We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53 : 6
Almighty Father, you who have given your only Son to be for us both a sacrifice for sin and also an example of godly life: Give us grace that we may always receive with thankfulness the immeasurable benefit of his sacrifice, and also try daily to follow in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
THE WORD OF THE LORD
The Old Testament Sacred Page: Ezekiel 34 : 11 - 16a
“‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so I will look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of cloud and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.
1 Peter 2 : 24 - 25
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
The Mystery of Christ: John 10 : 11 - 16
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. ‘By the Lord’s passion the abyss of the Scriptures is made open to us’. Bede of Jarrow (673 - 735).
How profound is the love of the Lord Jesus Christ for his sheep. It extends from eternity to eternity, and he gathers them to himself throughout the course of time. They are given to him by the Father, warmly entrusted to him and, knowing them intimately by name, he rescues them from the estrangement and danger of a life of disobedience and calls them wooingly to himself in irresistible tones of enchantment that lead to indissoluble attachment. Jesus will never lose a member of his flock. He is the consummate shepherd and ever-attentive overseer, provider and protector. He excels in his occupation which is exercised with perfect and constant goodness. He is the Good Shepherd and untiring Overseer. From the commencement of our life until its conclusion his favor is upon us and his invisible hand of divine providence guides us from cradle to coffin. “The Lord will defend you from all evil - it is he will guard your life; the Lord will defend your going out and your coming in from this time forward for evermore” (Psalm 121 : 7 - 8).
The sheep of the Lord are considered his from eternity and are kept for eternity. “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all he has given me, but raise them up at the last day” (John 6 : 37 - 39).
It is the exertions of Christ as well as the love of Christ that guarantee the safety and eternal wellbeing of every true believer. Here is the mystery of Christ as he is intimated by the prophets and divulged by the apostles: Christ the Good Shepherd has laid down his life as the purchase price for his sheep, and his blood is the seal of their impregnable security in the mighty care of the Lord. “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:28-30).
So intense is the affection of the Lord for his people as it is described by Ezekiel. Known by him they are searched for, looked after, and rescued from scattered places. The sheep of Lord will be brought home to lush pastures on high places, tended with scrupulous care, able to lie down without fear of any peril or insoluble anxiety. The lost and the strays will be infallibly retrieved and everlastingly preserved. The depth and infinite dimension of the Lord’s ancient Promise enunciated to us from the sacred pages of the Old Testament is now made plain in the message of the New, and its profound meaning, the abyss of the Scriptures, is made open to us. Actual believers begin to discern the mystery of the Lord’s purpose of salvation for Jew and Gentile who are enabled to hear his voice and follow him - there are still others from another pen, those worldlings yet to be converted, whom Jesus must bring to himself (John 10:16).
How complete is the role of the Shepherd. The Shepherd has to claim us, seek us out, rescue us as lost strays, and gather us into his strong and welcoming arms: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11). How comprehensive is the tender concern of Jesus for every individual believer. He alone must perform every part of our salvation. We cannot help ourselves but rely on him exclusively. “This why I told you no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him” (John 6:65). I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved (John 10: 9).