We have all heard the story of the shepherds in Luke 2:8-20, how they received the honor and blessing of being the first to greet God's Messiah when Jesus began his redeeming work on this earth by becoming a man through a humble birth in a manger. Shepherds performed the hard and thankless task of caring for every need of the sheep, and instead of royalty they were chosen to receive the Lamb of God.
Israel's leaders were their shepherds symbolically, and they were warned by God that their failure to care for the flock would require God himself, the "True Shepherd", to intervene. According to Ezekiel 34:1-10 Israel's shepherds were eating the best parts of the sheep and keeping warm with their wool, but not feeding the sheep. God calls them out for not strengthening the weak, treating the sick, setting broken bones, regathering the scattered, or looking for the lost. Through the remainder of chapter 34 God promised he would come to remove the false shepherds, judge between the rams and the goats and install his shepherd David to take care of his flock.
Jesus Christ is the true shepherd. His coming as God in the form of man made him the only one who could offer himself as the sacrificial lamb to pay the price for the sins of man and still deliver righteousness to mankind in fulfillment of the law by his death on the cross. His resurrection delivered the promise of eternal life for those who believe in him.
This passage has really convicted me, and I pray that it calls out to you as well. We, as Christians, are serving in representation of the True Shepherd Jesus Christ, the Messiah. We have taken the name of the True Shepherd but have we taken up his cross? We claim the name of Christ but do we strengthen the faith of the spiritually weak with encouragement in God's word? Do we treat the sin-sick with the gospel? Do we set the broken bones of those who stumble with love or leave them stranded with our judgement? Do we gather the scattered who have fallen away with a gentle nudge of the staff, a loving arm, and a kind word, or do we care enough to go out of our way? Are we looking outside of our own pasture to find lost sheep and bring them into the safety of the fold?
We too are shepherds in the darkness of a world of perils. Our Messiah is coming again and we will have the blessing of being gathered by the angels to meet him. I believe we are closer to the coming of our King than the baby in a manger. Will he find his shepherds keeping watch over their flock by night?
May God be glorified in your life as we celebrate the arrival of the Lamb of God and look forward to the returning True Shepherd!