Mark 6:14-43 describes two shepherds: Herod the bad shepherd, and Jesus the good shepherd. The kings of Israel were always thought of as the shepherds of Israel and at the time of Jesus, Herod, the current “shepherd of the flock,” demonstrated the worst characteristics of the bad shepherds described in Ezekiel 34:1-10.
After taking his brother’s wife, he threw his good friend John in prison for holding him accountable. He then threw a lavish birthday banquet “for his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee” where he made an irresponsible vow to impress the guests that led him to kill John. Herod, the bad shepherd, had abandoned the flock.
Upon hearing about John’s death, Mark describes Jesus as throwing his own banquet. But instead of a large banquet hall, there is a wilderness. Instead of gourmet food, there are five loaves and fish. Instead of notable guests, there are peasants. Jesus does not respond out of retaliation against Herod but out of compassion for the scattered flock.
Jesus is moved with compassion because although they have a “king,” they are like “sheep without a shepherd” (v.34). So, Jesus cares for them by teaching and feeding them. In other words, he provides for their spiritual and physical needs. For centuries God had promised to one day come himself and be Israel’s shepherd (Zec 10:2-12, Ez 34). In this story Mark makes an audacious claim: That day has now arrived.
Jesus is the good shepherd, the shepherd of our souls (John 10:11-18). The One who provides and satisfies his flock. He does not devour the weak, shame the guilty, or break a bruised reed (Isaiah 42:3). Instead, he will lead us to green pastures and living water through valleys to restore our souls and teach us His ways.
Surely, goodness and mercy shall chase us all the days of our lives (Psalm 23:6).