King David declared, “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11), and He enlisted the help of His disciples in watching over His sheep. After His death and resurrection, three times in a row, He directed His senior apostle, Peter, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).
Who are His sheep? We are, if we choose to be. The prophet Alma assured the people of Zarahemla that the Savior would receive them as soon as they were willing to accept Him as their Shepherd
I say unto you that the good shepherd doth call after you; and if you will hearken unto his voice he will bring you into his fold, and ye are his sheep.Alma 5:60
Why is a shepherd an appropriate symbol for the Savior? Shepherds do at least three things for their sheep which the Savior does for us.
- They nourish their sheep. Isaiah prophesied, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd” (Isaiah 40:11). Nephi echoed this prophecy: “He shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture” (1 Nephi 22:25). The Savior provides us with much-needed spiritual nourishment.
- They gather their sheep. Jesus spoke of a shepherd leaving ninety-nine sheep which are together to search for the one which is lost (Matthew 18:12-13, Luke 15:4-7). Nephi prophesied, “And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd” (1 Nephi 22:25). Jesus gathers us with other believers, so that we can strengthen one another.
- They protect their sheep. When Ammon became a servant to King Lamoni, it was fitting that he was assigned to watch over the king’s flocks. The protection he provided was symbolic of the protection from spiritual harm which he had come to offer to the king and his people. (See Alma 17:25-39.) Alma reminded the people of Zarahemla that shepherds do not allow wolves to enter their flock. If a wolf comes near, the shepherd will drive him away to keep the flock safe. (See Alma 5:59.) The Savior helps us stay safe from those who would harm us.
The Savior is our shepherd if we are willing to follow Him. He also asks for our help in shepherding His flock. No wonder the first recorded visitors to the stable where he was born were shepherds (Luke 2:8-18).
Today, I will remember the ways that the Savior is my shepherd. I will be grateful for the nourishment I have received from Him, for the ways He has gathered me with other believers, and for the protection He has provided to me. I will strive to follow His example and be a good shepherd to those I have the privilege to serve.