The Shepherd’s Love
Imagine coming home only to find the family you love so dearly does not know who you are. To your amazement your own children spurn you. You desire to shower them with affection, encouragement, help, and consolation. But they despise and abandon you.
Such rejection would be painful indeed. Yet it is exactly what Messiah Jesus experienced: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (Jn. 1:11).
Jesus was born into a Jewish family. His mother, stepfather, brothers, sisters, friends, and heritage all were Jewish. He identified with the Jewish people and their struggles and position in a Gentile world. As God incarnate, He knew well their spiritual failures and saw clearly their future tragedies. Yet He loved them, and He came to Earth to help them.
His desire was not only to minister physically to His ancient people but ultimately to offer forgiveness from sin; launch the promised Messianic Kingdom; and establish the throne of David, as He had promised in the Hebrew Scriptures.
But “His own received him not.” Not only did the Jewish people fail to understand who He was or what He was there to accomplish, but the world at large also had no idea. He was the Creator of everything, yet those He created did not recognize Him.
He Came to Israel
The idea conveyed by the words his own is that He went to those who belonged to Him. The words declare a special relationship between Jesus and those who were His.
At the outset of His ministry, Jesus clearly came to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” exclusively (Mt. 10:6; 15:24). He instructed His disciples, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter not” (Mt. 10:5).
Later a Canaanite woman “cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David.” Her daughter was “grievously vexed with a demon” (Mt. 15:22).
Jesus responded, “It is not right to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs” (Mt. 15:26). Although this answer was not a compliment to her, it simply stated that Jesus’ power and ministry—at this point—focused strictly on God’s chosen nation.
The woman’s reply was both humble and profound: “Truth, Lord; yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table” (Mt. 15:27). She clearly comprehended where she stood and anticipated the residual blessing that will ultimately fall on the Gentiles from the Jewish people.
Since the Church Age was nowhere in view yet, her comment indicated that she recognized Jesus as Messiah and anticipated the Messianic-Kingdom blessing that will fall to the Gentiles as well as the Jewish people during the Millennium (Zech. 8:23). This blessing will occur when Israel is restored to its proper place in its land during the Messiah’s future reign. The woman’s request was granted due to her tremendous faith.
The ‘Iceberg’ of Sin
At the conclusion of his gospel, John wrote,
And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written (21:25).
Jesus did what He did for a reason. His mission was to deal with sin. Like an iceberg, sin has two parts: the visible, and usually smaller, section; and the larger section that is submerged beneath the water’s surface. The physical manifestation of sin was visible to all. For example, there were the blind, deaf, and dumb; those stricken with leprosy; those possessed by demons; and even those who had died. Then there was the underlying root of sin, which is not visible: the heart that is in rebellion to and far from God (Isa. 59:1–2; Jer. 17:9).
Jesus came to deal with the physical manifestation of sin to show He had power to deal with the root of sin— man’s heart. When a man “sick of the palsy” was brought to Jesus, He told the man, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee” (Mt. 9:2).
Knowing their hearts, He then told the crowd,
Which is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins . . . Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house (vv. 5–6).
Only God can forgive sin. Jesus healed the man’s ailment. Yet since He was God, He was able not only to deal with the physical aspect of sin but forgive sin in a person’s life and heart as well.
Jesus’ own heart grieved for the Jewish people: “When he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they were faint, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” (Mt. 9:36).
The Good Shepherd’s Message
In His ministry as an itinerant preacher, the Master strongly conveyed His heart for His beloved nation, Israel. In John 10:11–14 Jesus said,
I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth; and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd.
Unlike some of the false messiahs who came after Him, Jesus did not flee or repudiate His message to save His own life. Because He was the Good Shepherd—the true Shepherd—He willingly laid down His life for His sheep. Scripture says He could have called thousands of angels to rescue Him (Mt. 26:53). But He chose not to run. He loved His sheep and remained faithful to them to the end. Now, through faith in Him and the sacrifice of His life as the final atonement for sin, Jewish people and Gentiles alike can obtain forgiveness of sin and the gift of everlasting life (Eph. 1—2).
The Messiah’s Lament
Scripture is clear that the Lord will visit Israel and lift it above all the nations of the earth. The land boundaries of the future Messianic Kingdom were revealed in Genesis 15:18–21, and the lineage of Israel’s rightful Ruler was identified in Genesis 49:10.
In 2 Samuel 7:4–17 God told King David He would establish David’s house. And Matthew 1:1–17 establishes forever that the line of the rightful King ends with Jesus. He received the legal right to the throne from his earthly stepfather, Joseph. Luke 3:23–37 discloses His biological tie to David, most likely from His mother, Mary (Miriam).
Even John the Baptist, the herald of the King, preached, “Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt.3:2). God’s Word also indicates that God loved the entire world, and someday He would bless the Gentile nations too (Isa. 19:23–25).
Near the end of His earthly ministry—after three years of giving of Himself to the lost sheep of Israel— Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey’s colt, fulfilling Zechariah 9:9. Then a “very great multitude” spread garments before Him; others cut down branches from trees and spread them like a carpet (Mt. 21:8). People cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest” (v. 9).
Yet the religious leaders told Jesus, “Rebuke thy disciples” (Lk. 19:39). Clearly, they rejected Him as their Messiah and King despite all He had done to authenticate Himself and His message.
So crucial was His prophetic “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem that He replied, “I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out” (v. 40).
The Master was coming to His own, and His own did not recognize Him. Yet even the rocks knew the Creator and the hour of His visitation.
Jesus lamented over Jerusalem and her people, saying with grief,
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them who are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! (Mt. 23:37).
In this tender passage, Jesus showed His true heart. He longed to bring His beloved people together under His wings, which picture warmth, security, sustenance, and nurture. But as the prophet Isaiah had predicted centuries earlier,
He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not (53:3).
If only His people had known the hour of their visitation, how different world history would have been.