Summary: Christians know Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Are there aspects of this life that we have failed to explore?
JESUS, THE GREAT I AM: I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD
“‘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.’
“There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, ‘He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?’ Others said, ‘These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’”
In a previous message, we witnessed the Master presenting Himself as the Door for the sheep. During this particular exchange with the religious leaders, Jesus also portrayed Himself as “the Good Shepherd.” Of course, Christians instantly know that the Son of God is sometimes identified as “the Good Shepherd.” However, what do we know of this Shepherd? Are there aspects of His care for the flock that we have not known? Join me as we explore some of the ramifications of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.
THE GOOD SHEPHERD — On three separate occasions, writers of Scripture present Jesus as the Shepherd. Here, in our text, He refers to Himself as “the Good Shepherd.” In HEBREWS 13:20 Jesus is identified as “the Great Shepherd.” In 1 PETER 5:4, Peter points those who pastor the flock of God to Jesus “the Chief Shepherd.” Three presentations; three different adjectives—the good, great and chief Shepherd. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus offers His life as a sacrifice for the sheep. As the Great Shepherd, Jesus, risen from the dead, serves His people. As the Chief Shepherd, Jesus shall return to reward those who have faithfully served Him. That first designation of “the Good Shepherd” is the focus of our study this day. Unless the Shepherd sacrifices Himself for the flock, He can neither serve His people nor reward them.
We might well ask, “In what way is the Shepherd good?” What the original readers of this Gospel understand when they read Jesus’ words? The Master used the Greek word kalós, which is translated “good,” but here it takes on the implications of “authentic” or “genuine.” Jesus repeatedly emphasises His sacrifice for the benefit of the sheep; so we need to contrast the Shepherd that willingly sacrifices His life for the sheep and the hired hand that watches the sheep for remuneration. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” [verse 11]. “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” [verses14, 15]. “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” [verses 17, 18].
The Good Shepherd dies for His sheep. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” The death of the Shepherd merits the designation “good.” In our text, Jesus emphasises the presentation of His life because of the helpless condition of the sheep. Underscore in your mind this emphasis—Jesus will sacrifice Himself because of the need of the sheep. However, His death will not be a tragedy; neither will His death be futile. Later, the Master will say, “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.” In order to clarify His intent in saying this, John adds, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die” [JOHN 12:32, 33]. The death of Jesus our Lord was deliberate—He willingly presented His life in the place of His sheep. The Shepherd will give His life for the sheep.