One Flock One Shepherd
Just what did Jesus mean when he said there was to be “one flock and one shepherd”? (John 10:16) This is in the context of his extended parable of the Good Shepherd, and Jesus Christ himself is clearly the Good Shepherd. He says so in verse 14. What interests me about this passage is that Jesus is clearly pointing out, not only that he is the Good Shepherd, but as the Good Shepherd he is making a Messianic claim.
References to the Lord himself as the Good Shepherd abound in the Old Testament. Psalm 23 is the most famous…”The Lord is my Shepherd….” Isaiah 40 says the Messiah will “feed his flock as a shepherd” Jeremiah prophesies that the Lord will set Good Shepherds up over the flock of Israel (ch. 23) and Jesus must have been alluding to Ezekiel 34.23 where the Lord says, “I will set up one shepherd over them and he will feed my flock, even my servant David.” In an extended passage of Ezekiel 34.9-17 all Jesus’ images of sheep, goats, and the Good Shepherd come together. Any reference in the gospels to sheep, goats, flocks, herds and shepherds comes back to the Old Testament–especially chapter 34 of Ezekiel. There the Lord himself is the Good Shepherd, and when Jesus takes the title he is affirming therefore, his own divine status. It’s easy. The Lord God said he would be the Good Shepherd of his people Israel, and Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd.”
What interests me further is what Jesus does with his status as Good Shepherd. After his resurrection he has that famous conversation with Peter at the end of John’s gospel (Jn.21) where he says solemnly three times, “Feed my sheep.” The threefold command was the most binding and solemn of commandments. It was like a ritual vow–sort of the way we re-affirm our baptism vows in a threefold way.
So Jesus, the Good Shephered, solemnly hands his office over to Peter. In Peter his own prophecy comes true, “there are other sheep they do not yet know about. There is to be one flock, and one shepherd….Peter–feed my sheep.”
The command still stands today–not there will be many flocks and many shepherds, but there will be one flock and one shepherd: Jesus Christ–and until he returns again his agent on earth remains the successor of the one he chose, and his name at the moment is Benedict.