“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:24–25, AV)
While in the United States Army and stationed in Germany, we were on a field maneuver. We were road marching with our tanks cross-country whenvwe ran into a flock of sheep. We are barreling down this road in 60-ton main battle tanks and these sheep were just standing on the road. They would not move. It brought the entire column of tanks to a halt. Apparently, the only things that sheep fear are dogs. They certainly were not afraid of our tanks and in a real combat situation this particular flock would have been numerically reduced by our column of tanks.
I have no idea where the shepherd of the flock of sheep was. We were hoping that he would show up and move them. Our company commander, who was in the rear was getting impatient and ordered us to send someone from the tanks on foot to shoo them away. Eventually they moved on and we continued our movement.
Sheep are interesting animals and to survive, they need a shepherd. The shepherd leads the sheep to water and green fields for food. He protects the sheep from predators since they have no way to defend themselves from attack. He also cares for them when they become ill. The sheep need a shepherd.
Peter had just written about Jesus being the example for us in enduring unjust treatment with graciousness. Then he wrote of believers as sheep who were straying but have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls. The point is that as sheep have a tendency to wander, which can place the sheep in a dangerous place, all people have wandered without a shepherd. They have wandered in the dangerous places led by the desires of the sin nature. The destiny of this wandering was death, eternal punishment.
The good new is that those who have believed in Jesus have also become members of the flock of God in which Jesus is the good shepherd. John recorded Jesus’ words regarding the good shepherd. “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep . . . I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine” (John 10:11-14, AV). This is what Peter alludes to here, that Jesus the good shepherd laid down His life, being crucified, for our sins so that we could live for righteousness. In His sacrifice, we were healed from our sin problem and now are experiencing the work of the good shepherd who watches over our souls.
As the good shepherd, Jesus leads us in the path of righteousness. He leads us to spiritual nourishment and refreshing. He protects us from the evil one and the forces of evil who would seek to destroy us. Moreover, when we do fall and are wounded by sin, He hears our cry for help, picks us up, and restores us. He also gathers us back to the flock when we foolishly wander. He is our good shepherd who never leaves us nor forsakes us. Praise the Lord that we have such a good shepherd.