A Compassionate Shepherd

If you are one who has failed in any capacity during your life, this chapter may be of some encouragement. Jesus chose men whom He knew were fallible. He selected these imperfect men, so that any person who has the same character flaws in their own life might find hope. Paul stated that he was the chief of sinners and this was the very reason why Jesus selected him, so that others might be encouraged.

…although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.  ~1Timothy 1:14-16

The prophet Zechariah wrote in describing an event that would take place after the Messiah was crucified: His disciples will scatter. This prophecy was written nearly 500 years before Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are recorded in the pages of the New Testament. Zechariah further reveals that in the love and compassion of this Messiah, He will turn to these men who have abandoned Him, and restore them.

Regardless of what you have done so far during your life, Jesus is ready to forgive you and take away the guilt and regret you feel. This is the purpose for which Jesus came into the world. This fact is supported by both an Old Testament prediction, here in Zechariah 13:7c, as well as a New Testament fulfillment found in Luke 12:32.

When the Messiah is killed and His disciples are scattered, He will turn and care for His “little flock” who remains.

Zechariah 13:7c “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, Against the Man who is My Companion,” Says the LORD of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered; Then I will turn My hand upon the little ones.

New Testament Fulfillment:

Luke 12:32 “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

“When You Fail and Recover, Return to Me”

Jesus refers to the members of His church by using a term of endearment, found in Luke 12:32, calling us His “little flock.” How greatly the Lord loves all those who have placed themselves under His care. Jesus uses this term affectionately and with great compassion. Sheep are the most helpless and often the dumbest animals in the world. They will follow each other, to their death, right off the edge of a cliff. Sheep must have a shepherd to lead them; otherwise they will not be able to find water or food, and they will die. It is well known among shepherds that if a sheep falls over, it often cannot get back up without help. A term shepherds frequently use to describe a sheep that is unable to right itself is downcast. When David wrote in Psalms 42:5, “Why are you downcast, O my soul,” he was remembering the many times he had to help one of the sheep turn itself back onto its feet. In David’s personal hour of discouragement, he was thinking of those moments when recovery seemed impossible.

Psalms 43:5 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.

As a shepherd who had spent many days and nights alone with the sheep, David was well acquainted with their frailty. He had seen the sheep fallen over and felt deep compassion for their vulnerable condition. In observing the sheep, David likely considered his own helplessness, when times of discouragement arrived, and he felt hopeless. As he prayed, the Lord would turn him right side up and remind him of the Love of God.

Have you ever fallen in this world and found it hard to get back up again? David was in a place of discouragement and despair when he was asking this question of his soul: “Why are you cast down?” Get back up and trust in the Lord.

Perhaps you are feeling downcast today and need to be reminded that you have a Shepherd who loves you. Call on Jesus, and He will come and lift you up to a place of joy and contentment. Your Shepherd cares deeply for His little flock, and there is no good thing that He will withhold from those who love Him.[1]

When Jesus was crucified, everyone who had followed Him so closely and had proclaimed their faithfulness, even to their death, were scattered. The reality of life is that we are rarely able to follow through on the commitments we make. Before Jesus was arrested, He spoke these words to the disciples:

Matthew 26:31-32 Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”

Peter, with all of his enthusiasm, boldly proclaimed, “I will never be made to stumble.”

Matthew 26:33-35 Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.” Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And so said all the disciples.

It was not long after his bold proclamation, that Peter failed miserably and did exactly what Jesus had told him he would do. Under pressure from a simple servant girl, Peter collapsed in his commitment to Jesus. Finally, when he was questioned again and again whether he had been with Jesus, Peter cursed and said, “I do not know the man!”

Matthew 26:69-75 And a servant girl came to him, saying, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are saying.” And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.” But again he denied with an oath, “I do not know the Man!” And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.” Then he began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So he went out and wept bitterly.

Luke records a detail that is not included in Matthew’s account of this denial of Jesus by Peter. Jesus apparently told Peter, in advance of his disloyalty, that satan had “asked” for Peter to “sift him as wheat.” Then Jesus said something to Peter, which I find remarkable:

Luke 22:31-32 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.

When you have returned to me, strengthen your brethren.

Jesus is saying to Peter, “I am telling you before it happens, you are going to fail. When the pressure is on, you are going to deny Me. When you realize your failure and you recover, take what you have learned, and go to the other believers and strengthen them.”

Because all of us struggle and fail, it helps to know someone else who has also fallen. When we hear how the Lord kept them, forgave them, and restored them, knowing about the personal experience of another person who has also failed, can be enough to set us back on the right course again.

As His little flock, Jesus knows we are going to stumble. We will all fail and fall during our time here on earth as we try to follow Jesus. The most important point to remember is that when we fail, we should get back up and continue to follow Jesus. Equally important, that we are honest with other believers and admit our failures, and share with them what we have learned, as we return to Jesus and continue to walk with Him. By sharing our own personal experiences in following the Lord, we can strengthen the entire body of Christ.

Since Jesus has returned to heaven to prepare a place for us (John 14:2), He has not failed to continue in His care while we remain here on earth. The Bible describes Jesus as ready and willing to intercede for us before the Father at all times.

Hebrews 7:25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

Every day, through all of your difficulties, Jesus is praying for you—just as He prayed for Peter when satan asked to “sift him.” You are never alone; all of your pain and suffering is known by the Lord, and he promised to be with you in the midst of your tribulation.[2] The purpose of trials is to bring us into an awareness of our limitations, while the Lord becomes our strength and source of provision. It is only through our suffering that genuine change can take place. When everything is going well, we may praise and thank the Lord for all of our blessings; but prosperity is not nearly as effective in changing us as moments of difficulty.

We should understand that when we suffer by trials, the Lord is working in our life through those trials. As any truly loving father will discipline and teach his son or daughter, our God chastens us so that we might learn and grow. The presence of disciplining trials in our life is one of the practical proofs that we really are His and that He is working in us to make us into the image of Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 12:5-7 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?

If you are experiencing this chastening in your life, then be encouraged by its presence—your Father is reminding you that you are His son or daughter. If you patiently endure your suffering, knowing that God has permitted these things in your life for a purpose, then you will learn and grow by your difficulties.

Remember that the Lord always has a good end intended for all of your trials, just as we see in the example of Job’s life. Though Job did not understand why he was suffering, he placed his confidence in God who is always righteous and good. At the end of his trial, Job was restored, and he learned many valuable lessons he could not have obtained apart from his terrible suffering. At the end of Job’s trial, he proclaimed that before his difficulties began, he had heard about God, but after his trial was over, he knew God by personal experience. Job learned from experience that all of God’s purpose for us, as He permits our suffering, is for good.

Job 42:5 I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You.

When James wrote about the experience of trials in our life, he described the example of Job as a place in the Bible where we can see a practical demonstration of how God always has a good outcome intended for our trials.

James 5:11 Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.

The purpose for all of our difficulties is to bring us into an awareness of the areas of our life that need to be changed. As we suffer and go through these difficulties, we realize how much we need the Lord, and we are humbled by the experience of suffering. The end result of all our suffering is that we will grow and know the Lord much better than we did before the difficulty began. This is how Jesus cares for us as our Shepherd.

These are but a few of the examples for how Jesus fulfilled Zechariah’s prophecy, to care for His “little flock” who remains.


[1] Psalm 84:11
[2] John 16:33

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