Names of God: The Chief Shepherd

The Chief Shepherd
by Pastor Nathaniel Thompson
Reformed University Fellowship
Western Washington University
“And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”
– 1 Peter 5:4
The name “Chief Shepherd” was recorded for us in scripture by the apostle Peter. This is remarkable because Peter was a shepherd himself. Jesus called Peter’s confession ‘the Rock upon which the church would be built’ (Matthew 16:18). Peter called himself “An Apostle of Christ” (1 Peter 1:1). When Paul began to preach about Jesus it was to Peter that he presented himself to make sure that his teaching was up to speck (Gal. 1:18). Almost certainly, there was no greater shepherd of the early church in Jerusalem than Peter. And yet Peter called Jesus, “the Chief Shepherd.”
The great beauty and difficulty of Christianity is that God has appointed a chief shepherd, a hero, a favored one. And it’s not me. Or you. Or Peter. It seems that each one of Jesus’ disciples had their moment of not being the chief. Jesus said that John the Baptist was the greatest man who ever lived. And yet when John was asked about his own greatness he said, “A person cannot receive even not thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ.’” (John 3:27). Peter had his moment too. After denying Jesus three times, Jesus came to him and said, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” And Peter responded, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” And Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
Perhaps like you, I want to make a difference in this world. I want to care for people. I want to steward resources well. I want to leave things better than I found them. And yet, in the Gospel, our greatest usefulness is found in not being the most useful one. Truth be told, I don’t really have what it takes to be a campus minister. Or a husband, father or friend. Jesus knows this about me, and part of his ministry to me has been to help me discover this for myself at a pace I can handle. I am never more stressed then when I’m trying to get it all done. I’m never more exhausted and unhappy than when I’m trying my hardest to fix someone. Paradoxically, I’m never more filled with love, joy, or peace, than when I’m receiving the fact that Jesus just bailed me out of a situation that was over my head. Somehow, when I share with others how good and gentle and grand Jesus has been with me the most remarkable things happen. Under-shepherding consists primarily in delighting and admiring and worshiping the one who is the chief Shepherd.
Jesus is the chief Shepherd. It is his responsibility to fix our friends, save our country, and meet our needs. It’s even his responsibility to help me know myself and my weaknesses. All authority in heaven and earth has been given to him. Everything was made through him and for him. We are all called to be his under-shepherds, his representatives. To ‘feed the sheep’ as it were. And we are never more successful at this when we are delighting in that Great Shepherd of the Sheep, Jesus himself. When we proclaim from our heart, “I am not the Christ,” and “Lord; you know that I love you” we are at our most glorious, our most effective, and I believe, our most joyful. Peter says that this is through embracing our status as under-shepherds that we receive ‘the unfading crown of glory.’


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