Our Lord had just spoken to his disciples about circumstances and influences in this world of which they should be mindful or beware. He cites hypocrisy (Luke 12:1); persecution for the sake of the gospel by those who professed to know God (12:4-12); covetousness (12:15); and anxiety over the necessities of life (12:22).
When you look at this list, which is a brief but comprehensive summary of what to expect as a believer in this world, it may cause alarm to your soul. We all live in different places, and yet face the same sorts of conflicts, both without and within.
Nonetheless, the Great Shepherd of the sheep commands them saying: ‘Fear not’. The word means, ‘do not flee’, as you would expect sheep to do in the face of danger. In fact, the implication is that they were already in that state of mind and the Lord is saying: ‘Stop fearing’.
Although directed immediately to his disciples, these words apply to the redeemed of God throughout the world. Those who are not the Lord’s have every reason to fear. They are without hope in this world. Left to themselves, they will most certainly perish in their sins.
There are, however, a people of God that he acknowledges as his ‘flock’. Who are they and how are these words of the Lord Jesus Christ a comfort to them?
Firstly, they are a flock in the sense that they are separated from the rest of mankind by the election of God, the redemption of Jesus Christ, and the effectual calling of the Holy Spirit. In Christ Jesus, they have been brought together into one fold (John 10:26-30).
Secondly, they are a ‘little’ flock in comparison with the rest of the world. They are small, both in number and stature. Sheep are by nature weak animals, and very dependent upon their shepherd to protect and keep them.
While the wicked of the world boast of their self-sufficiency, Christ’s sheep look to the All-Sufficient Shepherd, recognising their inability and insignificance.
Thirdly, by God’s good pleasure, they are a beloved flock. It pleased God the Father to choose them while passing-by many other sinners. He did not do this for anything good in them, but because he loved them before time began and willed it so.
It pleased the Father to deliver up his Son for them, that he might be a just God and Saviour (Isaiah 45:21). What good news this is!
Finally, they are a safe flock. What God has purposed, and Christ has purchased, shall be! ‘He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs in his arms; and carry them in his bosom; and gently lead those that are with young’ (Isaiah 40:11).
How blessed are those whom the Lord has chosen, called and redeemed!