I don’t know about you, but I yearn for that which is true. I need something or someone in my life I can always trust. I need a Good Shepherd. No image of Jesus is more widely known or loved then that of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The one who gave his life, that all of us might be safe and whole.
Images of shepherds as rulers, leaders and kings run throughout the Hebrew scriptures. From the shepherd boy David who becomes king, to the words of the prophets who either praise rulers and religious leaders for being good shepherds, or chastise those who are not. Israel’s good shepherds cared for the people, acted with justice and didn’t lead the people into unnecessary wars. Good Shepherd’s spoke truth in their society. They brought stability and with stability prosperity. When Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd,” John10:14, The words resonated with his listeners.
Early Christ Followers saw in Jesus the fulfillment of the words of Ezekiel, “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, I will feed them with justice.” Ezekiel 34:15-16
Images of Jesus as the Good Shepherd are found in the burial catacombs of Rome.
With Christianity under threat, gatherings were forced underground. The catacombs became not only a place of worship, but also of artistic expression. Walls were painted with Biblical scenes, including some of Jesus as the Good shepherd. Many of the paintings show the shepherd carrying one lone sheep, while other sheep are scattered around. Like today’s paintings, it was a reminder of Jesus who searches for the lost and celebrates when that lost one is found.
Jesus is still seeking the lost and bringing back the strayed. On a day when so much information is colored by biases, I need a truth telling Jesus in my life. I need a Good Shepherd I can trust . . . one who watches over me when I stray and wander far afield. I need a Jesus who speaks truth when I’m confused, then leads me back home.
*More Greg Olson Pictures can be found here.
Thank you for weaving David and Jesus and the catacombs and introducing Greg Olson to me, reminding me of the layers and nuances of this precious image.
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Thanks. I’ve always liked that Greg Olson picture. It hung in my office in two churches before I retired.
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