I AM the Good Shepherd

Jesus presents Himself to us as the Good Shepherd… “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 is not the owner of 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 is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father, and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice, and they will become one flock with one shepherd. For this reason, the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father…

27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”  –John 10:11-18; 27-29

Three introductory points to help us understand what The Good Shepherd does.

The first intro idea for us to reflect on this morning is that the motif (or sub-theme) of the shepherd is found throughout the Bible – from Genesis to Revelation. We read in Gen 4:2 that Able, Adam and Eve’s second-born son, was a “keeper of flocks.” Also in Gen. 48:24, as Jacob was dying, he summarized his life, declaring that God had been his “shepherd all of his life to this day.”  In Rev. 7:17, when the saints who come out of the tribulation are brought before God, John brings together two of the most striking images of the scripture by stating, “for the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eye.”  This becomes a most glorious paradox: The Good Shepherd became the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. It’s also important to notice that the motif of shepherding is NOT confined to the Hebrew Scriptures and Christian Bible. Kings and rulers in ancient times also considered themselves to be shepherds of the people they were governing. The main idea behind a king or queen’s scepter was that it represented a shepherd’s staff.

The second intro idea related to shepherding is an important historical implication. Ancient Hebrew shepherds apparently did not use sheepdogs. There are two reasons for this. Dogs were considered unclean at the time and rabies was rampant (the two may be related). What this means as we consider the role of the shepherd in the biblical text is that flocks were not driven, they were led. So, if flocks were not driven but led, what are the implications of that? The shepherd’s voice and the shepherd’s touch become the primary means of a shepherd’s wholesome and tender leadership. And as you’re probably aware, shepherds often played an instrument and the music (whether it was good or bad) no doubt, became quite familiar to the sheep. The implication for us, as part of the Church, is that musical worship also helps us to follow the Shepherd well.

The third intro idea is that John’s Gospel is a work of literary genius. There are several sub-texts, or layers in John’s gospel and the self-disclosure statements of Jesus are just one of them. Throughout his Gospel John is asking his readers to continually reflect on the question, “Who is Jesus?”

In John 10 with Jesus saying I AM the door of the sheepfold (or pen) and then saying I AM the Good Shepherd; John is combing the OT shepherd motif with the encounter that Moses had at the burning bush. Moses is in his second career as a shepherd. He had been raised as a prince in Egypt and God calls Moses to lead the Hebrew slaves out of captivity and into the Promised Land.

But Moses is reticent and he tries to talk God out of it…Finally he says (in Ex. 3:13-14)…“Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” 14 God said to Moses, “~I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘~I am has sent me to you.'”

So, with the I AM statements in John’s Gospel, Jesus is claiming to be the voice that spoke to Moses at the burning bush…and John is weaving all this together in his gospel account. It’s pretty genius…

Six Ways Jesus is Our Good Shepherd

In John 10, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11, 14). In this chapter Jesus spells out what it means for Him to be our Shepherd and for us to be His sheep…

  1. V. 11 & 15: The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep. Everything Jesus endured in His ministry and on Good Friday was for His sheep. When He gave Himself into the hands of the arresting battalion in the Garden of Gethsemane, it was for His sheep. When, as an innocent man, He was condemned to death, it was for His sheep. When He was beaten and tortured, it was for His sheep. When He hung on that cross in agony and finally died, it was for His sheep. (And this idea of laying down a life is also a good picture of marriage, parenting – and of the Church. Because of what Jesus has done, we follow His example with the help of the empowering Holy Spirit.
  2. V. 12: The Good Shepherd will never leave or abandon His sheep – like the hired hand, who is just in it for the money, might do.Heb 13:5 (see also Deut 31:6, 8; Josh 1:5):“I will never leave you, nor desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”  Whether we feel his presence or not, He is there.
  3. Vs. 14-15: The Good Shepherd knows His sheep completely.“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…”  Jesus Christ knows you completely—inside and out! He knows our secret and besetting sins; He knows our deepest fears and our foibles. There may be times when you are a mystery to your yourself of your loved ones, but you are never a mystery to Jesus. He knows you completely. And here’s the thing…because He knows you completely, He is able to lead you effectively. The good shepherd knows what you need, and He is able to give you what you need at precisely the time that you need it.
  4. V. 16: The Good Shepherd called His sheep and brought them to Himself.“And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.”  We are the sheep in His pasture. Gentiles (non-Jews) are the sheep “not of this fold.”
  5. V. 28: The Good Shepherd gives His sheep eternal life. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish…”  We’re all going to have eternal life and we’ll either be WITH Jesus or we won’t…
  6. V. 29: The Good Shepherd sees His sheep as a gift from the Father. “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” So, how would you know if you are one of Christ’s sheep? How would you know if you have been given as a gift by the Father to the Son? The identifying marks of a sheep belonging to the Good Shepherd are clearly stated in these verses: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (10:27).

But what does it mean to hear his voice? The sheep belonging to the Good Shepherd seeks to live in a state of humble attentiveness to the Good Shepherd’s voice—and out of joy, or responsive obedience, seeks to follow the Good Shepherd.

How can we learn to know and trust God’s Voice? We line-up the three lights. I heard this illustration decades ago…There was a port city with a treacherous harbor. When merchant ships attempted to navigate their way into harbor, they would run aground because of the rocks beneath the water. So, the city council set up three lights for the sea captains to line up in order to navigate safely into the harbor. And just like that port city, there are three “lights” for us to line up in order to effectively hear and act on the voice of our Good Shepherd.

  1. The subjective skill of hearing God’s voice (for me it’s mostly an impression). It’s like “sound of a gentle blowing” (1 Kings 19:12) that we read about in when Elijah was running away from Jezebel and was looking for God’s direction. There was a mighty wind, an earthquake, and a fire but the Lord’s voice was not heard in those it was heard in a gentle it what amounts to a gentle whisper. Another passage that points to the quietness wherein we are able to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd is Psalm 46:10, “be still and know that I am God.”
  2. When we believe that we have heard from God, it must be confirmed by the written word of God (Scripture) because there is no extra-biblical revelation.
  3. And finally, we should seek to have what we think we have heard from the Good Shepherd confirmed by those we respect and trust in the Lord. We don’t need people to hear FOR us but we do need people to hear WITH us—especially in the big decisions of life. Proverbs 13:10 reminds us that,“wisdom is with those who receive counsel.”

So, what’s the takeaway?

  1. Are you secure in The Good Shepherd’s sheepfold? You’re not going to be driven, you’re going to be led.
  2. Have you received the death and resurrection of Jesus as accomplished on your behalf?
  3. Do you accept His eternal commitment to never leave you or forsake you?
  4. Can you surrender into God’s love knowing He knows you better than you know yourself?
  5. Can you receive the gift of eternal life with Jesus and His other sheep?
  6. Can you see yourself as a heavenly gift from God the Father to the Good Shepherd of your soul?

Small Group or Self Study Questions

It would be helpful to read Psalm 23 as we consider the Good Shepherd.

  1. What are some ways we have seen God act as the Good Shepherd in your life or your church in the last year-and-a-half?
  2. What are the main differences between a flock being driven or being led?
  3. Why do you think it’s difficult for so many people to not be able to see themselves as a gift from God the Father of Jesus the Good Shepherd (v. 29)?
  4. How often have you sensed God speaking something directly to your heart?
  5. What are your thoughts on “lining up the three lights” of the subjective skill of listening/hearing, confirmed by Scripture, and confirmed/affirmed by those we trust in the Lord?
  6. What do you think of people needing to hear with us but not for us?

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