May the God of Peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.
This shall be my final Pastoral Letter. What a joy it has been for me to walk with you for so many years, and what a joy it has been to share these letters with you!
How fitting is the subject which we have come to today, and with which we conclude these letters! We have been walking through the great letter to the Hebrews, and we have seen that Jesus Christ is our Best:
Now we shall see that the Lord Jesus is our Best
How wonderful it is for me, as I leave this time as your pastor, and as you await the coming of your next pastor, to commend you to the True and Greatest Pastor, the Lord Jesus Himself.
A pastor is a “shepherd”. The Latin root for the word means just that. Look at the text at the top of this letter from Hebrew 13. It refers to Jesus Christ as “that great Shepherd of the sheep”. I am a pastor (what a privilege!). I am a “shepherd”. It has been my joy to feed you in the green pastures of God’s Word over these many years. Another will soon come to take my place. But neither of us, indeed, no mere man, is “that great Shepherd”. That title belongs to Jesus alone.
As an “under shepherd”, my job has been to keep a keen eye upon “that great Shepherd” and lead us where He goes. So will be the role of your next pastor. The key figure here is not me, nor the next man, but Jesus. He is the True, Faithful, Final Pastor! Men come and go! Men disappoint! Men die! Jesus is “that great Shepherd”.
The job description for every pastor is very simple and it is derived directly from the Lord Jesus Himself.
He is to Gather the flock
He is to Guard the flock
He is to Guide the flock
All of these are done through the ministry of the Word of God to the people of God. This has been my aim and life to you for all these years. This has been my Job. This will be my successor’s Job. But it is Jesus Himself who is behind it all.
It is He who Gathers the flock (when sin has separated the sheep from the Shepherd and from one another) through the ministry of the Word in evangelism
It is He who Guards the flock (when wolves threaten to devour) through the ministry of the Word in teaching, warning, and instruction.
It is He who Guides the flock to green pastures (where the sheep are nourished and made strong) and through dark valleys (where the sheep are kept safe and secure) through the ministry of the Word in encouragement and exhortation.
Just feast upon these words from Jesus:
“I am the Good Shepherd [pastor]…I know my sheep…I lay down my life for my sheep…
I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my
Hands.” (John 10:11 ff)
As difficult as it is for Tessa and me (Ben!) to leave you (and it is very difficult), it is good for us all, because it reminds us that Jesus is our “great Shepherd”. Your next pastor will be different than me (he might be a vegan!). His wife will be different than Tessa (she might eat white bread!). His kids will be different. But his job description will be the same, and, most importantly His Boss will be the same.
This is a great time for us to prove that we are Christ-centred and not man-centred. This is a great time to prove to ourselves that the Word of God and not the personalities of men is what holds us together as a People. This is a great opportunity to prove that the bond of love which exists between us comes from Jesus Christ and His Redeeming Work for us, and not from anything to do with us.
Let us exalt Jesus as the Best Pastor. Let us hold without compromise to Him and His Word. Let us follow Him as our Great Shepherd.
Christ will prove Himself faithful over you. Focus upon Him. Be attentive to Him. Encourage your next “under shepherd” to be first and foremost a man of the Word and of prayer….ever attentive to “that great Shepherd”…
….And all will be well.
I love you with all my heart, and it has been the great privilege of my life to have been your pastor for all these years.
I commend you in faith to Jesus Christ
THAT GREAT SHEPHERD OF THE SHEEP
He tends His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart. (Isaiah 40:11)