The Servant Who Shepherds His People
“You were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”- 1 Peter 2:25
First Peter 2:21–24 contains one of the most sustained allusions to Isaiah 53 in the New Testament. As we have seen, Peter turns to this passage about the Suffering Servant in order to give us the biblical theology of salvation and a model for Christian living. Christ is the Suffering Servant who bears God’s curse against sin so that His people will “die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). Consequently, we endure unjust suffering and hope not in our own defense but in God’s vindication (vv. 21–23).
Isaiah 53 informs us also that we are sheep who wander about aimlessly, following our own path away from the sheepfold (v. 6). Anyone who has ever observed sheep knows how prone they are to get lost and to rush heedlessly into danger. Sheep really do need a shepherd or they will not survive the many predators that they face. Scripture tells us that the Lord God Almighty Himself is the Shepherd under whose care we can find protection from all our enemies (Ps. 23), and the New Testament places Jesus in this shepherding role. Peter does so in today’s passage, and John 10:1–18 features Jesus’ own extended reflection on Himself as the Good Shepherd. Importantly, this application of the title shepherd to Jesus is one of many confirmations of our Savior’s deity in Scripture. If Yahweh, the God of Israel, is the Shepherd, and Jesus is the Good Shepherd, then Jesus is the incarnation of Yahweh. Specifically, He is the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity.
Certainly, the most important task of the shepherd is to guard and protect the sheep under his care. When danger arises, the shepherd defends them. When they wander off, the shepherd finds them and returns them to the sheepfold. As our Shepherd, therefore, Christ is our Protector, the One who will not rest until we are safe and secure in His fold, the kingdom of God (Luke 15:3–7). And because Jesus is the Lord God Almighty, He cannot fail in these tasks. That alone should give us great confidence and encourage our trust in Him.
Jesus protects us from our enemies—the world, the flesh, and the devil—but we would be remiss if we failed to mention His most significant work of guardianship. In John 10:11, Jesus tells us that He lays down His life for the sake of His sheep. Christ died to shield us from the holy wrath of the triune God, exhausting this wrath so that we can stand protected and unafraid on the great day when God judges the world.
There is no safer place to be than under the care of the Good Shepherd. We are weak and vulnerable, but He has promised to guard and tend us. Let us be thankful for Christ’s shepherding of us this day, and may we follow wherever He leads us.
Passages for Further Study
1 Peter 5:4