Jesus’ claim to be the good shepherd is much more than a comforting metaphor. It is a claim to kingship and a clarion call to surrender our wills and follow him to green pastures. His kingship subverts hierarchies. He models followership for us and ushers us into wide-open spaces where we can flourish in his upside-down kingdom.
Kingship is an irredeemably hierarchical, patriarchal form of rule, right? Maybe not, says Psalm 146—if the king is God.
1 Samuel 8:4-20 illustrates how fear of vague enemies can lead to the development of a military-industrial complex and fuel the domination of rich elites of the mass of a people. Against this stands the Deuteronomic vision of limited monarchy under God.
The biblical images of God as divine king are often handled with embarrassment in a more egalitarian age. However, although it may appear little more than accommodation to ancient despotic assumptions, throughout the Scriptures the kingship of God is presented as a great force for liberation against all human tyrants.
One plots and schemes in order to exert control. One embarks upon a pilgrimage in order to relinquish control. Entering Jerusalem as a lowly king, Jesus foils both the plots of those who would capture him and those who rally around him as a political revolutionary.