As I was working on my sermon today I found an interesting note in my Oxford Bible on the Lord’s words to Ezekiel in chapter 34 about the Shepherds of Israel. Whenever this text has come up in the past, in conjunction with St. John 10 (“I am the Good Shepherd”) I have always talked about those shepherds of Israel as if they were the false prophets. But this note in the Bible says that it refers to the Shepherd-Kings! It makes so much more sense. The kings were the shepherds of Israel. And the prophets like Ezekiel were sent to call them to repentance. So when Jesus says: “I am the Good Shepherd” it is actually a reference to his royalty as the true and good “King of Israel.” Interestingly enough, it may also help us understand the NT office of Shepherd (pastor). “Yea, kingly kings they be” are the words from the old TLH ordination hymn. Jesus tells Peter: “Feed my lambs.” “Tend my sheep.” Peter, the other apostles, and ministers of the Gospel after them, are they not shepherd-kings, who rule with the Word of God? It changed the way I preached about it.


About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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2 Responses to Shepherds=Kings

  1. Pastor Daniel Skillman says:

    What do you think of this, Fr. Paul?

    Consider that Jesus’ “Good Shepherd” speech is given in the Temple on or near “the Feast of Dedication.” This feast, better known as Hanukkah, celebrates the cleansing of the Temple by the Macabean family during their revolt against Syria. This revolt led to the establishment of the Hasmonean dynasty (that is, a modicum of independence for Judea, and a “king” of the jews to sit on the throne of David). It seems that part of what Jesus is saying is that those shepherds who are looking forward to another Hasmonean style revolution are leading the nation into destruction. Rome will win the battle. They’ll sack Jerusalem and topple the Temple (“not one stone will be left on top of another”)

    Jesus says, “Repent. Change your thinking, and follow my way instead. The “shepherds” who are leading you are theives and robbers (i.e. brigands, terrorists). I am the good shepherd. I am your true king.”

    Of course, they don’t repent. So, Jesus, as the true king (good shepherd) faces the wolf (Rome) on Israel’s behalf. He is killed (“I lay down my life”), but in rising from the dead (“only to take it up again”) He demonstrates His true kingship (i.e. He IS the Shepherd).

    The king represents His people, fully and completely (Think of David fighting Goliath, and in Him all of Philistia, on behalf of all of Israel). Thus, in His death, Israel dies, and in His resurrection, Israel is resurrected, with the result that the People of God are no longer defined by their ethnic relationship to Abraham, but by their connection to Jesus (baptism giving birth to faith in the Messiah).

    The upshot of all this is, If Jesus did not come when He did, and do what He did, then Judea would have revolted against Rome and been demolished forever, thus extinguishing the light of the world and any hope the Jews or we Gentiles ever had for salvation. As it now stands, the fulfilled Israel, that is the body of Christ, is composed of anyone who has faith in Jesus, Jew or Gentile. Because Jesus died and rose, Israel lives on, and we’re part of it, part of the people of God.

    What a kingly thing for Jesus to do. No?

    In Christ,
    Fr. Dan

    PS: For the critics who say Jesus never fully identified Himself as God ought to look at John 10 and Ezekiel 34 side by side. Note who is the shepherd in Ezekiel and who claims to be the shepherd in John.

  2. Pastor Beisel says:

    Fr. Dan, I’ve thought of the exact same argument before on seeing John 10 and Ez. 34 side by side. I think it is very solid. Good comments all around. I guess I just never thought of the words “I am the Good Shepherd” before as a reference to Christ’s Kingship until now. He is the new and better David and Solomon.

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