Hebrews 13:20-25: The Shepherd of Peace
Read: Hebrews 13:20-25
The author of Hebrews wraps up his letter to a persecuted people whose faith is wavering under the persecution (Hebrews 10:25). Verses 20 and 21 comprise benediction that offers hope to these persecuted people. The subject of the benediction is “God” and the verb is “equip”. But between these two words are several remarks, notably a remark concerning “peace” which indicates tranquility and Jesus as a shepherd who was raised from the dead. Jesus is like the shepherd who is willing to lay down his life for the sheep. In New Testament times, the shepherds were the ones who spent every waking hour of the day with sheep. They practically lived with the animals in stables and out in the open. They would watch the sheep during the day and at night, when it was hot and dry and when it was rainy and cold. The shepherd had a vested interest in every sheep’s well-being. A hired hand, however, was not like this. When the season was right for sheering or taking the animals to market, the owner of the sheep would hire hands to assist in this process because it was more labor intensive than watching the sheep alone. The shepherd still guarded the sheep while this was happening, but this was not the responsibility of the hired hand. Jesus is like the shepherd because he is with the sheep all the time in every way. They know him, and he knows them (John 10:1-18). To a persecuted people, having the God of peace to lead them as a Shepard leads his sheep is intended to offer a final word of comfort to these wavering believers. The author entreats God to equip the believers to do good works to please God and bring glory to Jesus.
The author follows this benediction with a few closing remarks encouraging the believers to stick to what he has written them concerning the current state. He doesn’t want them to give up the riches of Christ because of some temporal persecution. He mentions Timothy, probably to also encourage the believers too, because he was imprisoned for a while but was released. In the same manner, they too may endure persecution for a while, but will be released from it. He makes note that he wants to come see the believers soon and encourages the believers to greet their leaders. This is the 3 times in chapter that the author makes reference to leaders (Hebrews 13:7,17,24). The authors concern for the believers and their relationship to their leaders is remarkable in this too is to help them overcome the temporal crisis that they are dealing with. 1 Peter 1:1-5 shows that while Jesus is the “Chief Shepard”, churches also have leaders that too are charged with the care of a flock as a shepherd. Faith is homed through trials, and such who have passed these test can help those who follow also endure (Hebrews 12:11). The entire letter of Hebrews was written to show the supremacy of Christ to all things that the Jewish audience once knew, and certainly it is better to continue in the way of Christ than it is to continue in the ways of what they came from.
Christians today find themselves in a many circumstances in which they will be tempted to shrink back into what they find to be familiar and comfortable. Perhaps it is an old lifestyle or a place where one isn’t bold about his or her faith in Jesus. Regardless of these things though, Christians can look to Jesus – the Chief Shepherd – who will lead them through whatever circumstances that believer may be going through. Jesus can also be found in those who are “shepherds” in his or her church as examples too and learn from them. God wants his people to be equipped to do good deeds in all things, whether times are good or bad, and look to Jesus in all things (Psalm 23).
Lord, you are my God of Peace and my Shepherd.
Help me to follow you not matter what happens!