Summary: Jesus said that He was the Good Shepherd, the kind of Shepherd that looks after and protects the sheep - Jesus not only preached this but lived up to it to the full, even to dying so as to protect the sheep.
The Good Shepherd
John 10: 11-18
Today’s reading is part of a dialogue which culminates in one of the ‘I AM’ saying of Jesus.
St John’s gospel is renowned for its I AM sayings as it gives a unique picture of Jesus and the characteristics of the Son of God.
Those two words in themselves are very important as they proclaim the Name of God, which in some translations of the bible is Jehovah, Yahweh, LORD or I AM.
For example you will notice in the OT the word LORD is spelt out in capitals because it is the holy name of God
Now typical I AM sayings are: I AM the bread of life – God is the bread of life; I AM the light of the World - God is the Light of the world and there are many more.
But today we focus on, ‘ I AM the Good Shepherd. ‘
Most of us have seen those sheep grazing on the mountains but have you ever met a shepherd ?
Probably not…. and for that matter neither have most sheep, at least in the sense of the shepherds described in our bibles.
So its not surprising that most readers of the Bible today find it difficult to enter fully into the significance of the role of a shepherd in the days of Jesus.
That’s a pity because it is one of the most common metaphors found in our bibles as a particular attribute of God…. His tender and loving care for His people.
Shepherds were not hirelings, as Jesus called them, someone who was paid to do the job, doing it reluctantly and without commitment.
Shepherds cared for the sheep… Indeed they virtually lived with the flock, which meant that they could not join in with the everyday social and religious life of the community.
They were almost a race apart, living the life of a hermit, out on the hills, protecting and caring for the well being of their sheep.
That element of tenderness is very important.
From the earliest days of Israel’s understanding of God they had come to see Him as holy, just, awesome, the great judge and ruler of all.
But their understanding developed and Isaiah, that great prophet introduced a different dimension to their understanding of what God is like.
Isaiah 40 : 10-11,
‘ Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and His arm rules for Him; behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.
He will feed His flock like a shepherd, He will gather the lambs in His arms, He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. ‘
In two short verses we see a God who is at the same time our Sovereign Lord of all power AND the gentle shepherd who looks after the flock.
This is a wonderful picture of God, and I’m sure Jesus had it in mind when He said of Himself that He was the ‘Good Shepherd’.
In that chapter of St. John, just after toady’s gospel reading, Jesus claims to be the Good Shepherd of the flock and gives us the unique characteristics, identity or calling of such a shepherd.
He knows His sheep – and they know Him.
They listen to His voice.
He is prepared to lay down His life for the sheep.
This is no superficial, sentimental kind of affection for the flock, but a total commitment to their well being.
It is wonderfully reassuring to know that, that is how the Son of God regards the members of His flock – the sheep who trust Him and listen to His voice.
And Jesus didn’t just say the words but He also lived up to them, to the full.
He practised what He preached; He was not only prepared to lay down His life for the sheep… But He actually did it.
He gave His life, in one of the most terrible kinds torture leading to death invented by man.
He gave His life willingly as He saw it as the only way of redeeming mankind, bringing them back to God, their loving Father.
And in that very act, He shows us how much God loves us and to what end He will go to protect His flock.
Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ….Amen !!