The Good Shepherd

Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

Easter 4 2019
Rev. Doug Floyd
Revelation 7:9-17

Think about the various titles you’ve had in life. I remember the first time I received a letter as a child, and it was addressed to Master Doug Floyd. I proudly took the letter and thought, “Yes, Master is right.” Whether playing sports, games at home, or simply studying classes, we are given a title. First year high school students are Freshmen, and they look up to the powerful, almost mystical Seniors who struggle with a disease called senioritis. I’ve been called a delivery man, a magician, a clown, a visual designer, copywriter, a content manager, and much more. This doesn’t include the nicknames we receive along the way. Dug the Lug, Dug the Bug, Goofball, and Cowboy. At the end of the work day, my co-worker used to look across the cubicle and tell me, “Shut her down cowboy.”

Some people demand titles as though the titles will give them some greater sense of worth. At its best the title merely conveys the reality of who we are or the role that we fill. When I worked at Philips Magnavox, I told new employees, “My job is to distract you from working.” I was pretty good at it.

Then there are honorary titles we bestow on people or they bestow on us: Friend, lover, bride, groom, mentor, hero.

The Revelation is filled with titles of Jesus Christ. Unlike our arbitrary titles, the titles of Jesus declare something essential about who he is. The Revelation, opens with the following two verses, “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.”[1] Even as we read about the “things that soon must take place,” we are reading about the Revelation of Jesus Christ. The entire book is prophecy bearing witness to Jesus Christ. Thus the book is filled with titles of Jesus Christ. You could do a Bible study simply meditating upon the titles of Jesus Christ.

Today as we pass the four horsemen of the Apocalypse in chapter 6 and move directly to the worship of the multitudes in chapter 7, I thought I might offer a quick summary of a few key titles we’ve already encountered in The Revelation. 

In Revelation 1:4, we hear a greeting from God the Father and God the Son, “Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.” [2]

Faithful Witness tells us that we can trust his word and acts as fully bearing to witness to who God is.

Firstborn among the dead offers a promise. In His Resurrection, Jesus Christ is the hope of all creation, leading all things into the newness of His life.  

Ruler of the Kings of the Earth tells us that there are no governments, presidents, kings, queens or other rulers that can thwart his ultimate purpose. 

In verses five and six, we hear about Jesus Christ in relation to ourselves and all the saints:

He loves us, has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us a kingdom of priest to his God and Father.

Jesus Christ has rescued us in our sinful condition, then we are given a title: a kingdom of priests. This has a two-fold meaning: in Christ the people of God share in His kingly rule and priestly role. This theme of our role as priests and kings will be explored throughout The Revelation. Paul uses the image of Christ as the Head and the church as His body to communicate a similar image. Even as Christ is Raised up as ruler over all and as the Great High Priest, the church is raised with Him. We are growing up into our role as kings and priests in the midst of this earth. Following His pattern, we love and serve the world even as we worship the Father. Even as the world did not recognizer Christ, it does not recognize us. Yet we pray for it, seek to bring God’s blessing to it, and become living and faithful witnesses of God our Father and Christ our Lord. 

The Revelation continues by naming Jesus Christ the Alpha and Omega. This is the first and last letter of the Greek alphabet, and it communicates that Jesus is not simply Ruler of the Kings of the Earth, but that He is Lord of all space and time. The same title that was applied to the Father in heaven in verse four. “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”[3] He is not bound by space and time as we know it, rather he is over it. So there no place or time that we can go that is outside of his rule. The Son of God is Lord of ancient Israel. He is Lord over the flood, He is Lord is the first moments of Creation. He is Lord over the end of things.

His redeeming grace extends to every moment of existence from the beginning to the end. That is why we can say with John, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”[4] He stands over creation and over redemption. He sustains all creation by His Word.

For the sake of time, I may skip this review of the earlier titles and move ahead to his role as Lion of Judah, Lamb of God and in today’s reading, we are told that the Lamb becomes a Shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd. All these images convey the story of King David being fulfilled in Jesus Christ. David was the ancient Israelite King that united the tribes of Israel in to one nation. He conquered the enemies of Israel. He prepared the way for peace. He protected the people even as He worshipped the Lord and led the nation in worship. The Lord promised David that His house or His kingdom would be established forever.

But after David dies, the kingdom eventually divides and many of the kings rule in selfish and idolatrous ways. Though the kings of Judah are David’s descendants, many fail to worship the Lord and instead lead the people in all sorts of immorality and corruption. Eventually, the people are captured and the last king dies.

But the people have hope that one day the house of David will be restored and true and faithful king will sit on the throne. Jesus Christ is this king. He is the last and final king as well as the eternal king. In Him the nation is restored, but not in the way the people expect. Rather, as we’ve read in Revelation, Jesus raises up Jew and Gentile as a kingdom of priests thus fulfilling the ancient promise to David. Thus Jesus is the Lion of Judah for He is the fierce king and warrior who will defeat Israel’s enemies and He is the lamb of God who was slain. He is the scapegoat for the sins and grudges and arguments and divisions of all humanity.

Jesus Christ enters into the pain of a world corrupted by sin and death, by violence and hatred, and in his life, burial, death, and resurrection, he takes this brokenness to the grave. Now it is time to remember his other title. The Alpha and Omega. As Lord of time and space, he alone can take away the brokenness and sin of all of history upon himself and prepare the way for the restoration of all things.

In today’s text, Jesus Christ, the Lion of David and Lamb of God is being worshipped by a great multitude that no one can number. This multitude is from all tribes and peoples and languages. Clothed in white and waving palm branches, they worship. “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”[5]

We are told, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15“Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” [6]

What is the great tribulation? This is a world at war with God. A world where sin and death seem to reign. Revelation 6 describes the opening of the seals and the release of the four horsemen. The images are images of human conflict, pestilence, famine, war and death. In other words, these are images of the world as we know, as the disciples knew, as the early church knew it. Nations at war. Humans oppressing one another. Fighting one another.

Fears at home and abroad. In the midst of a world that is filled with darkness and death, the people of God dwell, live out their lives, learn to love, worship God, form families, and seek to live faithfully as servants of God. They do not escape the economic problems of the world. They experience the struggles and confusion and sometimes terrors of the world.

In some nations, this terror becomes the realized threat of persecution and war. In other places, this struggle takes shape in other ways. We live in a culture where people are stressed out, some depressed, some struggling to get ahead even at the expense of others, some waging never-ending political disputes, and some simply feeling the weight of the world in their lives and their homes.

At times and in some places, this world feels more like a great tribulation than others. And yet we all live in a world where sin so often seems to prevail and people so often struggle. And we may even question, what happened? Didn’t Jesus defeat the powers of sin and death? Why are they so prevalent all around us?

In the middle of this world of woe, Jesus Christ sends His Spirit upon us. He encourages us. He strengthens us. He reminds us that He is Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, the Lamb of God who enters into the suffering of the world, and the Lion of Judah who will defeat the powers of sin and death. And today we read about the Lamb who will be their shepherd.

Jesus Christ is the shepherd who will not abandon us or any of His people in the midst of struggle and pain and fear and even persecution in this life.

Yes, God’s people may suffer at times, but they are not forgotten, not abandoned in their pain. He will preserve the Christians held in persecution camps in North Korea even as He will preserve the Christians facing the temptations and struggles of our wealthy and stressed out culture. Like a good shepherd, he dwells among us by His Spirit, He protects us in His love, and He leads His worshipping people from day to day, week to week, and month to month. He will lead us all the way into the fullness of His love eternally where we will join with all the multitudes in one great song of joy and salvation.

15“Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” [7]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 1:1–2.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 1:4–5.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 1:8.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 1:3.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 7:10.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 7:14–17.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 7:14–17.

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