“THE GOOD SHEPHERD”
We have been focusing on the seven “I AM” statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John.
• I Am The Bread of Life (Jn 6:35)
• I Am The Light of The World (Jn 8:12)
• I Am The Door (Jn 10:7)
We have seen that these statements are more than gentle word pictures. They are profound declarations of God’s identity. To us “I AM” is a verb. But to the Hebrew readers of both Old and New Testaments, it was the actual name of God, declaring His ID. That is why we call Him “Jehovah.” He is the “I AM.” Not the “I WAS,” or even the “I WILL BE.” Of course we cannot grasp the concept of Jesus as the “I AM,” which is why He reduced it to easy-to-understand word pictures – like bread, light, shepherds, doors, and vines.
The traditional English nursery rhyme says,
Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep,
And can’t tell where to find them.
Leave them alone, and they’ll come home,
Bringing their tails behind them.
Little Bo-Peep may have been a cute little girl, but she wasn’t much of a shepherdess. Had she watched her sheep more carefully, she would not have lost them. Lost sheep don’t come home on their own, tails or not, and it was up to her to go out and find them.
Shepherds were often seen in Eastern countries leading their flocks out to the fields, or back into the fold, so it is not surprising that the Lord used the illustration of a shepherd so often. Hence the parable of the lost sheep, and the Lord’s seeing the people as sheep without a shepherd. The heart of the lesson is, “I know my sheep, and am known of mine” (10:14). Of course, He knows us, but do we really know Him? This message tells exactly how we can be saved and know Him. And if we do know Him, then we can learn how knowing the Shepherd makes life more abundant.
The background to the picture of the Good Shepherd here has three elements:
a) The Sheepfold
Imagine a circular space surrounded by a two metre stone wall with a single opening as a door. Here the shepherd slept, thus himself becoming the door, which is why the Lord said, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (10:9). There was no other entrance to the fold.
b) The Shepherd
This beautiful image of the Good Shepherd conjures images of One who brings peace, provision, and protection. How often we have appealed to Him when times were tough, or when we needed direction. That’s why Psalm 23 is so beloved and familiar.
c) The Sheep
The Bible frequently it compares us to sheep, and it does so because God wants us to realise we are designed to need a guide in life, a Shepherd who will lead us in paths of righteousness, and protect us with His “rod and a staff” in life’s extreme situations. It doesn’t do much for our egos to know the Bible likens us to sheep.
(i) They are Stupid. You see performing elephants, dolphins, and seals, but why do we never see performing sheep?
(ii) They Wander. Perhaps it is because they can’t see much more than 15 metres that they so easily go astray. And when they are brought back, they wander off again because they don’t learn from their mistakes.
(iii) They are Dirty. Real sheep are not like the clean balls of fluff depicted on greeting cards. If you’ve ever seen the southern end of a northbound flock, you’ll know why. They smell a bit, too.
(iv) They are Vulnerable. They have only lower teeth which press against a hard palate, so can’t defend themselves. They can’t bite, have no claws, and no camouflage, so when a wolf is on their tail, it is hard to hide.
JESUS AS THE GOOD SHEPHERD.
The Lord Jesus wasn’t the only one claiming to be the nation’s shepherd. There were plenty who wanted the job and sought recognition as Shepherds of the nation. But they had no credentials, no care for the sheep, and were only interested in fleecing the sheep.
By contrast, these verses identify the Lord Jesus as the Good Shepherd, sent by God to care for and give His life for the sheep. His credentials as the Good Shepherd were impeccable. He was the right person, born in the right place, arriving at the right time, and introduced by John the Baptist to the nation (Jn 1:29).
See what these verses teach about the Lord Jesus as the Good Shepherd.
a) He Loves His Sheep
“I am come that they might have life…I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep”’ (10:10-11). These verses tell of:
(i) The Purpose of His Coming – “that they might have life”(10:10). That means they were dead. Dead people don’t move, talk, or think. They have no worry about the past, and no concern for the future. Of course, they are not physically dead, but spiritually, separated from God.
(ii) The Price of His Coming – “the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep” (10:11). Some people can afford to pay a very high price for what they want. The worlds richest man, Mexican telecommunications magnate, 72 year old Carlos Helú could pay $69 billion. Or Bill Gates at No. 2 could pay $66 billion. Or Warren Buffett (82) at no. 3 could pay $46 billion.
But none of that begins to compare with the price that was paid so to enable dead sheep to have life. Calvary was the cost of His coming. The Good Shepherd loved His sheep enough to die for them. Why did he love those stupid, vulnerable, wandering sheep? We will never know. He didn’t have to. But there was no other way by which his sheep could be saved. Some say, “Why did Jesus have to die?” Because blood is required to redeem the soul from sin (Heb. 9:22).
b) He Knows His Sheep
“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine” (10:14). There are two things in this verse:
(i) “I know my sheep.” To us a flock of sheep all look alike. They are not our responsibility. We don’t take the time to get to know them, let alone name them all. But He knows every one, every strength and every weakness, every mountain and every valley, every victory and every defeat.
(ii) “and am known of mine.” The bigger question is, “Do I know Him?” That determines where I will spend eternity. If not, I should come to Him right now. Those of us who do know Him, like Paul, our ambition should be to know Him more.
c) He Leads His Sheep
“His sheep follow him because they know his voice” (10:4). Instead of driving the sheep from the back, the shepherd leads from the front. He doesn’t force them forward. He leads, and as they hear His voice they follow Him wherever He goes. Sheep may not be bright, but they are wise enough to recognize the shepherd’s voice from among many voices. Many voices compete for our attention and affection, but if we belong to the Lord, we will hear and recognise His voice through His word.
A tour guide to Israel was telling his tourists how an eastern shepherd leads, rather than drives his sheep. He then looked for an example, and was perplexed to find a man, seemingly a shepherd, walking behind a flock of sheep and driving them forward. He said, “I thought shepherds here led their sheep, instead of driving them with a stick.” The man replied, “They do. But I’m not a shepherd. I’m a butcher, and these sheep are on their way to slaughter.”
That’s how Satan works. He drives us forward, urgently, forcefully, and never tells us we are on the way to destroy us, so that we eventually slip out into eternity, lost for ever.
(i) Why He Leads Them “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (10:27). Hearing, following, and knowing – that’s the Christian life! When a person is saved, he wants to come to worship, to read God’s Word, and meet with God’s people. Hearing His voice provides proof we belongs to Him.
An Australian sheep famer, charged with stealing a sheep, insisted it was one of his own. The judge ordered the sheep be brought into the courtroom. Then he told the plaintiff to step outside and call the animal. The sheep merely raised its head and look frightened. The defendant was then sent out. When he made his call, the sheep bounded toward the door. “His sheep knows him,” said the judge. “Case dismissed!”
(ii) Where He leads them. “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the still water, he restores my soul.” It is life “more abundany” (10:10), available to all who follow Him. That word means “better than anything else!” Than Bill Gates with his $66 billion.
What about the world’s most expensive car? A German-made Maybach Exelero at $8,000,000 (R56 million). It’s top speed is 300 kph, and accelerates from 0 to 90 miles per hour in just 4.4 seconds. Or you can have an abundant life with the second most expensive car, a Bugatti Veyron Supersport from France at $2,600,000.
d) He Protects His Sheep
The Good Shepherd knows his sheep are vulnerable. Sheep are vulnerable to an enemy in two ways.
(i) By Refusing to Come In. “I am the gate, whoever enters through me will be saved” (10:9). He cannot help us if we choose not to be part of His flock by entering in through the door to be saved. Satan with his gloves off waits outside. Of course, he does not present himself in that way. He is suave, attractive, and offers pleasures, treasures, popularity and power. But at the end of life’s day, the soul belongs to Satan – forever.
(ii) By Wanting to Go Out. At times our old nature gets the upper hand, and we want to wander back into the world. We ignore the Shepherd’s voice, disobey His commands, and choose to sin. Soon we find we have put distance between ourselves and the place of safety. We still belong to the Shepherd, who will come to find us, but we get damaged in the process.
e) He Secures His Sheep
“I give unto them sheep eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (10:28).
Dwight Eisenhower once said, “If you want total security, go to prison. There you’re fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking… is freedom.”
In Christ we have total freedom. To go in and out and find pasture. Not even Satan, can take us away no matter how much he might try.
The Good Shepherd:
• Loves His Sheep
• Knows His Sheep
• Leads His Sheep
• Protects His Sheep
• Secures His Sheep
• There were ninety and nine that safely lay
• In the shelter of the fold.
• But one was out on the hills away,
• Far off from the gates of gold.
• Away on the mountains wild and bare.
• Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.
• Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.