The Image of the Good Shepherd

James Nettinga

READ : Psalm 23:1-6
John 10:1-18

“I am the good shepherd.” Jesus recaptured the meaning of the 23rd Psalm. He deepened the meaning of this beautiful shepherd’s poem by both his parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7) and his God-assigned role as the Good Shepherd. No picture of Jesus was more dear to the early church. It was inscribed on Christian seals and writings, and the walls of the catacombs of Rome.

Usually artists’ conceptions of the Good Shepherd picture a pretty Jesus holding lambs in his arms (Isa. 40:11). Artist Alfred Soord has painted a modern interpretation of Luke’s lost sheep.1 He depicts a man browned by exposure to the sun, clad in a rough fleece jacket, sleeves cut off below the shoulders, thorn-scratched legs, rawhide boots and muscles of steel. He clings to a rocky crevice with one hand while reaching down to gather in the lost sheep with a downward sweep of his other arm. Is this a more realistic picture of the shepherd that Jesus may have had in mind?

George Buttrick put it this way, “the sheep, our wayward humility the slope, the wasteland of sin the danger, the risk the shepherd runs the arm of Jesus, the over-arching sky all God’s love.” 2

1Arthur Bailey, The Gospel in Art, copyright Pilgrim’s Progress.

2Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. III, 1952, Abingdon, p. 267.


Thank you, Jesus, for being our loving shepherd. Amen.