I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD
THE BIBLE PASSAGES:
JOHN 10: 11-16
11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 ‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
JOHN 10: 27-30
27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[c]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.’
PSALM 23: 1
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
PSALM 100: 3
Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
ISAIAH 53: 6
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
REVELATION 7: 17
For the Lamb at the centre of the throne
will be their shepherd;
“he will lead them to springs of living water.”
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”’
Here we see it again: in John 10: 11 Jesus uses that divine phrase “Ego eimi” when He says “I AM”.
In so many ways this shows Jesus declaring Himself to be God made flesh. For compare this claim with the most famous Psalm of all time – Psalm 23 – where David declares “The LORD is my shepherd”
THE CONTEXT OF HIS “I AM” STATEMENT
In John 9 Jesus has had compassion on a man born blind and healed him. The Jewish religious leaders were furious and condemned both the man born blind and Jesus.
Jesus now rounds on them and accuses them of failing in their duty of being shepherds for the people of Israel. In contrast He says that He IS the Good Shepherd. They are false shepherds – only after “lining their own pockets”; they are “hired hands” who will run and save themselves the moment that an enemy attacks the sheep.
THE CONTENT OF HIS “I AM” STATEMENT
Talking of sheep and shepherd would have been a very clear picture to the Pharisees to whom Jesus was talking. Countless times in the Old Testament was this image used. David was the shepherd king; Moses had been a shepherd for 40 years. Both were understood to have gone from shepherding flocks to shepherding people. The Psalms and Prophets were full of analogies of Israel being sheep and the LORD being the shepherd. The Pharisees would have clearly understood that the coming Messiah was to be the shepherd of Israel.
Jesus called Himself the “Good Shepherd” because He is the “genuine article” in contrast to false shepherds and “hired hands” who have exploited God’s people over the centuries – self-promoting and self-serving people, and cult leaders who have led their “sheep” even to death.
The Pharisees knew well the condemnation in Ezekiel 34 and Jeremiah 23 of shepherds – leaders of Israel – who had led the people astray and had sought to line their own pockets with gain. They would have understood Jesus as now saying that He was not like them.
Jesus was the “shepherd” of God’s people promised in the Old Testament (Isaiah 40: 9-11; Ezekiel 34: 20-24).
He was the “Good” shepherd where the word “good” has the meaning of being: ”noble, praiseworthy, desirable and pleasing to God”.
ARE WE REALLY LIKE SHEEP?
Mentioned in the Bible over 300 times we, I am afraid, bear an uncanny resemblance to them: defenceless, prone to go astray, poor eyesight and tending to follow others without thinking – yet very stubborn!
THE SHEPHERD GOES AHEAD OF HIS SHEEP
Today a shepherd will be BEHIND his sheep – pushing them forward with his dogs.
But, in Jesus’ day the shepherd, in typical eastern style, went AHEAD of their flock – leading the way. The sheep would follow him – following his voice even if they could not see him with their poor eyesight.
This is our Jesus. We might not be able to see Him – but we hear His voice and we trust His leading.
THE SHEPHERD OWNS THE SHEEP (JOHN 10: 14)
Jesus claims the sheep as His own in John 10 and this is because He has bought them with a price when He died on the Cross (see also 1 Cor 6: 19-20). He truly did die for His sheep. He died willingly and awfully, allowing the “wolves” to kill Him. However, He died triumphantly for His sheep – so that, rising from the dead, He could be our shepherd forever!
Hired hands do the “job” for pay. The true shepherd does it out of love for the sheep.
THE SHEPHERD KNOWS HIS SHEEP (JOHN 10: 14-15)
In the Bible the word “know” applies intimacy more than simply “knowledge about”. It is used in Hebrew to indicate the intimate love between a husband and his wife. In the East the shepherd knew each sheep by name and also knew their natures well. He knows just what I am really like…and He still loves me!
And the sheep know the shepherd – and trust him.
THE SHEPHERD CALLS HIS SHEEP (JOHN 10: 3-5)
Elsewhere in the New Testament His sheep are those who are “called” – such as Acts 2: 39 and Romans 1: 6. He calls us out of a life of darkness (1 Peter 2: 9) and He calls us to follow Him (John 10) – by repenting of our old lives and now following Him. His call reflects His grace – we didn’t deserve the privilege of being called to follow Him. And as long as we follow His call we will not go astray.
THE SHEPHERD CARES FOR HIS SHEEP (JOHN 10)
When the sheep are attacked the hired hand will run away. Jesus loves us and cares for us. He protects us from harm; He seeks for us when we are lost (see the parable of the Lost Sheep); He goes before them to find the best pasture; He knows the best places to lie down and rest.
Psalm 23 is not one to read only at funerals because it shows the Lord caring for us as a shepherd “all the days of my life” (v 6).
Like a sheep we must learn to trust our Good Shepherd – who knows always what is best for us as well as always looking after us.
THE SHEPHERD DIES FOR HIS SHEEP
This is the ultimate test of a good shepherd – and one which Jesus passed with flying colours. Never would He desert us. He died for us and gives His life for us still.
THE SHEPHERD GATHERS HIS FLOCK (JOHN 10: 16)
Jesus said that He was called to go to the “lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 10: 5-6) and now says that He will be the shepherd of the Gentiles as well – you and me!
One day He shall gather His flock together and take them to be with Him in Heaven for all eternity.
“CRUEL TO BE KIND”?
One of the classic pictures of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is of His carrying a lamb on His shoulders
One interesting fact is this: when a shepherd had a lamb who was disobedient and wandering off – thus is danger of being caught by wolves or falling over a cliff – the shepherd would deliberately break one of its legs (!!!) and then carry it on his shoulders, putting it down at night and having it sleep right next to him. After 6 weeks or so the leg would have healed but that lamb would never leave the shepherd’s side and so would be safe – it needed harsh discipline in order to keep it safe.
TO BE A SHEEP WE MUST FOLLOW
To claim to be one of His sheep and not to follow Him wholeheartedly is either to lie or to rebel and both are terrible sins! Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people who ignore Christ and seek to have their own way
Warren Wiersbe puts it this way (“He walks with me” p 93):
“It’s been my experience that the longer I follow the Lord, the more I see myself as a helpless sheep that needs Jesus the Shepherd in every decision of life…when Jesus is your Shepherd and you follow Him, the future is your friend and you don’t have to be afraid.”