Summary: Fourth of a seven week series on the "I Am" sayings of Jesus.
This week, more than two dozen people were arrested in connection with a $325 million counterfeit ring that was attempting to import knockoffs from China and Taiwan through a port in New Jersey. Among the fake items were counterfeit Nike shoes, Ugg boots, and Louis Vuitton, Coach and Gucci handbags.
But as we saw last week, Jesus was dealing with a counterfeit ring with much more damaging and lasting consequences – a group of Jewish religious leaders who appeared on the surface to be shepherds who had the interests of those they led in mind, but who deep down inside were really only looking out for themselves. We saw last week that at the beginning of John chapter 10, Jesus referred to those leaders as thieves and robbers who came only to steal, kill and destroy.
But when Jesus described Himself as the door, He pointed out that there was another way. For those who entered into a relationship with God through faith in Him, He offered a genuinely abundant life – a life without limits both in terms of quantity and quality.
This morning, we’ll pick up where we left off last week in John 10 and look at the fourth of Jesus’ seven “I am” sayings that we find in John’s gospel account. With each of these seven sayings, we are getting to know Jesus better through His own words and then seeing what we need to do in order to appropriate that which Jesus offers into our own lives.
So turn to John 10 and follow along as I begin reading in verse 11:
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)
In this passage, Jesus describes Himself as the “good shepherd” as He continues with the illustration of a shepherd and his sheep that began in the first of the chapter. So the first thing we need to do this morning is to determine…
What makes Jesus the “good shepherd”?
The sentence structure in verse 10 is quite significant. In Greek, it literally reads something like this:
I am the shepherd, the good one. The shepherd, the good one, the life, his life, he lays down for the sake of the sheep.
You’ll notice the predominant use of the definite articles in that verse. Jesus is the shepherd. He is the good one. His life is the life that is laid down for the sheep. In other words, there is no other good shepherd. He is the only one. But when Jesus described Himself as the “good” shepherd, there were two different words that He could have used:
Two Greek words for “good”:
• agathos = “moral goodness” or “usefulness”. In the New Testament this word is frequently used to describe something that lines up well with the will of God. But that is not the word that Jesus uses here.
• kalos = “preeminent”, “excellent”, or “genuine”. This is the word that Jesus uses here to describe Himself and that certainly makes sense given the context. Remember, Jesus’ primary audience here is the group of Jewish religious leaders who claimed to be shepherds who cared for the people, but who were really just knockoffs, or counterfeits. Jesus, on the other hand is the genuine shepherd, the one who is preeminent over all the other shepherds. And in this passage, Jesus goes on to expound on the three characteristics that make him the genuine shepherd:
1. He sacrifices for the sheep
Because the sheep belong to Him, Jesus is willing to lay down His life for the good of the sheep. He contrasts that with His audience, who consisted of men who were more like hired hands that cared only about their own safety. So when danger came, they immediately left the flock to go and protect themselves first. And the result is that the flock is scattered. Jesus on the other hand was willing to make a sacrifice for the good of the sheep – a sacrifice that cost Him His very life. And there are three crucial aspects to this sacrifice that help us to understand more fully the significance of what the good shepherd did for His sheep: