The Gospel of John, a gospel focusing on God in Christ coming to be our life and meet our every need for God’s purpose, shows us how Christ came to shepherd us by cherishing and nourishing us; shepherding is the key to the Gospel of John.
The Lord Jesus came not as a mighty king with all power and authority – such a One would scare us and drive us away from Him and from what He has to say; He came as a Shepherd, and He even said, I am the good Shepherd.
According to the New Testament, the Lord Jesus is the Shepherd in four main aspects:
- Christ is the good Shepherd: He came that we may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10-11). He came to the scattered sheep of Israel, and He came for us all – the “other sheep” that He brought into His flock, so that we all – whether Jewish or Gentile believers – would be one flock under one Shepherd. The Lord Jesus laid down His soul-life, His human life, to accomplish redemption for His sheep, so that they may share His divine life. As the good Shepherd, the Lord leads us, His sheep, out of the fold and into Himself as the feeding place for us to eat freely of Him and be nourished by Him.
- Christ is the great Shepherd of the sheep to make real to us the contents of the new covenant (Heb. 13:20). God made an eternal covenant with us, which is to gain a flock – the church issuing in the Body of Christ and consummating in the New Jerusalem. This new covenant is rich, full of bequests and promises, and packed with wonderful things for us to enjoy as His people. As the great Shepherd of the sheep, Christ was raised from the dead by God in the blood of an eternal covenant, and He is now making real to us the contents of the new covenant (see Heb. 8:8-13).
- Christ is the Chief Shepherd, shepherding His flock through the elders of the churches (1 Pet. 5:4). The elders’ shepherding is actually Christ’s shepherding through them, so they need to first enjoy the Lord’s all-inclusive tender care in a fine and personal way, and then let the Lord shepherd others through them. In order for us to be one with the Lord as the Chief Shepherd and shepherd others according to Him, we need to let the Lord touch our disposition so that He may flow out through us to the other sheep, ministering life to them and shepherding them through us.
- Christ is the Shepherd of our souls, overseeing our inward condition and caring for the situation of our inner being (1 Pet. 2:25). He oversees our situation, cares for our feelings, will, intentions, motives, mind, imagination, memories, and He cares for our soul. He knows our suffering, our pain, our hurt, and our longings, and it matters to Him concerning us. The Lord as the Shepherd of our souls cares for the welfare of our soul and by exercising His oversight over the condition of our inner being. On the one hand, the Lord is managing the entire universe, and on the other, He still has the heart, the time, and the capacity to shepherd our soul.
Shepherding is the Key to the Gospel of John and the Basis of our Ministry
The gospel of John is the gospel of life, and the last chapter of this gospel – considered by many as an appendix – is entirely focused on shepherding.
John 21 is the completion and consummation of the Gospel of John, and based on this chapter we can say that shepherding is the key to the Gospel of John; without shepherding, we cannot understand this gospel.
The Lord came not only to heal us, save us, redeem us, and impart His life into us – He came to do all these in a shepherding way, and even more: He wants to commission us to shepherd others also, even as He shepherded us.
The Gospel of John is a book on Christ coming to be our life by cherishing and nourishing us; He doesn’t force us to receive His life, but He makes us happy, pleasant, and comfortable (Matt. 9:10; Luke 7:34), and He nourishes us with Himself (Matt. 24:45-47).
The Lord wants to make us happy; He doesn’t want us to be miserable and suffering Christians but people who maintain their joy by being happy in the Lord, open to Him, receiving His dispensing.
In case after case in the gospel of John we see how the Lord cherished people by healing them, changing water into wine, feeding them, etc, and then He nourished them with His word, speaking the words of life into them. He wants His people to feel happy, pleasant, and comfortable, and then He comes in as life to nourish them.
After His resurrection, the Lord came to Peter to shepherd him and commission him to feed His lambs and shepherd His sheep; in this way, the Lord incorporated the apostolic ministry with His heavenly ministry to take care of God’s flock, the church (see John 21:15-17).
Our commission today and the key to our ministry for the Lord is shepherding. The apostles were commissioned by the ascended Christ to cooperate with Him to carry out God’s New Testament economy (1 Tim. 1:3; Eph. 1:10).
The way they do this, however, has to be by shepherding; the Lord is the Chief Shepherd, the Great Shepherd, the good Shepherd, and the Shepherd of our souls, and we as His people need to cooperate with Him in His heavenly ministry of shepherding to shepherd the saints according to God.
The basis of the ministry of the apostles, prophets, and teachers is the shepherding function.
For example, Paul was in Ephesus for three years caring for the saints, pouring out his being, even with tears, from house to house and publicly; he announced the purpose of God and exhorted each one of them, shepherding them.
Then, he told the elders of the church to shepherd the flock of God among whom God placed them as overseers, knowing that there will be problems from within and attacks from without.
We need to cooperate with Christ’s heavenly ministry and do on earth what He is doing in the heavens; we need to let the Lord shepherd us so that we may also shepherd others. Shepherding is the key to our ministry for the Lord and to understanding the gospel of John.
Lord Jesus, cause us to realize that shepherding is the key to understanding the Gospel of John, and shepherding is the key and basis to our ministry for the Lord! We come to You to enjoy Your shepherding day by day, letting You care for us, heal us, mend us, touch us, and caringly nourish us. Lord, shepherd us so that we may also shepherd others. We want to cooperate with You in Your heavenly ministry by shepherding the saints according to God.
Learning to Shepherd others According to God by Living God and being One with God
In 1 Pet. 5:2 Peter encourages the elders of the church to shepherd the flock of God according to God. What does it mean to shepherd others according to God? Christ is the chief Shepherd, and the elders (and us all) are under Him as the co-shepherds.
We cannot shepherd others according to God unless He is in us, even us; if our God is merely in the heavens and not real to us as the life-giving Spirit in our spirit, it is impossible for us to shepherd others according to God.
According to the high peak of the divine revelation in the Bible, God has become man so that man may become God in life and nature but not in the Godhead; this is so that God and man would be mingled together and have a corporate God-man living, which results in shepherding others according to God.
On the one hand, Christ is the Shepherd and Overseer of our soul, and on the other hand, He commissioned us to shepherd others according to God. “According to God” means that we must be one with God and we must live God.
We may have God in our understanding, in our theology, and in our teaching, but is God lived out in us, and are we one with God? We cannot shepherd others according to God unless we are one with God and we even become God (in life, nature, and function, but not in the Godhead).
We need to become the same as Christ in His function of shepherding, being one with God and living God.
To shepherd others according to God is to shepherd them according to what God is, according to His attributes. God is love, light, holiness, and righteousness, and we must shepherd others according to what God is.
When we shepherd the young ones, the weak ones, and the backsliding ones, we need to be one with God, live God, and express God in His love, light, holiness, and righteousness; then, we will be good shepherds.
When we are one with God, we become God and we are God in our shepherding of others. For this, the self has to be fully set aside, we must be willing to lose our soul-life, and the cross has to be applied to our natural being.
Shepherding others is something costly and inconvenient; when we shepherd others according to God, we lose our convenience, our soul-life, and our self is denied.
Shepherding others according to God is something we do out of love for the Lord, since He shepherded us as His sheep, and commissioned us to shepherd and feed His sheep. We don’t shepherd out of duty or obligation but out of love for the Lord.
Lord Jesus, thank You for being in us as the Shepherd and Overseer of our soul, caring for our mind, emotion, and will with all our problems, needs, longings, and wounds. Shepherd us, Lord, that we may also shepherd others according to God. We want to be one with You in Your heavenly ministry to shepherd the flock of God according to God. Make us the same as You are in life, nature, and function so that we may be fully one with You in our shepherding of others. Amen, Lord, we love You, and out of love for You we want to shepherd the brothers and sisters according to God!
References and Hymns on this Topic
- Inspiration: the Word of God, my enjoyment in the ministry, the message by brother Ron K. for this week, and portions from, Life-study of 1 Peter, msg. 32 (by Witness Lee), as quoted in the Holy Word for Morning Revival on, Crystallization-Study of Ezekiel (1), msg. 11 (week 11), God’s Recovery by Life through His Shepherding.
- Hymns on this topic:
# You’re the One inside who cherishes me, / Feeding me with milk from Your holy Word, / Lord, You bring me just to feast upon You. / And You feed me richly… / And now I see… / You’re the One who’s always shepherding me. / And I see… / You’re the One who’s feeding, watering me. / And I see… / You’re the One who loves me as Your sheep. / And I see, Lord, You shepherd me. (Song on the Lord’s shepherding)
# Foll’wing Thee, Good Shepherd, I would feed, / Shepherd those allotted me, / E’er I’d touch Thy heart’s desire, / Live in Thine economy. / O my Lord, All thanks to Thee! / Goodness, mercy follow me; / I’d ever dwell within Thy house, / As Thy Body glorious! (Song on Shepherding others)
# Live Thou within us, Lord; / Thy mind and will be ours; / Be Thou beloved, adored, / And served with all our powers; / That so our lives may teach / Thy children what Thou art, / And plead, by more than speech, / For Thee with every heart. (Hymns #902)