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Understanding Jesus as the Davidic Shepherd

An idea that first started when pondering a dissertation topic for his PhD has now become the focus of Dr. Wayne Baxter’s latest book, Divine Shepherd Christology in the Gospel of Matthew.

For Heritage Theological Seminary’s Professor of New Testament and Greek, the initial thought of examining the shepherd motif in the Gospel of Matthew stemmed from both a love for the book itself and a desire to learn more about his calling as a shepherd of God’s people as a pastor.

From this idea came Dr. Baxter’s research which provides a helpful look into how the unique use of the shepherd motif in Matthew—compared to other authors in the biblical tradition—was used to communicate to the original readers something of Jesus’ true identity.

“The way Matthew applies the metaphor to Jesus shows that he believed Jesus of Nazareth was none other than Yahweh, the God of Israel,” explains Baxter. “As such Jesus, the Davidic Messiah came to shepherd God’s people Israel, both through his compassionate acts of healing and exorcism and, ultimately, through his merciful death on the cross and bodily resurrection whereby the Davidic Shepherd gathers his followers together and establishes them as his flock for all times.”

Although this had deep meaning for Matthew’s original audience, Baxter says that by understanding the shepherd motif in Matthew, believers today can see and experience Jesus as their shepherd throughout all that life brings. He explains that this is a helpful understanding of Jesus that helps us keep our faith in Jesus as our Shepherd, which impacts how we care for others as his disciples.

“This motif demonstrates that Jesus cares compassionately for our physical needs, in addition to sweetly tending our souls,” says Baxter. “In other words, Jesus has special regard for the whole person. As Christians, we need to keep that in mind as we reach out to the lost and care for the whole person.”

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