Page images

special mercy which converted him, which he, and he only, saw —the Face of Jesus Christ. That all-pitying, all-holy eye, which turned in love upon St. Peter when he denied Him, and thereby roused him to repentance, looked on St. Paul also, while he persecuted Him, and wrought in him a sudden conversion. “ Last of all,” he says, “ He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.” One sight of that Divine Countenance, so tender, so loving, so majestic, so calm, was enough, first to convert him, then to support him on his way amid the bitter hatred and fury which he was to excite in those who hitherto had loved him.

And if such be the effect of a momentary vision of the glorious Presence of CHRIST, what think you, my brethren, will be their bliss, to whom it shall be given, this life ended, to see that Face eternally?



John X. 11.

“ I am the good Shepherd ; the good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.”

Our Lord here appropriates to HIMSELF the title under which He had been foretold by the prophets. "David My servant shall be king over them,” says Almighty God by the mouth of Ezekiel : and they all shall have one Shepherd.” And in the book of Zechariah, “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the man that is My fellow, saith the LORD of Hosts; smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” And in like manner St. Peter speaks of our returning "to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls".”

“ The good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.” In those countries of the East where our Lord appeared, the office of a shepherd is not only a lowly and simple office, and an office of trust, as it is with us, but, moreover, an office of great hardship and of peril. Our flocks are exposed to no enemies, such as our LORD describes. The shepherd here has no need to prove his fidelity to the sheep, by encounters with fierce beasts of prey. The hireling shepherd is not tried. But where our LORD dwelt in the days of His flesh it was otherwise. There it was true that the good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep" but he that is an hireling, and whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth, and the wolf catcheth them and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.”

1 Ez, xxxvii. 24. Zech, xiii. 7. 1 Pet. ii. 25.

Our LORD found the sheep scattered, or, as He had said shortly before, “ All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers :” and in consequence the sheep had no guide. Such were the Priests and Rulers of the Jews when Christ came; so that “when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd ?." Such, in like manner, were the rulers and prophets of Israel in the days of Ahab, when Micaiah, the Lord's Prophet, saw all Israel scattered on the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd, and the LORD said, These have no master, let them return every man to his house in peace 3.” Such, too, were the shepherds in the time of Ezekiel, of whom the Prophet says, “ Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves ; should not the shepherd feed the flocks? .... They were scattered because there is no shepherd, and they became meat to all the beasts of the field when they were scattered 4 :" and in the time of the Prophet Zechariah, who says, Woe to the idle shepherd that leaveth the flock S.”

So was it all over the world when Christ came in His infinite mercy “ to gather in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.” And though for a moment, when in the conflict with the enemy the good Shepherd had to lay down His life for the sheep, they were left without a guide, (according to the prophecy already quoted, “Smite the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered,”) yet He soon rose from death to live for ever according to that other prophecy which said, “ He that scattered Israel will gather him, as a shepherd doth his flock.” And as HE says HIMSELF in the parable before us, “He calleth His own sheep by name and leadeth them out, and goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice,” so on His resurrection, while Mary wept, He did call her by her name?, and

2 Matt. ix. 36.
5 Zech. xi. 17.

3 ] Kings xxii. 17.
6 Jer. xxxi. 10.

4 Ezek. xxxiv. 2. 5.
7 John xx. 16.

[ocr errors]

she turned herself and knew Him by the ear whom she had not known by the eye. So, too, He said, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou ME 8 ?” And He added, “ Follow ME.

And so again HE and His angel told the women,

Behold He goeth before you into Galilee ... go tell My brethren, that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see Me."

From that time the good Shepherd who took the place of the sheep, and died that they might live for ever, has gone before them: and “they follow the LAMB whithersoever He goeth';" going their way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feeding their kids beside the shepherds' tents.

No earthly images can come up to the awful and gracious truth, that God became the Son of Man—that the WORD became flesh, and was born of a woman. This ineffable mystery surpasses words of man. No titles of earth can Christ give to HimSELF ever so lowly or mean, which will fitly show us His condescension. His act and deed is too great even for His own lips to utter it. Yet He delights in the image contained in the text, as conveying to us, in such degree as we can receive it, some notion of the degradation, hardship, and pain, which He underwent for our sake.

Hence it was prophesied under this figure by the Prophet Isaiah, “ Behold the LORD God will come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him .... He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the lambs with His arms and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young?.” And again, He promises by the mouth of Eze

“ Behold I, even I, will both search My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered, so will I seek out My sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day?.” And the Psalmist says of Hım, “ The Lord is my Shepherd, therefore can I lack nothing. He shall feed me in a green pasture, and lead me forth beside the waters of comfort 3." And he addresses Him,

Hear, O thou Shepherd of Israel, Thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep, show Thyself also, Thou that sittest upon the Cheru


8 John xxi. 15.

9 Rev. xiv. 4. 2 Ez. xxxiv. 11, 12.

1 Is. xl. 10, 11. 3 P3. xxiii. 1, 2.

[ocr errors]

bims 4.” And He HIMSELF says in a parable, speaking of HimSELF, What man of you having a hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders rejoicing 5.

Observe, my brethren, it is here said that Christ, the LORD of Angels, condescends to lay the lost sheep on His shoulders : in a former passage of the Prophet Isaiah it was said that HE should “gather them with His arms, and carry them in His bosom.” By carrying them in His bosom is meant the love HE bears them, and the fulness of His grace; by carrying them on His shoulders is signified the security of their dwelling-placemas of old time it was said of Benjamin, “the beloved of the LORD shall dwell in safety by Him ... and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between His shoulders ® ,;" and again of Israel, “ As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings : so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.” And again, in the Prophet Isaiah,“ Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth; their idols were upon the beasts and upon the cattle . . hearken unto Me, O house of Jacob .. which are carried by Me from the womb . . Even to your


age I am He, and even to hoary hairs will I carry you: I have made and I will bear, even I will carry, and will deliver you?.” HE alone, who “bowed HIMSELF and came down,” HE alone could do it; HE alone could bear a whole world's weight, the load of a guilty world, the burden of man's sin, the accumulated debt, past, present, and to come; the sufferings which we owed but could not pay, the wrath of God on the children of Adam ; “ in His own body on the tree ' being made a curse for us?, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us unto God,” “through the Eternal Spirit offering HimSELF without spot to God, and purging our conscience from dead works to serve the Living God"." Such was the deed of Christ, laying down His life for us : and therefore He is called the Good Shepherd.

ور 7

8 »

ܐ: 0

9 ")

4 Ps. lxxx. 1.

5 Luke xv, 4, 5. 7 Deut. xxxii. 11. Isa. xlvi. 1-4. 9 Gal. iii. 13.

6 Deut. xxxiii. 12. 8 1 Pet. ii. 24. 11 Pet. iii. 18. Heb. ix. 14.



« PreviousContinue »