The final part of this passage echoes Psalm 23. There will be no more hunger or thirst or pain. The shepherd will provide shelter, protection, nourishment, refreshment, and comfort.
There is, however, a significant shift from the psalm. The Lamb is the Lord. A sheep has become the shepherd.
I once went to a seminar on models of leadership in the church that rejected the idea of pastors being shepherds because it drew too sharp a distinction between the leader and the flock. Real sheep can never become shepherds.
It is also true that every pastor was once a member of a flock and seeks to follow the example of Jesus, who is both sheep and shepherd. It can be a difficult balancing act for pastors to hold these two aspects of themselves in tension. I know that I haven’t always gotten it right!
I don’t want to be put on a pedestal, and I try to be honest and open about my own vulnerability and “sheepishness”! At the same time, I recognize that members of my flock look to me for leadership and need me to be strong. I can only do that because Jesus—the Lamb who shared our human hunger, thirst, and pain—is also the Shepherd who knows what we need and leads us from death to life.
I have learned to be attentive to my hunger, my thirst, and my tears because they reveal what is truly life-giving for me. This daily practice then helps me to guide others on their own pilgrimage to eternal life.
This awareness of my own need is also the reason that I stand “before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple.” Whatever language I use—Lord, Shepherd, Lamb, or something else—the beginning and the end of my day, my life, my ministry, and my prayer is God.
Eternal God, you are my beginning and my end. Amen.
The imagery of sheep plays a prominent role in three of this week’s readings. Psalm 23 uses the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep as its guiding metaphor. The Lord is our shepherd and leads us to safe and fertile places. Even when we pass through a dark valley, the Lord is there protecting us with a shepherd’s weapon, a staff. In the Gospel reading, Jesus describes himself as a shepherd who calls his sheep. Because they are his, they hear his voice. In Revelation, Jesus becomes the sheep—or more specifically, the Lamb that was slain on our behalf. Those who endure will praise the Lamb forever. Acts is different in that it focuses on a resurrection story, a manifestation of God’s power working through Peter.
Read Acts 9:36-43. How can you be a witness and a vessel for God’s activity?
Read Psalm 23. Reflect on the questions the author poses in Tuesday’s meditation. Allow God’s guidance and correction to be comforting.
Read Revelation 7:9-17. How does knowing Christ as both Lamb and Shepherd help you work to bring about things not yet seen?
Read John 10:22-30. How does your faith allow you to hold your convictions without needing to grasp tightly to certainties?
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