“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21 ESV).
This reference to the “…Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep” recalls Jesus’ famous self-designation from the New Testament Gospel of John…
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep” (John 10:11-15).
In addition to these references to Jesus as “the good shepherd” in John 10:11, and “the great shepherd of the sheep” here in Hebrews 13:20, 1 Peter 5:4 identifies Jesus as “the Chief Shepherd” as well. One source ties each of these descriptions together for our benefit…
“As the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ died for the sheep (John 10:11). As the Great Shepherd, He lives for the sheep in heaven today, working on their behalf. As the Chief Shepherd, He will come for the sheep at His return (1 Peter 5:4). Our Shepherd cares for His own in the past, present, and future. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever!” (1)
These references also allow us to contrast the differences between those who emulate Jesus’ self-sacrificial example and those who don’t. For instance…
- A good shepherd feeds the flock. A poor shepherd fleeces the flock.
- A good shepherd works for the benefit of the flock. A poor shepherd believes the flock works for the benefit of the shepherd.
- A good shepherd leads the flock. A poor shepherd drives the flock.
- A good shepherd seeks to give the flock his best. A poor shepherd pursues self-interested priorities.
- A good shepherd gives to the flock. A poor shepherd takes from the flock.
Thus, we should seek to follow Jesus’ good example in our lives and look for leaders who do so as well. As Jesus Himself concluded in John 10:17, “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life…”
(1) Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. 2 vols., 2:330, Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1989, quoted in, Constable, Thomas. DD, Notes on Hebrews 2023 Edition “Doxology 13:20-21” [13:20] https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/hebrews/hebrews.htm