Jesus the Good Shepherd the Son of David

shepherd-1

I have been reading through the different books of the Holy Bible. I figured if I am studying to be a theologian with a concentration in Sacred Scripture; I need to have read Sacred Scripture. To be honest, some of the books of the Bible are not page-turners. It took some time for me to make it through Numbers with all the lists of men, tribes, and measurements. I found it amusing that I was once told that every single word of Sacred Scripture was important because it was chosen by God; however, while I was reading Numbers, I couldn’t help but think what am I going to do with these cubit measurements?

Nonetheless, the books of Samuel are page-turners. A narrative filled with the young hero motif of David the shepherd, war and conquest, and political intrigue. I can’t help but think out of the many movies made from the Old Testament, it seems that David never got the treatment that says Moses did in the 10 commandments. In fact, David is a complex character because of his eventual fall into sin with his adultery with Bathsheba. A story filled drama with the rise of a young hero by the slaying of Goliath, the suspense of David fleeing from Saul, and the climax of David as King, Finally the fall out of his kingdom after his adultery and the death of David’s sons.

What is interesting is how much Jesus leaps off the pages of David’s story. For example, as I was reading the section of David trying to convince Saul, brothers, and the Israelites to let him fight Goliath he spoke of the duties of being a Shepherd. In recent years, especially because of the Pontificate of Pope Francis, there has been a focus on the “Good Shepherd.” In the Good Shepherd model, we’re supposed to envision a hippy strolling along the countryside with a young lamb around his shoulders just because he wandered off. Shepherding isn’t that easy nor peaceful. In fact, If a lamb wanders off, expect to fight the wolves to get him back. In John’s Gospel, Jesus says:

 

11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep.

12 But the hireling and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming and leaveth the sheep and flieth: and the wolf casteth and scattereth the sheep[1]

 

What is interesting is that in many sermons on the Good Shepherd, the idea of the Good Shepherd is romanticized and this particular part of Jesus’ words seems to be overlooked for the hippy that leaves the 99 strolling along the countryside for the one. The Shepherd’s life is at risk every moment during his duties as the Shepherd. Jesus speaks of the Shepherd giving his life for his sheep and this something that Jesus precisely does for us on the cross—and yes, he does it for each and every one of us. If there was only one person here on earth, Jesus would have went to that cross.

In fact, David speaks in some detail the dangers of being a Shepherd to Saul:

33 And Saul said to David: Thou art not able to withstand this Philistine, nor to fight against him: for thou art but a boy, but he is a warrior from his youth.

34 And David said to Saul: Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, or a bear, and took a ram out of the midst of the flock:

35 And I pursued after them, and struck them, and delivered it out of their mouth: and they rose up against me, and I caught them by the throat, and I strangled, and killed them.

36 For I thy servant have killed both a lion and a bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be also as one of them. I will go now, and take away the reproach of the people: for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, who hath dared to curse the army of the living God? [2]

GK Chesterton I’ve heard said that every single picture of the Good Shepherd needs to be a picture of Jesus casting out the money changers in the Temple. I say, “why bother?” Jesus was being the Good Shepherd in the temple! What needs to be done is a correct catechesis of what it means to be a Shepherd. The Good Shepherd cannot be domesticated by modernity. David is describing our spiritual battle in quite some detail. In our day to day lives, we are fighting a battle, and we must be equipped to be able to discernment the different encounters we may have on this pilgrimage.

St. Peter reminds us of this spiritual battle in some of the same detail as both Christ and David in his first letter: “Casting all your care upon him, for he hath care of you. Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour.” [3]

We must cast our care into the Good Shepherd because we are in a battle for our souls—Spiritual Warfare. We must go to Him in the Sacraments, prayer, Sacred Scripture, fasting and devotion. David shows us by explaining the duties of a Shepherd that Christ will protect us by pursing and striking the enemy! All we have to do is look upon the Crucifix to see His life ransomed us from sin and remind ourselves that His resurrection has defeated our adversary.

Let us pray for the Grace to be counted among His sheep, let us pray for the Grace that if we shall wander off, the Good Shepherd will seek us out.

Thy most sacred name Jesus, cast away those who assail Thy sheep.

[1]  Jn 10:11–12. DRB

[2] 1 Sa 17:33–36, DRB.

[3] 1 Pe 5:7–8. DRB.

4 thoughts on “Jesus the Good Shepherd the Son of David

  1. Tom Seeman

    “…some of the books of the Bible are not page-turners. It took some time for me to make it through Numbers with all the lists of men, tribes, and measurements.”

    Very true, and this, I think, is why the Old Testament in particular is a giant mystery to many or most Christians. They flip open to a book, start reading, but before long are bored or confused and give up. Some of the stories in Genesis seem at odds with science and/or are downright odd, there’s too much violence in Genesis, and the prophets downright confusing. The stories in Samuel/Kings/Chronicles are interesting but seem irrelevant. Much safer is the New Testament, which is where most Christians concentrate their time.

    This is where good preaching and catechesis comes into play. When I was an Evangelical we went through the Bible book by book and learned the whole thing. Most of our priests don’t or won’t talk about the OT, so it falls to us lay members of the church.

    “What is interesting is how much Jesus leaps off the pages of David’s story.”

    I think that’s a good way to approach it; to always tie the OT to the new. How the old is fulfilled in the new, and then where passages and events in the new are presaged/prophesied in the old. This ties it all together, as otherwise the old tends to become just a bunch of sometimes-interesting often-weird tales.

    We are indeed in a”battle for our souls—Spiritual Warfare, and a fierce one at that.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Nicholas

    I love the Old Testament, even though it presents us with great challenges. Not only do I love the preservation of our history and of Bronze Age perspectives, I love the mirror it holds up to our humanity. When you look at these people, you see that they are real people (unlike figures of myth). The bitterness you find in the Psalms, Job, Ecclesiastes, Kings, etc, reveals a real world, albeit written in versions of genres that are different from their modern descendants. The authors were skillful – the Bible is great literature in its own right.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I can’t help but have the historian kick in at times when reading. The whole episode of the death of Saul and his sons strikes me as evident of historicity because it falls into the embarassment testimony.

      And you’re right about the Bible being great literature in its own right–and history can fall into literature. Let’s suppose that the skeptics are right for a moment. Joseph at the end of Genesis, Exodus, Samson in Judges, 1&2 Samuel, Daniel etc. are far better narratives than say Beowulf, Gilgamesh, the Green knight, etc.

      I remember reading that Thomas Merton use to say that he could tell when writers didn’t read poetry–and perhaps he would consider the Psalms poetry–but I find moved deeply by the Psalms in morning and evening prayer.

      It’s to the Christian’s detriment to fall into Gospel reductionism or what I would call only framing Christianity in view of the Gospels without concern for the entirety of Salvation History. It must be read through the understanding of the Old Testament.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. They are certainly a great many references to the Old Testament in the New. So the New Testament cannot be understood well unless we strive to understand the Old.

    Why does the Bible have those boring parts? Each part helps us understand Jesus and what He did to redeem us. The measurements, the genealogies, the plans for the cities and the tabernacle, the sacrifices in Leviticus, and so forth all point to Jesus and the gift of our salvation. Once we began to understand this, we cannot help be awestruck by the amazing amount care — the detail — that God exhibited when He pursued us to save us from ourselves.

    Liked by 2 people

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