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Christian Symbol: The Good Shepherd

What does this Christian symbol mean? 

The good Shepherd is a symbol of Christ. He is often pictured with a sheep over his shoulders. This symbol could cause some confusion since Christ is sometimes symbolized by a sheep or lamb and sometimes a shepherd.

This symbol is based in scripture, and John 10.11 in particular, in which Jesus identifies himself as "the good shepherd."

Note that in some cases, depictions of shepherds may also signify David. In these instances, look to I Samuel 16.11 or I Samuel 17.34-35 for a scriptural basis.

Where can I find this Christian symbol?

Variations of the good shepherd are very popular in paintings, books, and stained glass. If you keep your eyes open  this is a symbol you are likely to find.

Free Bible study in the Shepherd:

Read John 10.1-18. Why does Jesus identify himself as a shepherd? What about shepherds does Jesus highlight in his comparison? 

Read Psalm 23. How is the shepherd in this passage similar to the shepherd from John 10? How are these shepherds different? 

​Read Matthew 18.12-13. How does this shepherd compare to the others? 

Which of these three descriptions fits best with your view of Jesus? If you were to design a good shepherd picture, how would your picture be similar to or different from the images on this page?

Preaching with the Christian Symbol of the Good Shepherd:

Similar to the lamb, the shepherd occurs throughout scripture. This makes the symbol a helpful one in preaching from a variety of passages. Themes of care, trust, protection, or dedication can be exemplified by use of this symbol.

When would the Good Shepherd fit in the liturgical calendar?

The Good Shepherd can be used throughout the liturgical year. Advent can provide an appropriate time depending on the scripture, but take care not to confuse the shepherds of the Christmas story with the good shepherd.

This symbol is also appropriate any time Psalm 23 is read, which can make it a powerful image for use during times of mourning - particularly because it can emcompass so much of scripture.