***Seeing as how I have been called to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, I thought it appropriate to dig this old post out of obscuity and re-post it (Originally Posted 08/05/05)
This icon presents a radically different view of Christ as the Good Shepherd than any other depiction I have seen. Here we are shown a shepherd that is determined to get His sheep to safety. Notice the look of determination of the face of Christ. This is not the “hippie” looking Jesus portrayed in so many pictures. This Jesus has a firm and steady gaze, He is serious and His stance and appearance give the impression that nothing will come between Him and His precious sheep, not the devil, death or the cross (notice the holes in His hands and the cross behind Him). He went through and overcame all the pain, humiliation and death of the cross. He bore our sins and He is not going to let us go!
Notice now the sheep. It does not look particularly happy. Christ comes to us when we are lost in our sins. He does all the work of getting us out of our sin and then it is Him who holds on tight to us. The sheep may not want to be held on to, but it has no choice because it is not the sheep that is making the choice. This icon is so great because it is all about Christ and Him crucified. It shows the power and glory of the risen Lord.
Now, having said all that, other portrayals of Christ as the Good Shepherd are not bad. They often portray Christ as a loving and gentle shepherd, which He is. I think the danger is when portraying Christ like that we forget about what He went through for us, His lost sheep. The cross was no frolic in the pasture; it was brutal, humiliating, painful, crushing and deadly.
That’s my two cents, for what it's worth. Christian art is an important part of devotional life, along with music. I think it is just as important that we examine and deeply think about what we are looking at as Christians because it will shape and influence how we look at Christ and His work for us.