Below is the next in our series of articles written by Alexander R. Wright for children and young people.
A. R. Wright grew up in Northern Ireland. He was minister in the Ballylaggan Congregation of the RPCI from 1934 until his retirement in 1971. Rev Wright was father in law to Rev Edward Donnelly and Grandfather to Mrs Ruth Peel (married to Rev Warren Peel, current Pastor of Trinity RPC in Belfast). The article below has been re-published with the permission of the Wright family.
These articles are perhaps most suitable for 8-13 year olds, though of course beneficial to us all). If you have a bit more time on your hands than normal during this pandemic season, why not sit down with your children and read this to them? Or record a video message of you reading this story and send it to your grandchildren if you are in isolation?
Jesus – The Shepherd
by A. R. Wright
In order to understand the meaning and significance of this title of our Lord we ought to be familiar with the close relationship which existed, and which still exists, between the Eastern shepherd and his flock. When Christ styled himself “the Good Shepherd of the sheep”, He used a most suitable figure for conveying to the minds of his audience the thought of his watchfulness and care over His people. Let us notice very briefly one or two points regarding Jesus as Shepherd.
- He owns His sheep
The Eastern shepherd very often owns his sheep. Sometimes he employs a hireling, a paid servant, to look after them, but, of course, this paid servant does not take the same interest in the flock as he himself does. The hireling is more concerned about his pay than about the flock. Now Jesus Christ is no hireling. He is the owner of His flock, and as such, He loves them and cares for them. You remember Paul says, “You are not your own, for you are bought with a price”. As Christians we belong to Christ and it is our duty to recognize His ownership and to surrender ourselves entirely to His claims. You have one Master, even Christ.
- He knows His sheep
The Eastern shepherd has a very extensive knowledge of his sheep. He has names for them, and knows them not only as a flock but also as individual members. As someone has said, “He knows all the particulars of each of his sheep; its genealogy, defects, temper, and tastes, and embodies some of these in the name he gives it. And so it is with Jesus the Good Shepherd. He knows his sheep most intimately. “I am the Good Shepherd, and know my sheep”. Christ knows all about us. He knows our name, our character, or circumstances, our needs. D. L. Moody used to tell of a little girl who was very ill. Her mother sang to her, and spoke to her, tucked her in, but she still tossed and fretted. At last her mother stooped down and took her in her arms, and the child whispered, “Ah mother that’s what I want.” Even a mother, with all her love, can never be sure what her little girl is wanting. But every need, every trial of those who are trusting in Christ, they are all known to Him.
- He feeds His sheep
The Eastern Shepherd feeds his flock. They are entirely dependent on him for provision. He seeks out the best pasture lands and water courses. Makes them lie down in green pastures and leads them beside the still waters. And Jesus, the Good Shepherd, makes provision for the needs of His flock. He supplies their physical needs. He gives them their daily bread. And He also supplies their spiritual needs. He bestows on them the gifts of pardon and peace and reconciliation, justification, adoption and sanctification. He feeds them with His ordinances, the word, sacraments and prayer. He feeds them here on Earth, and He will also feed them hereafter. “For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them”. In Christ there are unlimited resources, if only we would appropriate them.
- He leads His sheep
The Eastern Shepherd does not drive his sheep. He goes before them, and calls them by name, and the sheep follow him. And so it is with our Shepherd. He leads us and we should endeavor to follow wherever He leads. He leads us by past example. It is a beautiful thought to think that the Good Shepherd does not permit us to go along a path which He Himself has not trodden and in which He has not had previous experience. There is only one exception to this- the experience of sin. With this single exception, Jesus was tempted in all points like we are. However difficult our path may be, if only we look closely enough, we will see the footprints of the Master, and where He has gone before we need not fear to follow. Further, He leads us by present guidance. He has not only passed through every experience of human life, sin excepted, but HE is today the invisible leader of His people. He goes before every child who humbly sets out on the Christian pilgrimage. He leads us safely through life with all its trials and difficulties. And then, when death comes, he leads us safely over the river.
- He keeps His sheep
The Eastern Shepherd protects his sheep from wild beasts and human robbers. You all remember how David slew lion and bear while keeping his father’s flock on the hills of Bethlehem. And Jesus the Good Shepherd protects His sheep. He guards them from physical danger and more especially from spiritual danger. They are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. We remember the familiar words of Psalm 121:
The Lord shall keep thy soul; He shall
preserve thee from all ill.
Henceforth thy going out and in
God keep for ever will.
And just one more thought and I have finished. The Good Shepherd cares for His sheep; He also cares for the little lambs. He loves little children and I hope that you young people love Him in return. I hope that you can say with humility and yet with assurance, “the Lord is my shepherd I shall have no lack”.
 1 Corinthians 16:19-20.
 John 10:14.
 Revelation 7:17