The Good Shepherd
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 10:11 (Holman) AI am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. @
AI am the good shepherd@ is one of Jesus= most treasured statements. Through the centuries many lonely, weary hearts have been cheered by it.
In times of persecution AGood Shepherd@ has been the title most used to describe Jesus. Images of the Good Shepherd have been sculptured in the walls of sepulchers, catacombs, and gathering places, drawn in book margins, and graven on altar vessels. We often see paintings depicting Jesus as the Good Shepherd, and to this day, the kingdom=s favorite Psalm is number 23.
Almost every revered title of Christ is contained in AGood Shepherd@ B Priest, Prophet, King, Savior, Guide B these and many more blend together and find their summation in AGood Shepherd.@
AGood@ refers to attractiveness. It includes the idea of being fair, lovely, and beautiful. It is possible to be morally upright repulsively, as the Pharisees were, but Jesus taught us to practice virtue in such a way that people are won to it.
AShepherd@ bespeaks devotion, care, and watchfulness. Christ selected the most helpless animal to symbolize our lost race, and compared Himself to the kindest guardian. The thought of One tenderly caring for sheep has always captured our emotions, and remains deeply rooted in the hearts of God=s people.
John 10:12-13 AThe hired man, since he is not the shepherd and doesn=t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. This happens because he is a hired man and doesn=t care about the sheep.@
Jesus contrasted His leadership style to that of the religious leaders. They were hirelings, loving wages more than sheep. If danger approached, they deserted. The sheeps= best interest was not always viewed as their best interest.
Leaders who care more for safety and reputation than for duty are hirelings. Careless in the discharge of duties, they damage the flock through their neglect.
Satan the Wolf attacks the sheep in many disguises: persecution, heresy, immorality, selfishness, pride, anger. A hireling is afraid to speak against these wiles. He fears the world and his own flock. A bonafide shepherd will do anything to protect the sheep, even if he must risk his life or their esteem.
If a wolf comes, the sheep need a shepherd most. At this critical moment, a hireling leaves, figuring the sheep can fend for themselves, but they can=t.
Unopposed, a wolf wreaks woeful havoc, catching sheep and scattering the flock. The damage will be charged to the account of the treacherous shepherd.
John 10:14-16 AI am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep. But I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also and they will listen to My voice. Then there will be one flock, one shepherd.@
We owe Jesus our devotion because He gave His life to purchase the flock. Giving His life for the sheep has never lost its beauty or drawing power.
The relationship between sheep and their shepherd is no accident. It requires time and attention. Our acquaintance with Jesus is no coincidence. He loved us and consciously arranged to meet each of us. We, in return, love Him.
To me, unbelief is a mystery I don=t understand. Jesus laid down His life not only for the good of the sheep, but also in their place, yet people still do not believe. Thousands of sheep had been sacrificed for shepherds as sin offerings, but in Jesus, by a surprising reverse, the shepherd was sacrificed for the sheep.
John 10:17 AThis is why the father loves Me, because I am laying down My life so I may take it up again.
Jesus yielded to death that he might gloriously conquer it, and triumph over the grave. Christ died in order to rise again. His death was victory, not defeat.
A shepherd=s death usually meant disaster for his sheep, but Jesus= death meant life for His flock. Christ=s mediation for the sheep was expanded, not ended, by His death. He Atook again@ His life and lives on for us eternally.
Jesus never doubted He would die, and never doubted God would raise Him up. Jesus had confidence in His Father, who loved Jesus too much to leave Him in the grave.
John 10:18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father.@
These are some of Jesus= strongest words. He claimed something found nowhere else in human history, the complete mastery and control of one=s own life system.
Jesus had power to release life from His body without doing violence to it. He could of His own will alone disengage life from Himself.
This is exactly what happened. He could have saved His life at any moment. He was not killed. Jesus chose to die.
Jesus was the offerer and the offering. By laying down His life, He offered up Himself. Surrendering His life was as supernatural an act of power as was resuming it.
Christ=s life seemed to be taken by storm, but was surrendered. Without His consent, His life would have been impregnable and never taken.
Jesus was no victim of circumstances. His plans did not go awry. Ordained before the world began, the cross was neither a surprise nor a disappointment.
Jesus was the Hero of heroes. Most who have given their lives for others have done so on impulse. It happened on the spur of the moment.
Rare indeed is the person willing to die for another after years of contemplating, yet this is precisely what Jesus did. For countless ages He knew of Calvary, yet never wavered from the unpleasant task ahead. He came to earth for a painful purpose, held to it for years, and then achieved it.
The emphasis in these verses is, Jesus died for the sheep. Jesus couldn=t seem to emphasize this enough. What love. It defies description.
Pythius, condemned to death by Dionysus, the tyrant of Syracuse, was allowed to visit his wife and children because a friend, Damon, promised to die in his place if he did not return. When Pythius failed to return on time, Dionysus visited Damon in prison and said, AYou were a fool to rely on Pythius= promise. How could you imagine he would sacrifice his life for you or for any man?@
Damon replied, AI am as confident of his virtue as I am of my own existence. I beseech the gods to preserve his life and not allow him to arrive until my death has saved a life of much greater consequence than mine, necessary to his lovely wife, to his little innocents, to his friends, to his country. Oh, let me not die the cruelest of deaths in that of Pythius!@ The tyrant, left speechless, retired silently.
At the scaffold Damon addressed the onlookers. AMy prayers are heard . . the winds have been contrary. . . My blood shall ransom that of my friend.@ Suddenly a distant voice was heard. A horse and rider were coming at full speed. Pythius leaped from his horse, mounted the scaffold, and threw his arms around Damon crying, AYou are safe, my friend! The gods be praised, you are safe!@
Heartbroken, Damon replied, AI will not be wholly disappointed. Since I cannot die to save you, I will die to accompany you!@ With this, Dionysus could hold himself no longer, and shouted, ALive, live, ye incomparable pair!@ He was so moved by their display of friendship that he asked them to become his friends.
Even this classic story is not as moving as what Jesus did. Two friends
were willing to die for each other, but Jesus died for His enemies.