In the movie “Rome Adventure” the character played by Troy Donahue explains to the character played by Suzanne Pleshette, that the reason churches used art in the past was that most people could not read. Art was a a means of communicating biblical truths. Ironically today, many church goers who can read, may not understand and appreciate what they see portrayed in religious symbols, stained glass, or other forms of Christian art. One of the purposes of this current theme is to highlight the meaning behind a few important ones so we all can have a deeper spiritual appreciation of them.
So far we have looked at lit candles (symbol for Christ), cups (symbol of Christ’s accepting His oncoming death), anchors (symbol that faith in Christ is a source of stability for our life) and bread (symbol of the body of Christ).
In this blog we are looking at the symbol of a shepherd. Christians refer to Jesus as the Good Shepherd because that’s how He characterized Himself: John 10:11-15 (ESV) “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Many leaders have devoted followers, but how many leaders would lay down their life for their loyal fans? Jesus contrasted himself to the hired hand who, when the wolf approaches, takes off. Jesus did not run away from the Cross, but gladly took it upon Himself and with it, the sins of the world.
In his commentary, Adam Clarke shows how a shepherd takes care of his sheep:
“God condescends to call himself the Shepherd of his people, and his followers are considered as a flock under his guidance and direction.
1. He leads them out and in, so that they find pasture and safety.
2. He knows where to feed them, and in the course of his grace and providence leads them in the way in which they should go.
3. He watches over them and keeps them from being destroyed by ravenous beasts.
4. If any have strayed, he brings them back.
5. He brings them to the shade in times of scorching heat; in times of persecution and affliction, he finds out an asylum for them.
6. He takes care that they shall lack no manner of thing that is good.”
In the church I pastored in New York State, there was a colorful, stained glass picture of the Good Shepherd holding a little lamb in His arms. One of the members of that church always sat so she could look at that picture during the service. It always reminded her of the special care and protection she had because of her faith. When we look at the truth behind the picture of a shepherd, it can also give us great comfort and assurance. We are not alone. God is walking beside you and me possibly even carrying us, to help each of us when we feel lost and unsure.
After reading this, I invite you to go back and look at the image of the Good Shepherd with the little sheep walking with Him. Imagine yourself as one of them and realize again, or for the first time, that He still desires to be your Good Shepherd.