Handel's “The Messiah” –

He shall feed His flock


Isaiah 40:10-11, He shall feed His flock
Matthew 11:28-30, His yoke is easy
John 1:29-34, Behold the Lamb of God
Isaiah 53:1-6, 50:6, He was despised; Surely He hath borne our griefs; All we, like sheep, have gone astray
Psalm 22:4-8, All they that see him – He trusted in God
Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 47: John 19:19-27, The Crucifixion, by Carl Bloch

More of Handel’s “The Messiah”

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Isaiah 40:10-11, He shall feed His flock (12/10/12)

The image of God as a shepherd of his people is firmly rooted in the Old Testament, particularly in the psalms and prophecies. Jesus took this image to himself when he said that he was the good shepherd (John 10:11), willing to lay down his life for the sheep.

Matthew 11:28-30, His yoke is easy (12/11/12)

Today’s lyrics from the “The Messiah” are from one of my favorite passages. Jesus was a carpenter, and it’s likely that among the things that he built were the heavy wooden yokes for ox teams. He tells us that the yokes he makes are “easy” – they won’t be too heavy for us to bear, and they won’t rub us in a way that causes sores. When we are tired and burdened, Jesus gives us rest.

John 1:29-34, Behold the Lamb of God (12/12/12)

Just two days ago, which in “The Messiah” would be a few minutes ago, we heard that the Messiah Jesus is the shepherd who will care for his flock. Today the pastoral image returns, but this time, Jesus is the Lamb who will be sacrificed to take away the sins of his people.

One difficulty for Western readers is that we tend to have trouble with this type of contrast. Many important ideas in the Bible have this sort of tension, which is often called by the term “mystery.” John the Baptist and Jesus were cousins. John’s mystery was that he had known Jesus – and not known Jesus! – all his life. Like John, we need to practice accepting mysteries even we don’t fully understand them.

Isaiah 53:1-6, 50:6, He was despised; Surely He hath borne our griefs; All we, like sheep, have gone astray (12/13/12)

A friend wondered aloud what it would be like to grow up as one of Jesus’ brothers or sisters. He thought it would difficult, because Jesus would be the child who never did anything wrong. I thought that Jesus would be the child who always stepped up to take the blame. We go astray, but Jesus accepts the punishment.

Psalm 22:4-8, All they that see him – He trusted in God (12/14/12)

When Jesus was crucified, the crowd jeered, and many said, “He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him.” Were they quoting from Psalm 22? Whether they were or not, the lyricist for “The Messiah” chose the words of Psalm 22 to describe the scene at the cross.

Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 47: John 19:19-27, The Crucifixion, by Carl Bloch (8/4/15)

In the larger image that I’ve put on the web, you can see that Carl Bloch was careful to use Hebrew, Latin, and Greek on the inscription on the cross. I like this kind of attention to detail, especially since most of his audience probably didn’t read all three languages. Even so, I’m more interested in his depiction of the Marys, prostrate with despair and grief, and three men. At first I thought that the man holding Mary’s hand must be John, taking Jesus’ mother Mary into his own care. After looking more closely, however, I’ve concluded that the exhausted man on the right is John. The richly dressed man in the foreground must be Joseph or Nicodemus, about whom we’ll read tomorrow, because it’s nearly sunset and his companion on the left is bringing linens.

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The crucifixion of Christ. Click to enlarge. See below for provenance.
"The Crucifixion" by Carl Bloch, from the Gamble family Bible, now in the private collection of Regina Hunter. Photography by Daryl Lee.


More of Handel's “The Messiah”
Comfort Ye My People
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth
He shall feed His flock
Thy rebuke hath broken His heart
Unto which of the angels
Hallelujah

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