity is marked not by the exploitation of the flocks entrusted to His care, but rather by self-sacrifice, the impartation of life, and protection:”

John continues this metaphor for Jesus as Israel’s leader right through to the end of Scripture, and even history, as he shares his vision of heaven where Jesus, “the lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd” (Rev 7:17).

It is not only John that sees Jesus as God’s promised shepherd leader, but the author of the letter to the Hebrews also writes of Jesus as, “that great Shepherd of the sheep.” (Heb 13:20).

However, the metaphor does not simply find fulfilment in Christ in the New Testament, but finds it’s perpetuation in the leadership of the early church. As Walter C. Wright notes in Relational Leadership, Jude, in much the same vain as Ezekiel, condemns those leaders who care for themselves rather than the church as, “shepherds who feed only themselves” (Jude 12). Paul, in his farewell address to the elders of the Ephesian church, instructs them to be, “shepherds of the church of God” (Acts 20:28). In these two examples we see that the metaphor is preserved in relation to both good and bad leadership in the new church.

Mary Beth Gladwell summarises this on-going motif, “In the Old Testament God has words of strong rebuke and warning for bad shepherds, and prophecies of a good shepherd that is to come. In the New Testament, Jesus identifies himself as the Good Shepherd and we find in the epistles the notion of good shepherding extended to those who would lead in the church.” Thus the shepherd metaphor extends from both human leaders (good and bad) to the divine leader, ultimately in the person of Jesus the Good Shepherd.

***This post is taken from a fuller paper written on the topic of the Shepherd Motif and Church Leadership. To view the whole paper, in which references appear and a complete bibliography, is given please click here.***

2 Responses to “New Testament Shepherds (A start)”


  1. The ‘Shepherd Motif’ outside of the use of ‘Shepherd’ « saintbeagle - 25/05/2011

    […] highlighted the last two days the uses of the ‘Shepherd Motif’ in both the Old and the New testaments. Yet the shepherd motif runs deeper still. Two further metaphors continue the idea of […]

  2. Shepherds, Jesus, Church Leaders and Eternal Relevance « saintbeagle - 27/05/2011

    […] throughout Old and New, in fulfilment in Christ and perpetuation in the early church, by direct reference to elders and […]

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