2 Samuel 5:1-3; Psalm 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5 (R/. cf. 1); Colossians 1:12-20; Mark 11:19, 10; Luke 23:35-43
The image of a shepherd became linked to the role of the king in the Old Testament. David, the youngest son of Jesse, who tended sheep, exalted the Lord through his harp music, and slew Goliath, was destined to become king of Israel. The leaders of Israel came to David and asked him to shepherd them as king, fulfilling what the Lord had said to David, “You shall shepherd my people Israel and be commander of Israel.”
The life of David foreshadowed the life of Christ: Bethlehem is the birthplace of both; the shepherd life of David prefigures Christ, the Good Shepherd; the five stones chosen to slay Goliath are typical of the five wounds of Christ; the betrayal by his trusted counselor, Achitophel, and the passage over the Cedron remind us of Christ’s Sacred Passion; finally, many of the Davidic Psalms, as we learn from the New Testament, are clearly typical of the Messiah. Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe is not an earthly king though. His crown is a crown of thorns, his royal purple robes are draped over his beaten body in mockery, his throne is a cross, and the only jewels he has are the nails that pierce his hands and feet. They hang a sign on the cross above his head that says, “Iēsus Nazarēnus, Rēx Iūdaeōrum,” (“Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”) It is through this unearthly image of a king that he shepherds human souls into his kingdom.
Jesus picked up the image of the Good Shepherd in his preaching to human souls and carried it out in his actions as he sought to shepherd his flock into the kingdom, searching out the blind and the deaf, the lame and the sick, the possessed and the grief-stricken. He became the king of the poor, the weak, and the suffering. He is our king. He is not just the king of a nation, or even of the world; he is king of the entire universe. He is a king so powerful and feared that Herod tried to kill him as a defenseless newborn baby. He is so powerful that he may shepherd those most astray back to the flock, no matter how far they have gone or how long they have been away. He gives hope to those most in need and ushers them into his everlasting kingdom. A kingdom, as he told Pilate, which is not of this world. He ushers all in like sheep with wool, white and pure.
Even from the cross, Jesus seeks and saves the lost. Over the heckling of the crowd and the verbal abuse of one of his crucified companions, Jesus responds to the faith of the nameless thief on his other side. (Tradition calls him Dismas.) Through his confession, repentance, and spiritual act of mercy by admonishing the sinner, Jesus absolves the criminal, promising him Paradise that day. Dismas secures his salvation, becoming the first saint of the Church, through his longing for the kingdom and exaltation of Christ as God and King of the Universe. Even as Jesus is laying down his life for his sheep, he is also carrying one on his shoulders into the kingdom.
How does it help you to see Christ the king as Jesus the shepherd, leading us to green pastures where he feeds us, gives us rest, and finally leads us through the dark valley of death into the kingdom of light and life?