The Shepherd's Needs
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The Shepherd’s Needs
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
In an age where information is readily available at the click of a few buttons we may find many leaders all over our world who may have different levels of influence in our own lives and the lives of others. With so many different leaders and so much different information it is sometimes difficult to sift through who is sharing truth and who is leading people astray. Scripture would compare such leaders to shepherds leading sheep. The problem with those who are sheep is that they will often follow the next big thing or whoever makes them feel safe and protected even if that so called shepherd could be leading them to danger. Jeremiah talks about a new shepherd to come to replace all of the shepherds who have been leading the Lord’s people astray.
Depending on who a leader served, themselves, the people, or the Lord, it decided the direction that the people would follow. Unfortunately, in Jeremiah’s time there were many kings, priests, or other leaders who were leading the people astray and towards false gods or false doctrine. Jeremiah speaks about a day of reckoning in which these bad shepherds will be replaced by someone else who will be a good shepherd and lead the people back to righteousness and safety. Jeremiah says that he will be called “The Lord Our Righteous Savior.” Of course, we know that this savior was Jesus. Psalm 23 describes what Kind of Shepherd Jesus is to be. Jesus is a good shepherd who cares for their sheep so that they lack nothing that they need. He guides his sheep to green pastures where they will not hunger. He brings them to still waters so that there will be peace and so that they will not be over run by raging and rushing water that could end up harming the sheep. Though we walk through the deepest and worst of times there is nothing we shall fear because the shepherd is with us and keeps us safe. This is the kind of Shepherd Jesus will be.
Jesus spends his time and ministry training his disciples to be shepherds themselves and to care for people in his place once he returns to the Father. Before we read about the death of John the Baptist as we talked about last week, Jesus sent out the 12 to preach the good news and he gives them power to heal and drive out demons. He sends them out to be shepherds to the people and to put into practice the things he has been teaching them. Mark tells us that they return to Jesus and begin to tell him everything that has happened as they have gone out into the land to preach. Great things have happened as they have been leading the people towards righteousness. But immediately after they explain all that has happened Jesus calls them out to take a rest. They go out onto the boat to take a break from all of the people. The lectionary skips 2 events this week. The first is that the people follow and Jesus ends up feeding 5,000 with a small lunch or snack that a little boy brought with him on his journey. The second event that the lectionary skips is Jesus walking on water.
First Jesus calls his disciple to get out and away from the people for a moment so that they can rest and recharge. Then Jesus sends them out alone onto the lake so that he himself can go up onto a mountain to rest and speak with the Father by himself. It seems to me though Jesus was constantly working and moving he had a deep need for something important. He needed rest and time with his Father. I have only one conclusion then on what it takes to be a good shepherd. One must find the time to take a break. Even Jesus being fully God and yet fully man understood the necessity of taking time to rest. When you don’t take the time to one rest and two spend time with your heavenly father then how can you expect to be a good shepherd for the people? Those who over do it often find themselves starting out well but because they do not take this important step seriously, they generally end up getting burned out and led astray themselves. The problem is that once they are led astray, they end up taking others with them down the same dangerous path whether it is intentional or unintentional.
Therefore, it is important to verify the shepherd’s path and direction with at least three tests. First, is the shepherd’s teaching biblical, does it line up with scripture and in the correct context of scripture? Second, is the shepherd a workaholic or do they take time to rest and to be with the Lord? Do they practice keeping Sabbath time? Thirdly, does their lifestyle reflect that of someone who is in the word and who builds up their own relationship with God? If these criteria are not being met then this shepherd may be leading the sheep astray whether they mean to do so or not.
You could have a shepherd seems to be giving biblical teaching at first but they can get so busy and burned out and not spend time with the Lord or really in his word and therefore their teaching may gradually fall away from scripture and the sheep unknowingly follow. You could have a shepherd that maybe spends time in the word and with the Lord and yet does not apply it to their own life and they may live their lives the same as the rest of the world and therefore lead the sheep astray. Just as the Lord reveals himself in the Holy Trinity it seems there is a trinity of sorts that helps to keep a shepherd on the right path. Jesus was the perfect example of this. He taught what was true and scriptural as he was the Word of God. He found time to be in solitude and to have rest and be in communication with his Father. He then lived a perfect life as one led by the Holy Spirit both pure and blameless. This is the shepherd that Jeremiah prophesied about. This is the shepherd who will lead his people on the path of righteousness. This is the shepherd that all other shepherds must also follow. If they don’t then they are doomed to lead the sheep astray.
We find this to be the case in so many different cult faiths today. There are many who bare the name of Christ in their title as a people of faith and yet they do not follow his word or his example. However, it is because they do not follow the straight and narrow path, they end up taking leading many astray with them. There is less restriction and more room for the sheep to wander in their own direction that they desire which is farther away from the Lord. There are others that have even more restriction and a tight path to follow but the path leads to a different direction than where the scripture leads. This path brain washes the sheep and they become completely devoted to the path leading them astray. It is so easy for the sheep to be led astray on these paths as they do not address the one thing that they need saving from and that is their sin.
The good shepherd must have their needs met if they are to lead the sheep on the right path. Though the work of a shepherd can be great and energizing it can also be life consuming. Therefore, they must have their rest just as Christ called his disciples to do after they returned from their exciting time of ministry to the world. They must take the time to be holy and to speak often with the Lord. To learn to follow in his footsteps. They must allow themselves to be shepherded by the Lord Our Righteous Savior. I urge those who will listen to seek out the shepherd who finds his rest and time with the Lord and be weary of false teachers as there are many in our world today who mean well but are leading people astray. Don’t just take their word as truth but look for the truth yourself in his Word. If you do that then you will continue to be led by the good shepherd who is Jesus Christ.