Shepherd and Bishop (1 Pet 2.25)
"For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." In Matthew 16 we learn of the Lord rebuking Peter in the strongest possible terms. Our Lord is preparing the disciples for the cross, the hour when "he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things" (v.21). Peters lack of appreciation of a suffering Messiah causes him to retort, "Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee" (v.22). Then follows the censure, "Get thee behind me, Satan for thou savourest not the things that be of God" (v.23).
What a difference when we find Peter penning his first epistle. Every chapter has a reference to the sufferings of Christ. Peter has grasped the amazing significance of the sufferings of Calvary:
Christs sufferings and the Scriptures (1.11)
Christs sufferings and the saints (2.21)
Christs sufferings and our sins (3.18)
Christs sufferings and the sufferers (4.1)
Christs sufferings and the shepherds (5.1).
At the close of ch.2 we are presented with the supreme example of suffering wrongfully. The exemplary sufferings of Christ, "an example follow his steps" (vv.21-23), are followed by the expiatory sufferings of Christ: He "bare our sins in his own body" (v.24).
The direct result of the atoning work of Christ is described in the final verse of that chapter. We have our past - "going astray"; our present - "now returned"; and our pastor - "the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls".
Three well-known passages portray the shepherd character of Christ. First, "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep" (Jn 10.11). Second, "the God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep Make you perfect in every good work" (Heb 13.20-21). Third, "And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away" (1 Pet 5.4). Here we have Christ and the Cross, Christ and the Christian, and Christ and the Coming.
A shepherd required strength and courage. David fought off the lion and the bear (1 Sam 17.34-37). In the parable of the lost sheep the shepherd is seeking the sheep that is lost, putting himself in danger (Lk 15.3-7). The shepherd requires ceaseless vigilance even on duty at night, like the shepherds on the Judæan hillside when our Lords birth was announced (Lk 2.8-16). The shepherd requires infinite patience, for sheep can be quite stupid. The shepherd will put the needs of the sheep before his own, even to the point of self-sacrifice. All these features mark our Lord Jesus Christ as the Shepherd of the sheep. The shepherd character of our blessed Lord is seen in His provision for the sheep.
This title, attributed to Christ by Peter, occurs only here in Scripture. It is the same word used of the elder/overseer in the assembly. The word bears the meaning of overseer, guardian or watchman. Peter, who has experienced the role of elder himself, thus entitles Christ as Bishop. He recognises not only the Shepherd as a provider for the sheep but he envisages the Bishop as the protector of the sheep. Sheep need both provision and protection; someone to provide food and to protect from the foe. The Lord Jesus Christ fulfills both roles supremely well.
Alpha and Omega (Rev 22.13)
"I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." The title "Alpha and Omega" in the AV occurs four times in Revelation. The second occasion (1.11) is of doubtful origin. The final reference, 22.13, is undoubtedly used of Jesus Christ. But what of the other two mentions?
Revelation 21.6 fits into the context of the new Jerusalem descending from God out of heaven following the creation of a new heaven and a new earth. Hence, the eternal state is in view. The only title used is that of the triune God which is no surprise given that, at the close of the millennial reign, Christ delivers up the kingdom to God, the triune God who will reign throughout eternal ages (1 Cor 15.28).
In Revelation 1.8 it is more difficult to decide who bears the title "Alpha and Omega". The three persons of the Godhead are portrayed (vv.4-5), beginning with the Father, then the Spirit and, finally, the Son. The Father is described as "him which is, and which was, and which is to come". These words are used of the Alpha and Omega in v.8, suggesting that the title is used of the Father. Further, v.7 is written with the pronoun "he" relative to the Son. Verse 8 is in the first person, "I am Alpha and Omega". This seems to distinguish the person of v.7 from that of v.8. It appears that having spoken of Jesus Christ and his second advent, the Father appends His signature in v.8 to the glorious unveiling of His Son. He pledges all His authority to the statement of John that Jesus Christ is the returning One. Thus the title applies to the Father, to the triune God and to the Son. This is yet additional proof of the deity of Christ!
Alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet just as aleph and tau are the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In English we would say, "the A to Z". It speaks of the completeness and comprehensiveness of the Lord Jesus. He is not simply the beginning and the ending, but He includes everything in between. It also implies the continuity of Christ: He is unchanging, unvarying and uninterrupted. Hebrews begins and ends with this thought: "Thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail" (1.12); "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever" (13.8).
This title also highlights Christ as the cause and consummation of all things.
Think of creation "by whom also he made the worlds"; "And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up" (Heb 1.2,12).
Think of the promises of God "For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen" (2 Cor 1.20).
Think of faith "the author and finisher of our faith" (Heb 12.2).
Think of the believer "Being confident that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil 1.6).
During Moodys Chicago Gospel Campaign of 1893, Dr A J Gordon and Rabinowitz, a Russian Jew, were discussing in their lodgings the intransigence of Jews who failed to recognize the "whom" of Zechariah 12.10 ("they shall look upon me whom they have pierced") as Jehovah-Jesus. Rabinowitz was convicted of the truth when reading the quotation of this in Revelation 1.7. He noted that "whom" is made up of the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet, aleph and tau, whose symbols are the ox and the cross. The "whom" is none other than the patient servant who endured the cross. "Jesus seemed to say to me, Do you doubt who it is whom you pierced? I, Jesus, am the Aleph-Tev, the Alpha Omega, Jehovah Almighty!" (cited by Robert Lee in Handfuls on Purpose, vol 12, p.29).
Gods perfect alphabet art Thou,
Of truth, the kernel and the crown,
Eternal Word to whom we bow,
The Lord of glory and renown.
The first and last, oh wondrous sight!
The first and last of love and light.
The Alpha and Omega true,
Inclusive this of all between.
Sum total of the old and new,
Of things invisible and seen.
The first and last, oh precious thought!
The first and last, who sought and bought!
To be continued.