I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason, the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” -John 10:11-18 ESV
Shepherds in the ancient world had a close bond with their sheep. Lambs were raised almost like children with plenty of hugs and affection. The shepherd would call his sheep by name and the sheep would follow him because they knew that protection and nourishment came from the shepherd’s skilful care. The sheep also responded to the shepherd’s voice because they knew he loved them and he was concerned for their well-being. Security and satisfaction came from staying close to the shepherd.
Do you have someone in your family or circle of friends that you feel most secure with and loved? Who do you turn to when you feel insecure or afraid? Jesus is the Good Shepherd who loves and cares for us. Jesus uses the familiar image of a shepherd and his sheep to illustrate his love for his followers and our value to Him. We are His prized possession, a possession He guides, protects and cares for, just as a shepherd nurtures his flock of sheep. Jesus’ words bring us comfort and assurance in a very threatening and insecure world.
From the bible passage we see several things that the shepherd does for his sheep. The shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, he knows them, protects them, keeps them safe and finds them the best pastures. The word “know” here is used in the sense of affectionate regard or love. It implies such a knowledge of their wants, their dangers, and their characters, as to result in a deep interest in their welfare. Jesus knows our hearts, the dangers that face us, and the needs of His people. His kindness as our shepherd prompts Him to defend and aid us. He is known and loved as our Saviour and Friend.
The sheep, knowing that the shepherd loves them, trusts him, knows his voice, follows where he leads, and rests in his care (verses 14-16). They recognise they are lost and in need of a Saviour; they come to him, and find that He is all they need, and they love him. As a flock follows and obeys its kind shepherd, so we too follow and obey Christ who leads us beside the still waters, and makes us lie down in green pastures.
Most people can relate to Jesus being a shepherd. We long for someone to protect us, keep us safe, embrace us when we are hurting, and lead us in the ways we should go. A shepherd is kind, knowing what is best for his sheep.
What makes Jesus so attractive to those around us as a Shepherd? Jesus gave up His life for us. He loves everyone so much He gave everything for us so we can have eternal life, protection, and rest. People know when they are loved. As Jesus said in verses 12 and 13, a hireling watches the sheep, but because he doesn’t know them by name and is not their true shepherd, he will not fight for them, he will not protect them as if they were his own. The hireling leaves them and runs for his life when the wolf tries to steal one. Jesus tells us He is not like that. He is the Good Shepherd. He loves us; Jesus emphasises in verses 17-18 that He laid down His life on His own accord. Jesus’ death was voluntary; Jesus chose to give up His life so we can have life. Even though God had commanded Jesus to give up His life, Jesus did so through His own free will. Jesus had a right to lay down his life for the good of people. The patriot dies for his country on the field of battle; the merchant exposes his life for gain; and the Son of God had a right to put himself in the way of danger and of death, when a dying world needed such an atoning sacrifice. His death and resurrection gives us life, if we but chose Him.
No matter how much the shepherd tries to keep the sheep in one fold, one of them usually wanders off or doesn’t come when called. Have we ever wandered off trying to live our own way? Jesus tells us in verse 16 that the good shepherd goes to find us to bring us back into the fold. He will search for us until He brings us back to safety. What a loving, gentle Saviour we have! The sheep will hear His voice and return to the fold. We can know without a shadow of doubt that Jesus loves us, He gave His all for us, He protects us, keeps us safe, picks us up when we are hurting, tends to our wounds, and never slumbers. Jesus never fails!
Psalm 23, a familiar Bible passage, teaches us all that a good shepherd does. David shared his thoughts in this beautiful passage. In God’s presence, we lack nothing. We are satisfied by the Bread of Life and the Water. He leads us to rest in grassy pastures, full of life and health. He leads us beside quiet waters, where we will never have to thirst again. He restores our inner person, our souls. He guides us in the right paths, if we follow, we will not be led astray. He is with us in the valley of death which represents spiritual warfare. God will bring us through even when the path is dark and dreary. He protects with His rod and staff. We do not have to fear the enemy’s attacks because Jesus keeps us safe. A table is prepared for us, keeping us well fed. He anoints our heads with oil from a never-ending, overflowing cup. The anointing represents favour, distinction, holiness (being set apart for God), and priesthood. His goodness and grace will pursue us and stay with us all our days. We will live in the house of God forever.
Knowing what Jesus did and continues to do for us, let us rest in the security of His presence. May we be confident in His love, following where He leads us, allowing the Shepherd to protect us, and keep us in His care.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely] goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
-Psalm 23 ESV