The Good Shepherd

Sheep following a shepherd in the mountainsWhile on this Earth, Jesus was referred to in different ways.  Many know Jesus is the Son of God.  Others realize that Jesus is also the Son of man.  These two designations indicate the Deity of Christ, as well as His manhood.  Another of the more well-known references is when Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd:  the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).  It is this designation that will be the focus of the rest of this discussion.

          There are many different times that the people of God are described as “sheep”.  The idea is that each person is a part of a larger “flock”.  Each “sheep” is vital to the totality of the “flock”.  Paul mentioned that the church and the “flock” are one and the same thing.  While addressing the elders in Ephesus, Paul said, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).  In similar manner, the apostle Peter instructed elders to “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:2-3).  Each time, the elders of discussion, were given “oversight”, or they were described as “overseers”.  This is the work of a shepherd.  Shepherds have the responsibility for the welfare of the sheep.  With that being stated, the church is the “flock” of Christ.  Therefore, it is reasonable for Jesus to refer to Himself as The Good Shepherd.

          For the benefit of man, Jesus explained something that is true about The Good Shepherd.  Jesus stated, “…the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).  For many physical shepherds, their livelihoods were based on the production of their flocks.  If sheep were to start disappearing, or if sheep were killed, the shepherds would take a loss.  Yet, The Good Shepherd was willing to lose His own life to protect His flock.  Jesus further explained, “But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth:  and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.  The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep” (John 10:12-13).  In other words, one that does not own the flock, but rather is a paid laborer, does not care for the flock the way that The Good Shepherd does.  By claiming that He is The Good Shepherd, Jesus foretold of His impending death.

          After all of that, Jesus again referred to Himself as The Good Shepherd when He said, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.  As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father:  and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14-15).  One more time, Jesus made it clear that He was not only willing to die for his “flock”, but indeed would “lay down” His life for His “sheep”.  That is true sacrifice.  He further mentioned, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again” (John 10:17).  Although many did not yet understand, Jesus was also discussing His future resurrection.  However, let us keep our attention at the moment on His death.  Again, referring to the giving of His life, Jesus said, “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.  This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:18).  Much discussion and debate has been had on who was guilty of the death of Jesus.  At the end of the day, it was Jesus, Who voluntarily gave His life.

          One more interesting point about shepherds is that the sheep recognize their shepherds.  One that is not the shepherd will quickly learn that the sheep will not follow an impostor.  Jesus used this fact to explain, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:  them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16).  This is a wonderful reference to the Gentiles also being able to be a part of His “flock”.  The “flock of God” can include any person from any country, from any walk of life, and of any gender.  Paul wrote, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female:  for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:27-28).  If a man will “hear” the word of The Good Shepherd, and will “follow” Him, that man can be sure that The Good Shepherd will lead him to Heaven.  I am truly thankful for “The Good Shepherd”!
~ Corey Barnette