Advent Devotional | Day 20: Jesus and the Coming Shepherd
Jesús y el pastor que viene
For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.”
– Ezekiel 34:11
Although we are separated by thousands of years and tens of thousands of kilometres from the place where the book of Ezekiel was written, the description of the evil leaders of Israel at that time resonates deeply with Latin American realities and, I suppose, also with realities throughout the rest of the current world. Ezekiel 34:3-4 could easily be a description of our people’s mistreatment, clearly evidenced after the pandemic.
Those leaders who were supposed to care for the population organized banquets and private parties while most people were deprived of the opportunity to earn their daily bread. The best doctors in the best hospitals cared for them and their families. At the same time, thousands of people died on the streets from suffocation without the possibility of receiving any medical care. Those already rich became richer, while marginalized people were condemned to oppression and desolation. Although the health crisis has passed, these problems persist and continue to grow over time.
Sadly, religious leaders are not free of guilt either. Scandal after scandal of spiritual abuse continually comes to light. Leaders provoke anguish, trauma, and disorders and cover up their tyranny with their power circles. They protect the abuser under the excuse of not affecting the reputation of the church and blame the victim for the suffering they’ve endured.
Other church leaders serve another god: money. They preach about prosperity and demand extensive offerings from impoverished communities with the empty promise that those who give will receive even more. However, the donated money stays in the leaders’ pockets, and they do nothing to improve the conditions of their people.
Last but not least, some religious leaders have made agreements with the powerful. Their political involvement does not seek a fairer society but rather influence and recognition for themselves. If they participate in public discussions, they limit themselves to moralistic issues and what “the empire” considers relevant. However, crucial issues such as hunger, inequality, and violence have been ignored. In essence, they blame the poor for their poverty and continue stigmatizing those distant from God without any intention of reaching out.
In this context, these words of God are a great hope for us: “I myself will search for my sheep and look after them” (Ezekiel 34:11). As believers, through Christ, we have experienced how God rescued us and accompanied us during the dark night (Ezekiel 34:12), provided us with well-being (Ezekiel 34:13), and gently healed our wounds (Ezekiel 34:16). Jesus is the good shepherd, the leader we all need and long for. He searched for us at the cost of His own life to celebrate and organize a great party when He found us (Luke 15:7).
Although we have personally experienced the promise of the good shepherd in our faith communities, the injustices and abuses experienced worldwide continue to cause great anguish in our hearts. We yearn for the rest of the world to experience Jesus’ reign of justice and eagerly await His return when He, the true and good shepherd, will set all things to right. In the meantime, we cry out, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Esteban Améstegui Lavayén
Esteban Améstegui is the Personal Assistant to the Latin America Director of Langham Preaching and serves internationally as an administrative and media assistant. He lives in Cochabamba, Bolivia.